Welcome to Friday Food For Thought, the weekend conversation starter. Each week, this article presents a topic for debate. Whether in the comments section, on the golf course, or around the weekend game table, the goal is to provide enough background that either side could be a winner. In order to facilitate the discourse, a suggested beverage pairing is also included. So speak up, mix it up, and drink up.
The Issue: Have we just seen the end of an era with the final games for Joel Berry II and Theo Pinson?
The 2018 Class at North Carolina has been one that fans will always remember. The three jubilant and charismatic freshmen bordered on cocky with their flashy smiles and witty trash talk.
They have left and will leave as Champions. Joel Berry II concluded his Tar Heel career with 1,835 points including 268 made three pointers, 450 assists, and 165 steals in nearly 4,000 fun filled minutes. Theo Pinson had 769 points, 536 rebounds and 416 assists in over 2,600 career minutes. Justin Jackson finished with 1,638 points, 481 rebounds, and 312 assists in just three seasons.
The three leaders made back-to-back National Championship game appearances and cut down the nets in 2017. They arrived in the midst of a dark time for the University and the program. They committed when the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s academic inquiry was in its infancy. They stayed committed through a media onslaught that sacrificed journalism for page views. They rose from the deep despair of a brutal last second loss to Villanova.
They won. And not just on the court.
The departure of these three musketeers occurs in a much brighter time than their arrival. The NCAA investigation is over. The program is recruiting at a high level again. They won the hearts of fans and restored faith in the Carolina Way.
The journey has been fun to watch and it is bittersweet to see it end. A universal note of gratitude has been entirely appropriate over the past couple of weeks. There is simply no denying the impact that they have had. It has been a thrill to watch their journey and it is now time to move on. These three will forever have a place in Tar Heel lore and their absence marks the end of an era.
Jackson, Pinson, and Berry II have been tremendous contributors both on and off the court at North Carolina. They will be missed as players and personalities. Their accolades are unassailable.
Their departures, however, mark the end of a chapter rather than the end of an era.
How is an “era” properly defined? It is too easy and without insight to simply associate an era with a career. Although these years with Roy Williams at the helm have been mostly exciting and enjoyable, it paints with too broad a brush to refer to the last decade and a half as the Roy Williams era.
Similarly, there should not objectively be overlapping eras within the same subject. Marcus Paige and Brice Johnson were incredible athletes who poured their hearts out for North Carolina. So were Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah Hicks. So have been Joel Berry II, Justin Jackson and Theo Pinson.
To say, however, that each of these had their own era is to undermine the contributions that they collectively made to each other. Senior Marcus Paige would not have been the same without sophomore Joel Berry II at his side. Kennedy Meeks would not have developed without Brice Johnson to practice against. Together, they have been impressive.
Roy Williams has had three eras as the head coach at North Carolina. The first era was the carry-over from Matt Doherty. It was a short two year run that returned the school to prominence with a National Championship in 2005. Following the win, the departures of Jackie Manuel, Jawad Williams, Melvin Scott, Raymond Felton, Rashad McCants, Sean May, and Marvin Williams signaled a turning point. The break in the roster was also the end of a tumultuous era.
The second period started the following year with the arrivals of Bobby Frasor, Danny Green, Marcus Ginyard, and Tyler Hansbrough. That group embarked on a four year rise from second round, to elite eight, to final four, to 2009 National Champions. Once again, a mass exodus marked the end of an era. Ginyard earned a medical redshirt year but Frasor, Green, and Hansbrough all graduated along with the exits of Ty Lawson and Wayne Ellington. There was certainly talent returning, but it was the end of an era.
We are still in the third session. This is a time of rotating talent with more limited early departures. There have been holes to fill from year to year, but for the fourth year in a row this team will have an upper-classman preseason All American. It does not feel like the Heels are rebuilding or reloading, they are simply advancing. This is an era that will enter its ninth season next year. They have not all been equally successful, but they have all been marked by the continued development of talent and student athletes who have stayed long enough to love. This era is longer than any one class and bigger than a single championship.
In need of encouragement to debate – How is it possible that warm weather today could be followed by snow tomorrow? In order to brave the cold and keep the throat warm, this week’s suggestion is the family recipe for a Hot Toddy. Fill a mug half full with very hot water. I alternate between microwaving and brewing a water cup depending on what mug I’m using. Fill two thirds of the remaining space with bourbon. I prefer the sour mash from Clermont, Kentucky. Finally, add lemon juice and honey to taste. Stir and enjoy.
Can debate without assistance – Has to be hot chocolate in the storm. Splurge for real marshmallows because they leave a thick coating of pure delight on top. Don’t be afraid to top with a few sprinkles for an extra flair.