You know what they say about first impressions.
UNC officially introduced Everett Withers as the interim head football coach on Friday. Wither met the media and answered questions in what may have been the most awesome press conference ever. Okay, I was comparing it to yesterday's train wreck theater. No Holden Thorp in this one. Dick Baddour introduced Withers who was very impressive in his first public appearance. Tar Heel Blue has the audio and video. Here are the highlights.
- Withers grew up in Charlotte and actually played for Mack Brown when the latter was head coach at Appalachian St. Withers talked about understanding UNC and the area having grown up watching football.
- There was a lot of talk about the football program having a family atmosphere and bringing the current team together in that family sort of way as a way of dealing with the current circumstances.
- Withers offered up many of the things you would expect to here. He talked about doing things "the right way" and players excelling on and off the field. He did note that as defensive coordinator he was more focused on the football side but now as interim head coach he wants to "know it all" in terms of what the players are doing. Withers also said they need to really teach players what is right and wrong then hope they follow through.
- Linebackers coach Art Kaufman will be the defensive coordinator. Withers said he was going to get out of the way of his coordinators to let them do their job.
- Withers said he has exchanged text with Butch Davis. He spoke highly of Davis and said he would be leaning on Davis for advice from time to time.
- When asked how many players he has spoken to he put the number at 30-40 and said they were all excited.
- Withers wants this season to be fun and the players to have fun.
Overall Withers struck me as a down-to-earth, humble guy who has been thrust into a head coaching job under the least desirable circumstances. This is something he has always wanted but not in this way. Still, my impression based on one press conference(grain of salt warning) is Withers can steer the ship in the short terms. I think he can connect with the players, has the proper values and will be effective handling the team as a whole. That being said I have zero basis for being able to predict how games as a head coach. That will be the big "wait and see."
At the beginning of the press conference, AD Dick Baddour said Withers would have a chance to compete for the permanent job after the season. That might be true only if whoever the new AD sees it that way. Because of the fear UNC would go the Carl Torbush route again and the general lack of success found in promoting assistants, Withers will be working against a higher standard to earn the removal of the interim tag. In fact I think he is simply going to have to be almost flawless in every aspect of the job to get real consideration. The UNC fan base already has an opinion of Withers' work as defensive coordinator and it is generally not a good one. To say he would need to work hard to win the fans over is an understatement.
I will say this, Withers is approaching it the right way. He is looking at it one day and one game at a time. He says he wants to be the head football coach for a long time and will work hard to make that happen. Last season I talked about how I truly wanted to see T.J. Yates succeed as starting QB. I wanted that because he was a stand-up guy but also because his success was UNC's team success. The same thought holds when I look at Withers. I don't care about what happens in December. I want him to do well because he strikes me as a good guy who was thrust onto the main stage amid a storm of epic proportions. He didn't ask for this or at least to get the job under these circumstances. However I would like to see him succeed because if he does a great job that means UNC is winning and doing it the right way. The ultimate decision on who will lead this program into the future is four or five months away. For the right now Everett Withers is the head football coach and deserves our support in every way possible.