We are now a couple of weeks removed from the end of UNC’s disappointing 2022-23 season, but it’s hard to escape the conversation surrounding what actually went wrong. We knew it was only a matter of time before former players would chime in (loudly), and that is exactly what we got on Vince Carter’s latest podcast episode of The VC Show.
Carter invited former Tar Heels Antawn Jamison onto his show to discuss Carolina’s season, and they had some interesting things to say. Here is what Carter said to Jamison about the team’s attitude following their Final Four run:
“We got comfortable and cocky that we had our main core guys returning,” Vince Carter said Thursday on his podcast, The VC Show. “I went for a preseason game, and I was a little concerned. We played Johnson C. Smith, and we should have blown them out of the water, and we didn’t get it done. It was like, ‘OK, it’s preseason or whatever.’ But all the games were like that, and I got concerned. It felt like we could turn it on, but then it got out of hand.”
As far as what Jamison thought the issue was, he pointed to NIL, which has shaken up college sports and how athletes have navigated the landscape:
“NIL,” Jamison responded when asked what went wrong with the 2022-23 team. “Vince, think about this, after our sophomore year, when we lost to Arizona. We come back. Everyone stays both sessions of summer school. We play all summer. We were staying up to three or four in the morning just putting up shots. Think about coming back next season, and after you get done with practice, you have to go shoot a Dunkin’ Donuts commercial. After I get done with practice, I got to go shoot a car dealership commercial. I get it. I truly believe players deserve to get paid for their Name, Image and Likeness, but I probably don’t think we make it to the Final Four next year because you’re getting almost a million dollars.”
“The game at Duke. I remember the ball just rolling on the floor, and no one is diving for the loose ball,” Jamison said. “That is a Duke and Carolina game. I love the guys; I just think we got to the point where we got complacent and thought it was going to be as easy as it was last year. I talked to Hubert, and he told me, ‘This is a totally different team than what I had last year. They have to worry about other things outside of basketball.’”
Finally, Joel Berry quote tweeted a quote from Jamison about the lack of pick-up games over the summer, and here is what he had to say:
It was pick up every single day, no questions!Even if you were a freshmen and didn't play, and had to chase kicked b-balls,you still had to be there.Summertime pick-up is crucial,especially with having set allowed time with coaches and practices.Rules need to change around this. https://t.co/5bUgYxIsIW— Joel Berry II (@JoelBerryII) March 26, 2023
It’s clear that former players are concerned about what's going on in Chapel Hill, and none of them have a wrong opinion about what caused things to fall apart. To Carter’s point, this team did go into the season overly confident, and played like it in the preseason. We saw a lot of iso, a lot of shots taken that players don’t normally take, and overall selfish basketball. As far as NIL goes, it has definitely added a layer of complexity to college basketball that wasn’t there before, and that’s especially true with Carolina basketball. Pick-up games over the summer are essentially a legend in Chapel Hill, with former players coming back all the time to play. It’s probably hard to plan many pick-up games when filming shows, doing advertisements, and showing up at events, right?
The central theme in all of this is that this year’s Tar Heels just didn’t have the focus and attention to details that they could’ve had if they played everything differently. Sure, NIL is important for putting money in players’ pockets, but ultimately the scholarship they received from the school is for basketball, and that should be the primary focus. I obviously don’t know enough to accuse anybody of anything specific, but the team’s body of work spoke for itself. It’s a new process for everybody, but at the end of the day it’s important for players to find a way to balance off the court and on the court business in a way that is not detrimental to the team.
The one criticism of what Carter, Jamison, and Berry said is not actually what any of them said, but what Hubert Davis told Jamison. “They have to worry about things outside of basketball” feels like a cop-out line that didn’t seem to be that big of a problem for the teams that made it to the NCAA Tournament. I have done my best not to be super critical of the job that Davis has done so far, but it’s been clear for most of the time that he’s been the head coach that he has a hard time reading the room. He is excellent when it comes to public relations, but the problem when you’re too good at public relations is that it really comes off as tone deaf. To be more specific, saying things that protect your players is PR-friendly, but ultimately it makes people wonder if you actually are willing and able to hold players accountable for how they are performing for the team. Roy Williams was never afraid to call out names, and while I know that’s the other extreme when it comes to coaching, it’s completely reasonable to be somewhere between the two extremes in how you address issues. That middle ground is what I hope Davis is able to reach at some point, but he may be who he is throughout his tenure at UNC, so let’s just hope that things go well enough in the future that optics don’t matter.
Anyways, I would love to know what all of you think about the former Tar Heels’ comments. Do you think they were spot-on in their assessments? Or do you think there are other issues at play here? Let us know in the comments below.