1-on-1 with UNC coach Larry Fedora: The Next Chapter

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. --- Larry Fedora sat down with Inside Carolina for a one-on-one interview this week. The UNC head coach discussed how 2016 is a new chapter for both the program and him personally, as they weathered the storm, accomplished a record-setting season, and now aim even higher.

I want to start out with sort of a personal question. You’ve been in Chapel Hill for five years now. Your family is here, you have a house here, all that stuff. What do you and your family like to do when you have some free time?

We are still really in the process of exploring Chapel Hill and the area, and the whole state really, because there is so much in the state of North Carolina to see that we don’t know, haven’t had the chance to go. The tough thing is there isn’t much time, we don’t get much free time. The girls are active in their schools, so we don’t get a lot of time to do things. If anything, if we get an hour or so, we’ll go to a different restaurant in town, and try to find restaurants that we like.

Got any favorites yet?

You know, my favorite is Top of the Hill. I love the food there, I love the atmosphere, it’s just a great place and a great location. My daughters and my wife do a lot of shopping, all over Chapel Hill, I don’t really delve into that part of it.

This is a new experience for you in some ways - in that you’re coming back to a team off a double-digit win season, a Coastal Division championship. You had that kind of season at Southern Miss, but then you did not return to Southern Miss and experience what would be increased media scrutiny, increased fan expectations. How have you dealt with that?

Not only that, Buck, but this will be the longest I’ve been anywhere ... I’ve never been anywhere this long. I feel very fortunate to be at Carolina, and to be here the length of time we have, and overcome the things that we’ve overcome.

Really, the plan after last season was to start over - to start over just like the season before. And to start implementing the things that we think this team needs, because the 2016 team hasn’t accomplished anything. What they were able to do is, because of the season we had in ’14, and the season we had in ’15, they were able to compare and understand the things that were really good for us in ’15, and why they weren’t really as good for us in ’14, and they have taken a lot of that on in terms of leadership, team chemistry, and all those things that they know will play a major factor in the 2016 team. We’ve been talking about all those things since 2012, and trying to implement those things, but until they saw it and understood the true value of it, that’s when it really takes off.

So I am excited about this year because, one, the leadership on this year’s team got to see great leadership from the guys on last year’s team. They got to see the benefits of great team chemistry, a great locker room, and just being a great teammate.

Because the talent level is not a whole lot different, from last year to this year, they know that the difference is going to be how they deal with adversity, what kind of leadership we have, what the chemistry of this football team is going to be. Those are the things we are working on at this time.

So, am I excited about coming back after the year we had? I really am. I am excited about the level of expectations that are out there right now. I am excited about what this team sees for themselves in the future, and how hard they are working to get there.

When you are out there on the Tar Heel Tour, the Rams Club functions, do you pick up on increased fan expectations?

I think I do, but I think I pick up more ‘surprise’ than anything. I really do.

I don’t think, when I came in during 2012, and said we were going to win, but I didn’t know when, I don’t know if people truly believed it. When you mention Carolina and championships, I mean it has been so long, I don’t know if they truly believed it.

[On the Tar Heel Tour] they were like, 'Oh, wow, we can do the things that Coach has been talking about and preaching, and we just need to all buy in.'

The sky is the limit on what we can achieve at Carolina, but it takes more than just the team themselves. So the biggest thing I think I’ve seen out on the road is just the surprise by people. One, that it happened under the circumstances that we’ve dealt with in the last four years, because I don’t think anyone expected us to have that kind of success, as we come through this four-year period.

I can assure you that I did, and our coaching staff did. It probably took a year longer than what we expected because of the circumstances, but I think we’re in pretty good shape right now.

Speaking of those circumstances, based on what we’re hearing about the ANOA from the NCAA, it looks like that piece may be behind you, or substantially behind you. This team has all Fedora recruits on it, it is a relatively veteran squad, factor in the success you had last year, how do you look at that in terms of a foundation, and where do you go from here? Do you feel like the building process has taken place, and now there is something else out there on the horizon?

I do think we have a really good foundation. I think we have a culture we have created on our football team, a work ethic that is established, guys come in and jump right in, because guys who have been here say, 'Hey, this is the way we do things.' 

We’re going to work hard, and we pride ourselves on out-working our opponents, being in better shape than they are because of the style that we play. So that is never a factor for us, our guys work extremely hard. Then the key is that we put them in a position where we know they can be successful.

I really believe that in the last four years we really have established a good base. Now that that cloud has ‘broken up’ I really think our future can be really bright. We see that now with our coaches out on the road recruiting and the responses that we are getting, because we don’t have to defend ourselves anymore.

We can sell what we have to offer, and Carolina has got so much to sell. So now, we don’t spend half our time defending ourselves, we are able to sell the entire time.

(Check back soon for Part II of this exclusive interview.)


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