Andy: Uh-oh, all not rosy

LEXINGTON, Ky. – On the grass is greener side of things, the Tar Heels have battled hard in two tough losses to Wake Forest and Kentucky and remain a team full of promise under their perceived coaching savior Roy Williams. Still, all is not right.

Indeed, a couple of losses to two of the nation's top programs do not a crisis make. However, some lingering issues from the previous regime may be subtly emerging.

Williams is spending more and more time having to take confrontational stances as his Tar Heels have become less and less effective defensively.

Not since the "Blue Team" of days gone by has a UNC coach found it necessary to pull and replace five players at one interval – except in the case of a blowout or in order to send a message to the current five.

But Williams sent a barrage of messages in the Tar Heels' 61-56 loss at Kentucky.

None of the Tar Heels' elite were exempt from the ire of Williams, who popped off on numerous tirades in an attempt to reach his players. The all-time winningest active coach displayed more emotion on the sidelines Saturday in Rupp Arena than he has all year.

There is something bothering Williams. He doesn't like what he sees right now.

While the twice-yanking of his starters – once in each half – was designed to be a wake up call, the unit he brought in during the second half earned its minutes.

The fact of the matter is, a Carolina team that was led by Damien Price at the point, kept the score static for over three huge minutes, while the regulars could catch a breather and prepare for the stretch run.

It was a move that Williams would have likely been applauded for had Gerald Fitch's incredible 3-pointer with 33 seconds left had not gone in and the Tar Heels had won.

But instead, it further amplified growing questions into both the Tar Heels dedication to team and whether or not all of the demons from last year's team have been exorcised.

While Williams took his turn on just about everyone, no one has frustrated him more than Rashad McCants, who appeared lost during most of the Tar Heels' 61-56 loss to Kentucky on Saturday.

Williams was upset with McCants for most of the game, while McCants was upset with himself.

It is clear the two are not on the same page right now. There is a rift.

More than once on Saturday, Williams quickly substituted after a mistake by McCants, who would be the first to admit he experienced his worst outing of the year. McCants fumbled his way around the court and spent more time on the bench for it than he has all season.

Yet is Williams guilty of singling out McCants?

Both have come off as yielding, if not apologetic, in brief comments on the situation.

"We didn't look like a very well-coached team out there today," Williams said. "That's my responsibility."

Of course as it was throughout the coaching change last year, full disclosure is at a premium.

Following the Tar Heels win over UNC-Wilmington on Sunday, McCants said he had learned a lesson – "if there was a lesson to be learned" – after he was prematurely admonished to the locker room by Williams for a lack of team enthusiasm during the first half.

So is it a love-hate thing, or is it nothing at all? Is there some recruiting history behind these two who share the same hometown?

While Williams may have to go through some growing pains until he has completely firmed his footing in Chapel Hill, it is clear that the outcome of a January non-conference game against an historical rival is not enough to make him pull back from his ideals.

Whatever the answer, both coach and player need the best from each other if the Tar Heels are going to make an impact on the league this year. Otherwise, the rebuilding process under Williams may take longer than many have hoped.


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