Wednesday, January 18, 2012

14.2 Seconds to Glory

I was listening with UNC's Associate Athletic Director In Charge Of Media Or Something (also known as Minister of Propaganda For the Benevolent Blue Royocracy) of UNC called in to a local sports talk station to try to explain how exactly the sainted Roy Williams had managed to leave five kids and a couple of assistant coaches out on the floor when he pulled most of his team and staff into the locker room with 14 seconds remaining in Saturday's flogging at the hands of Florida State. To be fair, nobody questioned Williams for pulling his team; the FSU crowd looked ready to storm the court, UNC had suffered a bad experience earlier when a female manager was trampled by rowdy UNLV fans storming the court after an upset victory, and when you're in Tallahassee, there's always the danger of being mistaken for a chunk of turf and getting impaled with a flaming spear.
The problem was, the explanation given sounded, well, goofy. That Williams had talked to FSU head coach Leonard Hamilton and they'd agreed to let UNC go home early, that made sense. But then the story got wonky. Roy's instructions didn't get communicated. He didn't look at game film until much later, so he had no idea that five of his guys, plus some coaches, had been left out there. They went straight into the team prayer, so apparently noticed the guys who were missing, were missing, and, then a few days later, it was left to the assistant AD to call into 850 The Buzz to try to lay it all out for the masses.
You know, I believe it's possible that in the confusion, things got lost. Stuff didn't get communicated. Wires got crossed. And nobody got hurt, unlike in that UNLV game.
That being said, it's still not an excuse. If you think the situation is so dangerous that you have to get your kids out of there, you have to get all of the kids entrusted to you out of there, and you have to make sure that they all get accounted for. Elementary school teachers taking field trips grasp this concept; the ridiculously highly paid coach of a high-profile basketball program, a man who is known for his obsessive, meticulous attention to detail, ought to have it down pat, too. If nothing else, the fact that the refs were setting up for an inbounds play should have warned him that not everyone was down with the 14 second early dismissal; coaches are supposed to notice things like that.
So we're left with a couple of options here. One, it happened the way Roy Williams said it did, and he was guilty of sloppy carelessness. Two, Williams pulled his people off the court and didn't bother to check to make sure everyone made it out, then made up the "I didn't know story" later. That makes him careless and mendacious. Or three, he was interested in getting the key people - the starters - out of there, and the rest was smokescreen, with the AD sent to fall on his sword for the good of the program*.
I don't know which is the case, and I don't particularly care. As has been noted elsewhere, the Roy Williams era in Chapel Hill has been marked by high strangeness as well as spectacular success. And yeah, everyone makes mistakes once in a while, and that includes superstar coaches as well as workaday zhlubs. But no matter what actually happened - and we will never know, now that Williams has officially denounced anyone who dare question the official story - the fact remains that in a situation where the adult in charge decided things were dangerous, players somehow got left behind. One can only hope that next time it happens, Roy Williams takes the time, even if it's all the remaining time, to make sure everyone he's responsible is actually with him.

*Four, which makes even less sense than the rest of this, is that the guys who stayed out there, either coach or players, ignored instructions to get off the court to nab those sweet, sweet 14.2 seconds of PT. That being said, I don't see ignoring the coach's instructions in a potentially environment as a route to either more PT down the road or, in the case of the coaches, continued employment.
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