Welcome to the Tar Heel Hangover. This is the third post-season installment. Thus far we have looked at what went wrong and what there is to look forward to. This week, I sat down with My Grumpy Dad (over the phone) to gain some perspective on nearly 80 years of being a fan.
As readers of my articles know, My Grumpy Dad is a staunch pessimist when it comes to Carolina sports. What is also true, is that Joseph Carpenter III is the reason why I am a Carolina fan today. He has a keen sports insight and the post-game calls are always a race between my sister and I to see who can get to him first. Our conversation covered the greatest games as players as well as some thoughts on the upcoming year.
Q. Why did you become a Carolina fan?
A. My dad (Joseph Carpenter Jr.) played football at Carolina and when I was growing up we used to get up early Saturday mornings and drive to Chapel Hill for football games. In those days, that was a pretty good hike. Dad was more a football than basketball fan.
In 1957, the games were on the radio and I listened to them. That was the undefeated season. I remember Lennie Rosenbluth and Tommy Kearns on that team. So that team goes to the National Championship (following a triple overtime win against Michigan State) and it was played in Kansas. And they played Kansas with Wilt Chamberlain. That was the second triple overtime game.
Q. Did you listen to that game with your Dad?
A. Well after the consolation game, the start time was very late. Everybody in the house was in bed so I listened by myself on an old radio set next to me. I had tin foil all over it to try and get better reception. You had to put your hand in just the right place on the back of the radio to get it to work. I laid in the pitch black dark listening to that game. I jumped up when they won and went in and told Mom and Dad and they both got mad because I woke them up.
Q. So, are you more a football or basketball fan?
A. I think college basketball is the best game that there is.
Q. What are one or two other games that really stick out?
A. They were always putting down Dean Smith because he couldn’t win the big ones. So I remember that pass to Worthy at the end of the Georgetown game. Worthy dribbled up the court and just froze there to milk the clock. That was great for Dean.
My recollection now, over the years, is more of the players than the games. I think about some of the guys way back, like Billy Cunningham, Rusty Clark, then further forward the best group of players ever was James Worthy, Michael Jordan, Sam Perkins, and Matthew (Doherty- note that to this day my father will only refer to him as “Matthew”). To me, that was the best team because they had so many players that the defense couldn’t stop.
A guy I really liked was Brad Daugherty. He was just a big goofy dominating type guy. He used his size better and Carolina dominated games with him at center. That was not as good a team, but he led them.
Q. Well, they have not all been good years.
A. I struggled through the Doherty years. The last years have been good. I thought last year (2018-19) was Roy Williams’ best coaching year of his career. That team came the furthest from the beginning to the end of the year.
I bet over the years, it would be hard to tell how many Carolina games I have watched. And when I watch the game, I watch it. It has to be quiet so I can keep up with the stats.
They used to have a thing after the Blue White game that we all went to. The coaches had a table and the players had a table. The people that were there could go get autographs or talk to the players or talk to Dean. So I went there and nobody was talking to Bill Guthridge. So I went and sat down with him and just talked for a while and that was really interesting.
Q. Best team that did not win?
A. What was it, two years ago or three years ago that that guy hit that shot (Villanova). I liked Marcus Paige a lot. They had a good team there. Bryce Johnson for sure was a great player.
Q. Who is the better coach, Roy or Dean?
A. Well, its hard for me to go against Dean Smith. I think Dean Smith was an innovator. The things that he did changed the game. He brought on the shot clock and did it intentionally. He used the four corners to create it.
You talk about games that stick out in my mind, I remember the game that Carolina played Virginia with Sampson (1982 ACC Championship) and Carolina played four corners the second half (the Heels played over seven minutes in the four corners with a one point lead and won the game).
Q. Who were the more recent best teams?
A. ‘09 went all the way through the championship and never had a close game.
Q. Any thoughts on the upcoming year?
A. I think the most interesting thing will be whether all these new players will feel anything about what happened last year and if they need to make up for the University the way that they played last year. I know what’s on the roster coming back is not enough to do much so these new guys will have to shine.
Thanks to My Grumpy Dad for a terrific interview. You are a true inspiration in so many ways.
Stay safe. Wash your hands. Don’t touch your face.