"We had a group of about 15 former players come back that I introduced to the team before the game. They wanted to come back to show our players that they are behind them because there was a comment from a player that they felt like they were letting the former players down. It's amazing that the guys stepped forward from Mike Cooke to Al Wood, to Mike Pepper, to Jim Hudock.
"I introduced them to Mike Cooke and Al Wood. They gave them some inspirational words before the game. It was really a neat experience, and it really tells you a lot about Carolina Basketball.
"About the game, Adam Boone had a special night. I really admire him coming back after some tough plays down the stretch [against Virginia]. He put us in position to beat Virginia, but then he made a couple mistakes. He didn't hang his head, and we talked a little bit about it, and then he came out and had and awesome, awesome game tonight. He and Kris and Jason, obviously had the numbers with the points, but everybody contributed from Melvin to Brian Bersticker to Jackie's defense. I wish I could have played Brian Morrison a little bit more, and Jon Holmes, but I felt with the TV time-outs that we were fresh enough to go the distance.
"It's nice to stand before you with the win, and we had a great crowd."
Jason made several tips off the free-throw line and he dove on the floor. Could comment on some of those plays that he made?
"Obviously, we're still hustling and our attitude is still pretty good. I really admire the character of our players. Jason Capel has gone through a very difficult time—not only with the season, but more personally with the passing of his grandmother. It was more devastating than maybe people realize, and it put him in a little bit of a funk for a week or a week and a half. He was out of that funk tonight. He was laughing, he was having fun, he was making those little plays—the tip plays and the diving on loose ball plays.
"We talked about inside hand on the foul line. He tipped the ball out, made that play, turned to me and said, 'Inside hand,' and kind of laughed. He was really into the game. It was fun, a fun game to be a part of. The crowd was awesome, and our guys played with great confidence."
What did the former players say?
"Mike Cooke was on some teams early, Coach Smith's first two teams, and they weren't very good. He talked about that and how we had to watch each other's back. It doesn't matter what people are saying around you. You just have to play for each other and stick together, and Al reiterated that. Al's a very good motivational speaker, a very spiritual speaker and talked a little bit about scripture and made some other comments that were pretty powerful and really hit home with our guys.
"After they talked, I said 'Hey, that's enough from me,' and then we went out for the first time in warm-up's. Then we came back and talked a little strategy.
"This is a special place. I don't think there is another place like North Carolina, and to have guys go out of their way—I'm talking about traveling distances to get here—to be a part of that. Dave Colescott, Joe Brown, Ray Respess, Warren Martin, Eric Harry. I hope I didn't miss anybody. I can give you a list. [Others included Bill Bunting, Jeff Denny, Kim Huband, and Kevin Madden.] It was really touching, really touching."
"He's OK (laughing). I'm laughing because Mark Davis said to Jawad on the floor, 'Where does it hurt?' He said, 'It hurts all over,' and then he said that Nigel is a big boy. We laughed, so I know he's not hurt too bad, but I think he could have gone back in if he had to."
What did you think of Lang's match-up with Dixon?
"Nigel had a good game. He's playing better. He had 12 points, six rebounds—four offensive rebounds. I was really impressed with the way he played. I even had a referee come up and say, 'I don't know how to referee him.' I said, 'I don't know how to guard him.' He's so big. When he gets moving, it's tough to stop him."
What did you think of the offensive execution in the second half, especially that run when you pulled away a little bit?
"We've not run a lot of set plays, but we did do some things out of bounds that got us some baskets. I thought if we could steal a few baskets here and there from sneaking in a set play, that would be great. We scored off a couple out-of-bounds plays—Melvin's three at the top of the key and a couple of plays where Kris got the ball and got the 'and-one.' I think that was a foul when Dixon fouled out. But besides that, they were on their own. They made basketball plays, and it was fun to watch. It was fun to sit back and watch our guys play with confidence."
When you were coming off the floor, you made the little bowing gesture. Is that because you haven't had a win here in so long?
"The fans need to be rewarded too. I thought this was a great opportunity to reward them. They have been unbelievable. On a Sunday afternoon, to get 17,000 here, and a very vocal crowd, we needed to reward them. They were rewarded. I wanted to show them that I appreciate them, as they have shown us that they appreciate our team."