Roy Williams

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Jordan too superstitious to attend UNC title game

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There was a theory floating around the North Carolina locker room as to why the Tar Heels’ highest-profile fan, former UNC great Michael Jordan, had been nowhere to be seen during its title run that concluded Monday night with a win over Gonzaga.

“Last time we talked to him, we saw him, was the Duke game at home,” Theo Pinson said. “I think he thinks he’s bad luck.”

Turns out, after watching his beloved Tar Heels fall on a buzzer-beater in the title game in 2016, that’s precisely what His Airness was thinking.

“People asked me for the last day and a half if he was going to come,” UNC coach Roy Williams said on the Dan Patrick Show. “I said guys, knowing him, he’s going to say, ‘I went last year, you lost.’ That’s what I was thinking.”

As Williams made his way out of University of Phoenix Stadium with his third national title secured, he mentioned the theory once more to a North Carolina administrator.

“I’ll give you any odds you want,” Williams recalled saying, “but I’ll bet you a text message from Michael or a voicemail from Michael, and he’s going to say something about coming last year.

“Sure enough, I got on the bus … had a quite a few messages, and one of them was from Michael.

“So I collected some money last night.”

Even the greatest player of all time doesn’t want to tempt fate with a title on the line. Not to mention, no one can prove Jordan wasn’t right to stay away. North Carolina has another banner. Maybe he was on to something. It’s probably best not to question MJ on matters of basketball, anyway.

Roy Williams takes shot at UNC crowds, wishes they were more like Indiana

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Assembly Hall in Bloomington, Indiana, was the place to be in the American sports world last night, as the No. 13 Hoosiers put together a dominating performance – they never trailed and UNC only got within four points once in the second half – to pick off the No. 3 Tar Heels.

The win came just eight days after Indiana went into Fort Wayne and lost to the Mastadons in overtime, and I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that the crowd played a role in that result. Indiana students had been lined up, and likely lubricating, to get into the game since early that morning, and it showed. That building was deafening, and the energy spurred the Hoosiers to a 26-9 lead before UNC had realized what was going on.

UNC head coach Roy Williams said as much after the game, according to the Raleigh News & Observer.

“It was a great college basketball atmosphere, and one team really played right from the get-go, the second one did not and that was us,” Williams said. “We were not ready for the intensity, the enthusiasm, anything that you want to talk about in the first half. But it was a wonderful crowd.”

(This is where his comment gets interesting.)

“Gosh. I’d like to play in front of a crowd like that in the Smith Center every night other than the frickin’ Duke game. And that was just – congratulations to them, their fans, their students. It was a big-time crowd.”

Yup, that Williams throwing shade at the wine and cheese crowd that attends North Carolina games, and he’s not wrong. The atmosphere at the Dean Dome, one of the historic buildings in the sport, isn’t what it is at some other college basketball venues because the good seats don’t go to the students, they go to the people with the money. They may love their Tar Heels, but they’re not yelling and screaming for 40 minutes the way a drunk 20-year old will be.

It’s something players notice.

North Carolina isn’t alone with this issue – Kentucky’s Rupp Arena has a similar reputation – and I’m not sure if it’s something that can change anytime soon. Those big-money donors aren’t going to want to give up their good seats. I know I wouldn’t.

But it is something that matters.

There’s a reason we always talk about how difficult it is to win on the road in college basketball. Indiana showed us why last night.

Four-star 2018 guard Coby White commits to North Carolina

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With guards Jalek Felton and Andrew Platek having committed in their 2017 recruiting class, North Carolina received a commitment from one of the better guards in the Class of 2018 Thursday night. Four-star guard Coby White, who’s ranked 61st in his class by Rivals.com, made his pledge to Roy Williams’ program. News of White’s commitment was first reported by Scout.com.

The 6-foot-4 White is a native of Wilson, North Carolina, where he attends Greenfield HS, and he played his grassroots basketball for the CP3 16U basketball program this summer. His commitment to UNC comes just a couple days after the ACC school offered him a scholarship.

White took an unofficial visit to UNC in June, and his play in July ultimately led to the program making the aforementioned scholarship offer. By the time White enrolls in Chapel Hill, current veterans such as Joel Berry II and Nate Britt will be out of eligibility. Among the perimeter would could potentially be on campus in 2018 are freshmen Seventh Woods and Brandon Robinson, and sophomore Kenny Williams.

White is the second commit in the 2018 class for the Tar Heels, with 6-foot-7 guard Rechon Black being the first.

Guard Platek becomes North Carolina’s second 2017 commit

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Monday afternoon North Carolina picked up a second verbal commitment in the Class of 2017, as shooting guard Andrew Platek announced via his Twitter account that he will play his college basketball for Roy Williams. One of the top perimeter shooters in the class, the 6-foot-4 Platek joins fellow guard Jalek Felton in North Carolina’s 2017 crop thus far.

A native of Guilderland, New York, Platek plays for the Albany City Rocks grassroots program and attends Northfield Mount Hermon School in Massachusetts. The recipient of many offers from high- and mid-major programs, Platek was offered a scholarship by North Carolina in late-April, with Williams making the phone call himself to deliver the news.

Outside of the now-graduated Marcus Paige perimeter shooting was an issue for North Carolina in recent years, but that’s been addressed on the recruiting front. Among the three signees in the 2016 class is shooting guard Brandon Robinson, who was one of the top shooters in that class, and Platek can also help in that regard when he arrives in Chapel Hill.

Among the other programs to offer Platek were Miami, Penn State and Stanford with Indiana showing some interest in the spring.

North Carolina’s Jackson to return for junior season

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With the NBA Draft Combine wrapping up Friday evening, players with college eligibility remaining who declared without hiring an agent had until May 25 to make a final decision. One of those players was North Carolina wing Justin Jackson, whose decision was expected to have a significant impact on the Tar Heels’ national title chances in 2016-17.

Monday evening the school announced that Jackson has decided to withdraw from the draft, and he’ll return for his junior season at North Carolina.

“I’m glad I had the chance to enter the Draft and attend the Combine where I was able to meet with a number of NBA executives and test my game against some of the top players in the country, but after discussing it with my parents and coaches and praying over this decision, the best choice for my basketball future is to return to school and play for the Tar Heels next season,” Jackson said in the release.

Jackson joins power forward Kennedy Meeks as North Carolina players who decided to return to school, giving Roy Williams two experienced players to call upon next season. North Carolina did lose three seniors, guard Marcus Paige and forwards Brice Johnson and Joel James, but they have enough coming back to make a run at another ACC title (with Duke being viewed by many as the early favorite) and deep NCAA tournament run.

Jackson, Meeks and Joel Berry II are all returning starters, and reserves such and Nate Britt, Theo Pinson and Isaiah Hicks return as well. North Carolina also adds a three-member recruiting class in guards Seventh Woods and Brandon Robinson, and power forward Tony Bradley.

College names surface in reports regarding Lakers coaching vacancy

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With some NBA head coaching jobs opening up, it’s that time of year when the names of prominent college basketball head coaches get mentioned for such opportunities. Of course we’ve all become used to the annual rumors involving Kentucky head coach John Calipari, who has yet to move away from one of the top jobs in the sport.

His name is one that has come up in recent reports surrounding the Los Angeles Lakers’ opening, with Connecticut’s Kevin Ollie and Villanova’s Jay Wright among those being mentioned by various outlets as well.

Ollie, who led his alma mater to a national title in his second season at the helm, was mentioned in reports by both Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical and Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.com.

Ollie told ESPN’s Andy Katz on Monday that he has had no contact with the Lakers. He said he will always listen if called but it would take “something very special” to pull him away from UConn.

Ollie’s contract, which was signed after he led the Huskies to the national title in 2014, has a clause that would allow him to terminate his contract without penalty “on or after the one-year anniversary” of the departure of either athletic director Warde Manuel or UConn president Susan Herbst. Manuel left UConn in January to take over as athletic director at Michigan (his first official day was March 14), so a departure now would not meet the one-year requirement.

The buyout to leave for an NBA job would be $4 million until May 31, with the buyout amount dropping to $1 million after that date.

The latter report also named Wright, Calipari, Tom Izzo and Roy Williams as names the Lakers could consider for their opening. Wright led Villanova to its second national title earlier this month, and his Wildcats have won the last three Big East regular season titles.

NBA franchises have been more willing to look at successful college coaches in recent years, with Fred Hoiberg and Billy Donovan making the jump to the pros last season. Hoiberg took over in Chicago, but things didn’t go as planned for the Bulls as they missed out on the playoffs for the first time since the 2007-08 season. As for Donovan, he’s running the show in Oklahoma City where the Thunder are up three games to one on the Mavericks.

Both coaches took jobs with (at first glance) the talent needed to be successful, which is a far cry from the jobs Calipari and Rick Pitino took with the Nets and Celtics respectively during the mid-1990’s. Does the Lakers job fit that mold? Having won a total of 38 games in their last two seasons, not to mention needing to fill the hole left by the retirement of Kobe Bryant, one can argue that this would not be an optimal job for a college coach to take.

But with the Lakers being a franchise that’s won 16 titles, the appeal of leading such a storied franchise can’t be denied even with the recent struggles.