CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – While the X’s and O’s of basketball are undoubtedly a crucial component for the coaching ranks, sometimes it’s the intangible excitement and energy that a coach can bring that makes him so valuable.
Former Tar Heel standout Sean May joined the UNC basketball coaching staff as the assistant to the director of player development this season, and has already made progress, according to assistant coach Steve Robinson.
“I think he’s going be very, very valuable to our staff,” said Robinson, who filled in for Roy Williams on his weekly radio show from Top of the Hill restaurant on Monday.
May was an integral part of North Carolina’s national championship run in 2005. In three seasons as a Tar Heel, he averaged 15.8 points per game and 10 rebounds per game.
May connects with the players through his previous experience in a Carolina uniform, but also brings something immeasurable that the players can appreciate.
“His presence; overall, Sean has presence,” Robinson said. “Just having his presence around our basketball program is nothing but feel-good times, and the more we have Sean, the more he learns.”
May also helps director of player development Eric Hoots with video and film work. These kind of preparatory tasks are something he never really understood the staff had to do when he played at North Carolina, and are something he can appreciate now in his new role.
“It’s a different animal,” Robinson said. “You play, and those guys play, and you can ask Sean how he feels, how different is it as a player now coming back and seeing what we do? And he says ‘Man, I didn’t know you guys had to do all this.’”
The job at North Carolina is the perfect opportunity for May to get his foot in the door of the coaching world and potentially build a new career after ending his days of playing professionally.
“I think Sean wants to be a full-time college coach,” Robinson said. “I think he’d be an excellent coach.”
ADDITIONAL ROBINSON QUOTES
What makes Theo Pinson such a quality passer?
“He’s a risk-taker. He does a good job, and he can pass the ball, he has good vision, he sees plays. I think sometimes, Kendall Marshall was a good passer, but Kendall Marshall was a risk-taker. He could throw some passes that the average person would say ‘Uh, I don’t know.’ I, to this day, can still remember Kendall being almost at half court and whipping a pass to Tyler Zeller past Duke defenders. They had no idea the pass was coming. I mean, a straight-line pass, Z catches it and lays it up. Theo can see it and develop it. Sometimes he sees it, and the other guys can’t develop it, but he does a tremendous job of getting the job to open people, and he has the gift of distributing the basketball. With that, as you look down on that stat sheet, 38 assists and 15 turnovers, so sometimes that risk-taking leads to some of those turnovers, but right now, the good outweighs the bad.”
How difficult of a test was Melo Trimble for your perimeter defense?
“We did about as good as we could. He’s a big-time player. He was the guy that was going have the ball in his hands, he was going make plays, he can score the basketball, he’s a very confident player. You’re talking about a guy that’s one of the best players in the country, and he showed it, and we threw different guys at him. I think Joel Berry did a great job of defending him, I thought Nate (Britt) tried to do a good job of defending him. He hit some tough shots. I don’t know if you can always stop a guy that’s good like that, but you can try to make him work a little harder, try to make him expend some energy so that he’s not as fresh as the game wears on. That’s part of the thing about our pace of play sometimes, we hope that we can get into people’s legs.”
Is there a way UNC could avoid picking up so many offensive fouls (five) like they did against Davidson?
“I think one of the things that happened with our offensive fouls is that we kind of dislodged people. I think big guys have habit a lot of times when they catch the ball inside in the post, they want to take a rhythm dribble to go from side to side, or try to get closer to the basket. So what was happening with Kennedy (Meeks) or with Brice (Johnson) on some of those plays, they tried to catch it, they tried to turn, and defenses, sometimes, get hit, and they fall *laughs*. So you try to turn, and you try to get into your move, and sometimes they fall a little bit. Big, strong guys like Brice, they just kind of bowl people over, and so the referee calls an offensive foul, and it’s an offensive foul. Lost possession, got to go the other way.”
It seems like the team has played better since the Northern Iowa loss. Did they learn something that has helped them since then?
“I always say, I can learn when I win, too. I don’t have to wait until I lose. I want to have all of those games where I learn something after a win. It shouldn’t have to be that way, but I think one of the biggest things our kids got from it is that we have to play harder. We have to play better as a unit, and as a team, throughout the course of a game. Playing on the road is a different animal. We had a couple of bad possessions, they had a couple of shots, and then all of a sudden the crowd is involved in the game. You’ve got to play with poise. You’re on the road, and all of a sudden the other team is making a run at you, you’ve just got to play with some poise. You’ve got to execute some stuff, you’ve got to finish plays on the defensive end, get the rebounds.
“You can’t just come out of your skin and become somebody else. You’ve got to play like you practice. This is what we do every day. 30-something practices, 40-something practices, 50-60-something practices. You have to play like you practice. You can’t let it, whether it’s home or away, change who you are and take you out of your skin, and all of a sudden, you start doing things that just make you scratch your head. There’s a reason why I don’t have any hair on my head. It’s because of the fact that sometimes guys just lose it.”
Which part of Joel Berry’s game has seen the most improvement this year?
“I think that the biggest thing is confidence. His confidence. I think as a freshman playing last year, he was so concerned about everything around him. Trying to make the right play, trying to do the right thing. It was one of those times where he spent half his time one eye on the court, one eye on the bench, instead of just going out and playing. Then when Joel Berry got hurt last year, and he has to sit there and watch, I think it changed him. I think he became, ‘Okay, I get this from watching the game.’ From the sidelines, I think he became more determined. His shooting has definitely improved. His overall work ethic as a player has improved. His preparation for what he’s doing day in and day out has changed. He came in this summer, and at the beginning of the season, as a different player because of his determination because of the time and the energy he put into preparing himself for this basketball season.”
This is a Texas group that has given UNC some troubles the last few times they’ve met. Your thoughts?
“You’re telling me. They have great experience, they have three or four guys that started last year returning. They’re a good basketball team. They’re going through a chance in terms of style of play and coaching philosophy. Life on the road is never easy, and we’re going have to bring our best game of the year in order to have a chance to be successful.”