Zeke: Time to Come Together

There is little doubt that North Carolina fans are having a tough time at work, at home, the local mall, or pretty much anywhere they go. Sports Talk Radio is no fun to listen to, and ESPN SportCenter is just as bad. It doesn't matter where you turn, who you talk to, or what you read, the comments being made about North Carolina basketball are just not what Tar Heel fans are used to.

Close to 40 years of great basketball led by Dean Smith have made Tar Heel fans set their standards at a very high level. North Carolina, with its streaks and records, and the program is one of the greatest of all time.

Well, reality must now set in, and the TRUE Tar Heel fans must now step up. Folks it is very easy to be a fan of a winner, but can you take the criticism and still support your team. Will you go to games when your team is losing? Will you still wear your Carolina hat, shirt or jacket? Will you still show your pride of North Carolina basketball this season as you have in past seasons? This may turn around and be a solid season, or it may be a bad season by Tar Heel standards. Only time will tell which season it will be. The question is are you a true Tar Heel Fan?

I want to first give you my opinions of why you should be as proud of this team as any other and why you should stand behind and by your program in this potential tough season. Folks, I hate to break it to many of you but North Carolina is no different from Kentucky, Duke, Kansas or UCLA. All of these programs are great and they all have one thing in common, except North Carolina that is. All of these programs have seen tough times.

Kansas won a National Championship, but then went on probation and struggled early on with Roy Williams. UCLA had a very tough time adjusting without the greatness of John Wooden and it wasn't until the mid 1990s that they truly found themselves back in the elite again. UK is the winningest program of all time. In the late 80's they found themselves on the front of Sports Illustrated for wrongdoings in recruiting, and while it didn't take as long as UCLA to bounce back, they had a few years of poor seasons, by Kentucky standards. Duke won back-to-back national championships, and then just a few years later they were dead last in the ACC. Take a look now and UCLA is back in the top 10, Kansas is in the top 10, UK has won two more national championships and they are a top 10 team, and Duke has won a national championship and they are the number one team in America.

Only North Carolina over the last 30 years has not had to face serious adversity. Yes there have been some average seasons by UNC standards, but the Heels always finished top 3 in the ACC and were a part of March Madness. What UNC, and its fans, have not had to face is a bad season. I am talking about not making the tournament, and possibly a losing record. This season may not be that at all, but if it is, what type of fan will you be? They say sometimes a man must be smacked down to the ground, and it is then you will see his true character; by the way he picks himself up. The greatest programs of all time have had to face adversity, and they have all come through and they are back where they belong again.

Folks the kids at North Carolina want to win. They practice each and every day and they play to win. Not one young man on that bench wants to be 0-3. Yes you can be unhappy when their shots don't fall, or they make silly mistakes, and as a fan you have that right to be unhappy. The bottom line is that if they team plays as hard as they can, but they just don't win the game, you need to be proud of them and cheer them, yes even in a loss. When you see young kids like Melvin Scott and Jackie Manuel diving on the floor down 16 points, you should cheer for those kids. As well, you should think about the future and what it holds with young men like that in the program.

The coaches at North Carolina sometimes work 18-20 hours a day. They do the best they can in recruiting, evaluating, teaching, practicing, and everything else that comes with being a coach at North Carolina. I hate to break this to many of you but Matt Doherty makes coaching mistakes. I really hope that none of you thought he was perfect. Coach Doherty is in his third season of being a head coach. I don't care what career field you are in; experience is the greatest thing to have on your side. Coach Doherty will learn each and every day, just like his young team will. I know many of you may not believe it, but Dean Smith made mistakes, as does Coach K, Bobby Knight and all the great ones. Coach K is the top coach in America right now, but he wasn't in his second season at Duke.

The Duke fans stood beside Coach K and let him become the coach that he is today. I can't believe how some fans want to overly criticize Matt Doherty. Coach Doherty wore the North Carolina uniform with pride. Coach Doherty helped Dean Smith win his first National Championship. Coach Doherty stepped in and accepted this job, knowing that if he didn't, then the University probably would have had to go outside the Dean Smith family of coaching. If Coach Doherty shows no emotion or doesn't coach like he cares, then as a fan you have the right to get on him. But, when he is coaching his guts out, putting the time in and bringing to the University some of the top young players in America, don't get on him because of mistakes he made. Do any of you make mistakes at your job?

Matt Doherty will grow each and every day on the job. This North Carolina team with two freshmen guards will grow each and every day that they play the game. This coaching staff and these kids need your support more than ever. You can criticize the effort, because that is the one thing the coach and kids do control. What can't be controlled are shots not falling and young men making mistakes because they are trying.

This is a tough time in the storied history of North Carolina basketball. What Tar Heel fans are facing now is no different than what fans of Duke, UK, and Kansas have all faced. Fans of those programs had to go through the same thing and they stuck with their teams. No one wanted to fire Rick Pitino when he took over at UK. No one wanted to fire Coach K when his program finished last in the ACC. Now is not the time to blame Coach Doherty, the young men, or anyone for that matter. It doesn't matter how UNC got in this situation or whose fault it is. What it is time for is North Carolina fans to come together and cheer for these young men, and this young coaching staff.

Remember that while the other top programs took some time go get back, North Carolina should not be in the same boat. The three young freshmen at North Carolina are very talented, and the class Coach Doherty is bringing in next year is even better. The future of North Carolina basketball is bright and the program is headed in the right direction. Instead of looking at what is wrong with North Carolina, take the other approach and look at what is right.

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