Even so, this was a very good game played at a much higher caliber than a number of games Carolina won at home earlier in the season. Hats off once again to the spirited play of Carolina's young players, especially one Raymond Felton, and thanks again to departing seniors Jon Holmes and Will Johnson.
But now, the year is over, and the post-season speculation is about to go into full swing. The central issues facing the program were described in some detail in my previous column: to summarize, wins and losses are not a plausible reason for the future of the Doherty regime to be in doubt, but the quality of the learning environment and overall climate in the program might be; it's up to administrators to collect the necessary information and make the call that best accords with the university's values and aspirations.
From the point of view of the average fan, in many ways it's a frustrating situation, and has been so for months: the one issue that is far and away the most important to the program and its future is also the issue that is least accessible to fans and most difficult and perilous to judge looking from the outside. And yet as frustrating as this situation is, it's one Carolina fans are going to have to put up with a little longer while things gets discussed and eventually sorted out by the people who count.
In the meantime, here's a five-point guide to getting through the next few days or weeks.
1. Show Patience And Let The Decision-makers Do Their Job. It's only human nature that Carolina fans are waiting with bated breath for any sign of a decision and are extremely impatient to get this all over with so the program can go on in the right way, without the storm clouds and doubt. But as much as some may crave a resolution, what is far, far more important is that administrators go about this decision in the right way, gathering as much information as possible, consulting with players, coaches, parents, and others close to the program as appropriate, and then deliberating in a thoughtful manner.
How long will that take? No one knows--maybe days, maybe weeks. The only timeline that should matter is making absolutely sure that the university is making the best decision for the good of the program. Until then, let's try to be patient.
2. Remember That Fans Don't Have the Right To Know Everything. This one speaks for itself: anyone thinking that now that the season is over, every detail about life behind the scenes in Chapel Hill is going to be revealed is almost certainly going to be disappointed. Melvin Scott noted in postgame comments Wednesday that there are issues that need to be discussed among players, parents, administrators: that's about as revealing a quote from a player as fans have any right to expect. Again, it's human nature to crave specifics and details, but as Matt Doherty likes to say, sometimes you have to battle human nature.
3. Remember This Is Not Going To Be Resolved In the Media. Obviously, many Carolina fans have strong views about this situation, and one can understand the temptation to seize onto any new article, opinion piece, or quote that supports one's particular point of view. A lot of people are sure to be commenting on the Carolina situation in the coming days, not all of whom will grasp that Ws and Ls are not the real story here. Given the nature of the issues at stake here, trying to come to a clear resolution about the best way forward must involve conversations and deliberations among the principal people involved, not seeing which way public and media opinion seems to be bending.
4. Let's Show Respect for Everyone Concerned. Again, this should speak for itself, and it applies with equal force to players, coaches and even (gasp!) administrators. If a player or a parent decides to make a comment in the media, try to ask yourself if you understand where they are coming from before making a judgment, and try to remember that every player is important for his own sake. As to the "adults" in this situation, I believe it is possible to hold public figures accountable and to objectively evaluate job performance without entering into unrestrained disparagement or forgetting that these folks have families too. Let's try to do that here.
5. Patience, Patience, Patience. Did I mention that already? Well, to recapitulate, this is a crucial decision about a crucial aspect of the University of North Carolina's life and identity as an institution. A decision made in haste or that has failed to undertake the appropriate consultation and fact-finding, or that is made in response to very short-term pressures, would be a disastrous mistake.
A decision that is made in the right way, that has everyone concerned in the program on board, and that manages to clear away the debilitating cloud hanging over Carolina basketball, would be well worth this frustrating interim period.
Is it all that important that those of us on the outside know what's going to happen in the next 48 hours, or the next week? No, it's not.
Is it all that important that a year from now Carolina be in a situation in which the Heels have enjoyed a season in which fans' attention has been focused on the court and not on constant rumors and speculation, and in which players don't have to deal with constant probing from the media into the day-to-day life of the program? Yes, it is.
If the discussions and deliberations of this spring help make that sunny scenario a reality, the frustrating wait concerned Carolina fans are experiencing now will seem absolutely trivial in comparison.
Thad Williamson is the author of More Than a Game: Why North Carolina Basketball Means So Much To So Many, available at www.dollarsandsense.org/bookstore.html#bookstorelink. Thad welcomes your emails at firstname.lastname@example.org.