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UNC Basketball legend Eric Montross announces cancer diagnosis

Montross has been doing color on the Tar Heels Sports Network since 2006.

Tulane v North Carolina Photo by Peyton Williams/UNC/Getty Images

The UNC community was stunned to hear that Eric Montross has been diagnosed with cancer. The legend released a statement co-signed by his family on Saturday afternoon that provided the news.

The statement reads:

Eric was recently diagnosed with cancer and is beginning treatments under the care of the amazing oncologists, nurses and staff at the world-class UNC Linberger Cancer Center. Our family is of course deeply concerned, but we have spent nearly three decades in the fight against children’s cancer and know well the incredible advancements that are being made in oncology treatments, as well as the power of love, prayer, support, and positivity. We are touched by the responses our entire family has received since the new became public. Your support is more than appreciated; it is welcomed as a necessary part of beating cancer one day at a time. Our family is dealing with Eric’s diagnosis head-on—the only way we know how. And we are all in this fight together.

As the Montross’ statement mentioned, the family has been heavily involved in supporting the work done with the children at Linberger, and from accounts the extent of the work he’s done isn’t fully known. He mostly prefers to keep the focus on the children instead of seeking praise for helping them out, but anyone who’s had a child go through UNC likely has been affected by Eric at some point.

The statement didn’t includes details of his cancer, in terms of what specific form he was diagnosed with and what stage the cancer is in. It also didn’t include what sort of treatments he was going to be taking. As the one going through the process, it’s absolutely his right to keep as much of it to himself as possible. It would have been tough for Montross to keep the cancer completely quiet, as the seven footer would be noticeable going in and out of the Linberger Center for treatments. This allows the family to acknowledge why he’s there so he doesn't have to deal with multiple questions of why.

Montross is true legend for the Tar Heels, twice going to the Final Four and winning the 1993 title over the vaunted Fab 5 Michigan Wolverines. He was also a teammate of current head coach Hubert Davis from 1990-1992. This current generation will know him as the other voice calling basketball games with Jones Angell on the Tar Heel Sports Network. He took over the color duties in 2006 when Mick Mixon moved on to be the play-by-play voice of the Carolina Panthers and has since called two national titles, as well as the amazing twin victories over Duke last season.

On a personal note, it isn’t a secret that I’m a cancer survivor myself. And as someone who created a blog specifically to go over treatments, I understand the desire to just say it one time and not have to answer the questions over and over again. Eric, ironically, played a small part in my own treatments and recovery, as noted in this post from 2019. He took way more time than was necessary to talk with a few fans, especially after calling a full basketball game on a cold March night.

Multiple authors on this site have written of our love of that 1993 team, and I was able to write this post celebrating that team on the eve of a matchup against Michigan 25 years after that title. That team absolutely holds a special place in the souls of Carolina fans lucky enough to be able to watch them, and Montross was both figuratively and literally a huge part of that squad.

Thus, as someone who both admires Eric for who he is as a person and what he did for UNC, and as someone who benefited from tons of positive well wishes in whatever form people chose to make them, consider my voiced added to those wishing Eric well in his fight. Those of us who watched him know that he may end up bloodied, but he also will just fight harder to get the win.

We look forward to hearing your voice again in November as the 2023-24 season tips off.