Until this week, coach Roy Williams' Monday night radio show was more interesting than his basketball team. At least on the show things happened. Williams challenged callers, got angry with callers and half-apologized to callers.
On Tuesday, his team also was compelling. After three straight losses, two of them at home, North Carolina rallied to beat N.C. State on the road 77-63.
This is how bad the Tar Heels had become - they were supposed to lose to the Wolfpack.
But Williams had six days to prepare. This is like giving a superior NFL coach an extra week because of a bye.
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If the Tar Heels beat the Virginia Cavaliers and their very good first-year coach, Tony Bennett, at home tonight, they even their ACC record at 3-3.
North Carolina is young and inconsistent, often plays zone, doesn't score mass quantities of points, doesn't have a point guard who can cut up a defense and lacks a leader.
Its only star is Williams. He doesn't look like a star college basketball coach in that he appears to disdain hair gel. He looks like a guy who wears a sweater vest and listens to Abba on his iPod when he mows the lawn.
If you saw him at the store, you'd think he was a gee-whiz regular guy. But he doesn't handle himself like one. He's dogged and he's fierce. On his radio show he defends his program as if it is family.
About critics, he says: "I have more desire in my little finger than all of the dadgum Carolina fans in the world."
Most people who do their work in public learn to hide what they feel. Williams chooses not to.
He overreacted last month when he booted a Presbyterian fan out of the Smith Center for going so far as to yell miss as Deon Thompson shot a free throw. Some fans are so obnoxious they shouldn't be allowed in the gym or out of the house. This guy wasn't one of them.
Despite North Carolina's fall from grace and the Top 25 poll, the Tar Heels would be humming, purring and threatening if they had signed Raleigh native John Wall, the Kentucky freshman point guard who will be the first player selected in the 2010 NBA draft. Though Wall played high school ball 40 minutes from Chapel Hill, Williams didn't recruit him.
He never explained why, saying, "Some shoes don't fit."
Maybe Williams didn't have enough shoes for everybody. Wall came with handlers. The NCAA determined that one of those handlers, demanding Brian Clifton, had been a sports agent. Wonder if, when Wall turns pro, there's any chance Clifton will become an agent again.
I respect Williams for having the guts to put his program above a player, even a player who could have saved the season.
The season will be saved if the Tar Heels make the NCAA tournament. They've played a tremendous nonconference schedule, but are only 2-6 against teams with an RPI in the top 50.
For those of you who think North Carolina already is in the tournament, look what comes next. The 10 games before the ACC tournament include a home game against Duke and road games at Virginia Tech, Maryland, Georgia Tech, Boston College, Wake Forest and the Blue Devils.
It ought to be fascinating to see what Williams can do with this team and that schedule.
If not, there's always the dadgum radio show.