I think at this point it’s fair to say that this week has been a complete and utter mess. After UNC announced that they would not play in the NIT, the internet has been on fire. There are fans that are very angry that the team didn’t decide to play, there are fans that wanted it to just be over, and now we have people from within the program airing out what either is or is not the truth as to what went into making the decision.
In case you missed it, yesterday Dontrez Styles went on The Bryan Hanks show to discuss his future with the team and how he felt about the decision not to play in the NIT. Here’s what he said that as far as the NIT goes: it was Hubert Davis’ decision, and that he wanted to play in the event. Fair enough, right? The coach said they aren’t playing, so they aren’t playing. However, more information has come out since then, and whether intentional or not, it turns out Styles didn’t give very critical details about what really happened.
Josh Peter with USA Today reported today that three parents of UNC players, Dennis Love, Greg Dunn, and Gilbert Johnson, stated that the players took an anonymous vote to see who wanted to play in the NIT and who wanted to be done with the season. Since it was anonymous, we do not know who voted what other than Styles and Caleb Love, but we do know that the parents had pretty strong opinions over how the decision was made.
Here is what Puff Johnson’s father Gilbert had to say:
“I think it should’ve been Coach’s decision, not the kids’ decision,” Gilbert Johnson said. ”They should have played in the NIT. Win or lose, they needed that experience.”
“I don’t like the way they ended it,” Gilbert Johnson said. “To cap it off with them saying no to the NIT? Why give them that decision? Apparently they struggle to make the right decision. Seen that all year. Why leave that in their hands?”
Caleb Love’s father Dennis also felt like the team should’ve played in the game, but also felt like Hubert Davis knew what could happen after the event concluded:
“The competitor in me says let’s go play, let’s go win. But I can see where maybe Coach looked at it and said, if we play and we lose, then it’s more hurt feelings because we didn’t live up to the expectations.’’
As far as what the school had to say about any of this, UNC Senior Associate Athletic Director for Sports Information and Media Relations Steve Kirschner spoke with Peters about the decision not to play:
“Players, coaches and staff all had input into the decision that Coach Davis and (athletic director) Bubba Cunningham ultimately made,” Kirshner said by text message, while also saying North Carolina would not address “all the details of the process that went into the decision not to play in the NIT.”
It’s clear that there are a lot of strong, raw feelings over whether or not the 2022-23 season should’ve ended so soon. Ultimately Hubert Davis and Bubba Cunningham made the decision that they felt like was best for the program, and that decision was to figure out what went wrong, how to fix it, and how to make next season a success. One important elephant in the room that nobody seems to be discussing is that the NCAA Transfer Portal opened Monday, and teams that play in the NIT can’t both recruit from the portal and focus on winning the tournament at the same time.
I personally understand Davis’ decision, but of course I also understand why so many people are upset. There was no result of going to the NIT that would’ve made anybody happy, because one of these three things likely would’ve happened:
- The team immediately lost, and everyone would be angry and get mocked by their rivals and fans.
- The team would’ve won some games, then lost, then everyone would be angry and get mocked by their rivals and fans.
- The team would’ve won the NIT, everyone would be mad that they didn’t play like they did throughout the event during the regular season. Ultimately people would be mad, and yes, get mocked by their rivals and fans.
Obviously UNC is getting mocked for their decision anyway, but honestly if things go well next season then not only will it not matter to anybody anymore, Davis will look smart for navigating the situation like he did. If it doesn’t work, playing or not playing in the NIT wasn’t going to change the outcome. The media can claim that this was arrogance, but it was also the media that voted the team preseason #1. I’m just saying.
Anyways, what do you think of all of this? Let us know in the comments below.