On Wednesday afternoon, two starters from the 1993 Tar Heel national championship team stopped by for their first visit, to take a look and spend time with adoring fans. Lefty point guard Derrick Phelps—widely regarded as one of the best UNC defenders of all time—and shooting star Donald Williams (10-14 3-ptrs, 50 points in the 1993 Final Four) signed autographs, posed for pictures, and reminisced about old times.
"This is my first time here," said Derrick Phelps as he looked around a little starry-eyed, almost as if he were just a fan himself. "It's very nice. It's good to see old memories—especially of ourselves—and of other teams that played at Carolina. We like to see the history of Carolina. I enjoyed my time at Carolina, and I liked the stuff that happened before and after."
"I think it was a great idea," added Donald Williams. "You can see all of the Carolina tradition and how it has grown over the years. He's got some great stuff in here, and he dug deep for all of this. It takes you back over the years through all of Carolina's tradition. It makes me proud to be a Tar Heel.
"It's funny to me to go back to the '70s and see all the pictures of some of your coaches back in the day. I've already seen Coach Ford's photographs, so I already joked him, but to see Dudley Bradley, Coach Weil, and even Kenny Smith was funny. (Laughing) I think if the guys put these shorts on now, they would look like underwear. It's like they played in underwear back then."
As with any museum, it is a constant work in progress. It's more a journey, rather than a destination. It's constantly changing and being updated with new items, some of which are rather old.
"The neat thing for me is that it's never finished," remarked owner and former UNC Basketball manager David Daly. "It keeps me busy. With our history—we've got 512 letterman, I think—our job will never be done.
"What we want to do is the best we can to represent every player we can, every letterman, every team, every accomplishment. We're not here to be the superstar museum. We're here to be the Carolina Basketball museum, and that comprises every player from the walk-on at the end of the bench to the All-American starter. That's our challenge, and so far it's been a fun challenge."
A lot of the items are contributed by the players themselves, and many of the players donate their time to offer an opportunity for fans to meet them.
"I tried to contribute by giving my jersey and making appearances," explained Phelps. "I was around town, and I haven't been here yet, so [David] asked me if I could come through to help generate some interest. I don't know what else I can do, but maybe I can come up with some good ideas to help give some more recognition to this place."
There are many items from every era of UNC Basketball, but on this day the 1993 National Championship team was a popular topic of discussion. However, "The Donald" says that it's something that he discusses with fans all the time—especially his pressure-packed free throws to seal the win.
"It comes up often in sharing it with fans," stated Williams. "The fans bring it up, and then I reminisce about it. It touched so many peoples' lives, and it makes so many people happy. For people to remember you is wonderful.
"At the time, it was routine for me. As a young kid you don't understand the pressure, and it just came natural to me. Now that I look back on it, there was a lot of pressure and those were some big shots."
Big shots, indeed. And sooner or later, David Daly will have something commemorating every big-shot Carolina Basketball player along with all the lesser-known players—at the Blue Heaven Museum.
Phelps and Williams in front of the Blue Heaven exhibit.
Williams, with the photo of him sealing the '93 title from the free throw line.
Phelps signs Blue Heaven's Wall of Fame.
Thanks to David Daly for putting on another great event. Be sure to check out the Blue Heaven Museum web site.