clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Tar Heel Hangover: The winds of change.

A tumultuous week leaves Tar Heel fans looking ahead.

Virginia Tech v North Carolina Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

Welcome to the Tar Heel Hangover. This is our Monday morning opportunity to review last week’s games, second guess all of the key moments, and set the game plan for the week ahead.

The Elevator Speech: What happened last week.

It would be quicker to talk about what didn’t happen in the last week. A poor effort in Vegas resulted in a loss to Texas. A good second half in Vegas the following night resulted in a win again UCLA. An overtime loss to NC State and a postgame fight, or “celebration”, was the story on the gridiron until Sunday morning. Now there is a coaching search.

Water Cooler Discussion: If I were the coach . . .

This article has not hidden a high degree of displeasure with the job that Larry Fedora has done over the past couple of months and couple of years. An offensive scheme that was cutting edge six years ago has become much more commonplace and defenses have been quick to catch up. An almost predictable level of regrettable in-game decisions on a weekly basis have not helped.

None of this is meant to be a criticism of Fedora as a person or member of the Tar Heel community. By all accounts, he has been a positive influence and active participant. I would argue that being a great citizen is what bought him an extra year of coaching following a terrible 2017 campaign. Two years is too many. And with a $12 million buy out, I am sure he will be just fine.

So what should be the qualities of the optimum candidate? First and foremost, the transition offers an opportunity to sell a program rejuvenation, reinvention, and revolution. In the living rooms of recruits, in front of rooms of reporters, and in the locker room this spring, the new coach must sell confidence in future success. This can not be a multi-year rebuilding project; there must be immediate success.

Let’s be clear about what is needed for “immediate success:” wins. There have to be wins on the recruiting trail and early wins on the field. The prospect of potential could be enough to carry the summer for any new coach, but it will only take a few weeks in 2019 to look behind the curtain. This season was full of close losses. Wins are needed now.

Second, the program needs discipline. Starting a season with the distraction of infractions is unacceptable. Ending it with a fight in the end zone is unacceptable. Like it or not, this is a program that is still proceeding under an investigation cloud and it must be squeaky clean.

Change can be very exciting, particularly when a program has been heading in the wrong direction. This is going to be a very interesting off-season.

A Word of Wisdom from MGD . . .

On the basketball front, there are a lot of mixed messages coming from the trip to Nevada. Thanksgiving evening brought a very frustrating outing against the Longhorns. It was predictable that the game would be a test for the unproven point guards. It was concerning when the news broke that Seventh Woods had suffered yet another unusual injury and would miss the two game event. The defensive effort, or lack thereof, was not easy to see coming.

Coby White certainly had a coming out party on the offensive end, but the team could not make enough stops defensively to pull out the victory. The nemeses from Texas were driving guards that could finish in traffic. Neither Coby White nor Leaky Black were able to stay in front of their perimeter opponents. Even worse, there was no effective help defense on the interior. Garrison Brooks, Sterling Manley, and even Luke Maye were slow to rotate or would decline to fully commit to shutting down the dribble drive.

I was fortunate enough to watch the UCLA game with My Grumpy Dad (MGD). The first half looked like more of the same and our frustration began to bubble. A very lengthy halftime discussion (the team came out from the locker room only a few moments before the second half tip) led to an entirely different second half team. There was a marked aggression at both ends of the floor. Suffocating defense generated turnovers and got the fast break game moving. Nassir Little rediscovered his impressive driving ability and put the Bruins in significant foul trouble.

It was a dominating second half and an early season glimpse at what could be possible the rest of the season. There is no team in the country that could have hung with the Heels for that final 20 minutes. A successful season will require more halves like that.

Looking Forward: A quick peak ahead.

Another week, another big game. Wednesday will bring a trip to (currently) #9 Michigan in a repeat from last year’s ACC Big 10 Challenge game. The fourteen team Big 10 posts a number of quality teams and the Wolverines are an early season surprise. Having missed the chance to play Michigan State last week, this will be an excellent road test for the Heels. Look for defense, turnovers, and ball movement as the keys to victory.

Of course, there is also a coaching search assuming it is not already complete by the time this article is published. Look for a quick fill to the vacancy and some very early pre-season momentum.

Final Thoughts

Change on the football field was a long time coming. Decisive action by the administration is to be applauded as this situation did not need to linger in limbo. It is time to move forward.