Welcome to Heel Week, everybody!
In the next seven days leading up to February 10—when Duke plays UNC in Chapel Hell—Crazie-Talk will be adding a daily post commemorating the many things we love about this rivalry, which we consider the best in American sports. The posts will range from comical (like today’s) to critical. But we’ll err on the comic side, because although this is UNC, we’re not sure how seriously to take Roy’s Boys this year.
Since we have a week and two big conference tests before the team bus rolls down 15-501 to the Dean Roy Dome, we’re starting off the week with a bit of acerbic humor. As young Duke fans (all born in the years before our first two titles), our collective memory centers on the past 10 years of the Duke-UNC rivalry. Many Tar Heels passed through the tutelage of Guthridge, Doherty and Roy Williams under our watch.
We have seen them all, respected few, and hated many. Here we’ll focus on the latter category: the Ten Heels We Love to Hate, all from the recently concluded decade (the 00’s? the oughts?)
10. Tywon Lawson (Point Guard, 2006-09)
Lawson was an extremely frustrating player to watch, particularly as a Duke fan. By his junior season, his once speed-driven game had come full circle: he could shoot the three, make the right pass, and conduct his team with aplomb. I still think—and many Heels agree—that UNC would not have sniffed a title in 2009 save for Lawson. Say all you want about Tyler Hansbrough (and we will soon) but Lawson made UNC tick all the way to Detroit.
I respect Lawson’s game. And I’ve heard through reliable sources that he is a nice guy. But the entire situation of his return to UNC is maddening. After a June ’08 misdemeanor for underage drinking, Lawson withdrew from the NBA draft and completed the UNC ‘dream roster’ along with Tyler, Wayne Ellington, etc. The irony is infuriating to a Duke fan: if Lawson had been smart enough not to drink and drive, he would have probably gone pro, leaving UNC with a gaping hole at point guard. After a minimal suspension at the start of the 08-09 season, Lawson tore through the ACC, winning league Player of the Year en route to a National Title.
Personal anecdote #1: in the final seconds of Lawson’s dismantling of Duke in Cameron, I watched as he flipped the ball over his head, looked directly at the Crazies, and screamed “F*** You!” That’s what you call “Karolina Klass”.
9. Makhtar N’Diaye (Forward, 1996-98)
I know, I know, N’Diaye didn’t play in the past 10 years—he was one of Bill Guthridge’s “six starters” on the 1998 team that miraculously lost to Utah in the Final Four. The rap on N’Diaye in his short stint at UNC, though, was extensive. He accused Maryland fans of yelling racial slurs, had to be restrained by Guthridge after fouling out of a game against Duke, and made obscene gestures during UNC’s second round game against Charlotte. The icing on the cake was his accusation of Utah player Ben Johnsen after losing to the Utes—N’Diaye again claimed racial slurs. (Johnsen on the other hand claimed that N’Diaye spat on him, which is entirely probable).
N’Diaye was a fool then, and he apparently hasn’t lost his knack for acting like a buffoon in front of millions of people. During UNC’s national title game against Michigan State last year, N’Diaye appeared on the coattails of his actually famous former teammates. The picture says it all.
I bet Roy was wondering, “Who is that guy? Who gave him Carolina tickets? Cheer for us or out you go!”
8. Kris Lang (Forward, 1998-2002)
My feelings for Kris Lang are a mixture of hatred, pity, and schadenfreude. Lang was the ubiquitous moron of ACC basketball: always on the floor, and always looking like a complete tool. He was the Matt Doherty era embodied—ugly, angry and horrible at basketball.
A 1998 McDonald’s All-American, Lang was a local hero, hailing from Gastonia, N.C. He averaged 14 points in Carolina’s trainwreck 2001-02 season. I’m pretty sure all of those points came from his awkward jump hooks and flailing layups. Think Tyler Hansbrough. Except no skill, more complaining, and significantly more mouthguard. I always wondered if he and Neil Fingleton had ugly contests in the locker room. Maybe after losing to College of Charleston?
Personal Anecdote #2: Kris Lang once played for the Asheville Altitude, the short-lived NBDL team in my hometown Asheville, NC. One day the Altitude showed up at my school to run a basketball clinic. Lang was there, smiling like a moron and showing us fifth graders how to do jump hooks. Poor guy, I thought, what had he been reduced to?
7. Matt Doherty
To put it lightly, Matt Doherty was a disastrous coach. After Roy Williams turned down his alma mater in 2000, UNC Athletic director Dick Baddour hired the unproven Doherty. The first season went well: 26-7, number 1 seed, and second round exit. Oh, and National Coach of the Year. (???)
Then the ball dropped on Doherty. The next year brought a delightful 8-20 record, which most Tar Heels conveniently forget when bashing Duke for its “horrible” 22-11 campaign several years ago. Doherty was apparently a control freak: he fired legendary UNC point guard Phil Ford from the coaching staff. What, was he uncomfortable with having another former star on his staff?
Doherty also took a potshot at the Duke cheerleaders in his tenure. I guess he was working on that ‘competitive edge’ that landed him at 10-22 ACC record in his final two seasons at Carolina.
Although Doherty has ‘landed on his feet’ at Southern Methodist (where he has compiled a 33-58 record in three seasons) he will always be known as the guy who just didn’t come through at the helm of UNC. For Baddour’s sake, I’m glad Roy ‘gave a s***’ about North Carolina after all.
6. Sean May
Sean May just should have just stayed in Chapel Hill. He had it all: great teammates, a coach who loves him, cover of Sports Illustrated, unlimited brownies. Because once he left the friendly confines of North Carolina, his once promising career went spiraling down.
May likes to eat. And party. But mostly eat. He became so out of shape that Charlotte Bobcats coach Larry Brown deemed him physically unfit to play. That’s Larry Brown, former UNC player and coach, and Tar Heel apologist extraordinaire. Larry Brown told one of his own that he was too fat to play on his team. Now that’s not the Carolina Way!
Luckily for May, the Sacramento Kings had a spot at forward this past season after trading former Duke star Shelden Williams to the Celtics. May signed a one year deal for nearly a million dollars, contigent upon him passing his physical (aka lose enough weight to fit into his uniform).
Why do we pay professional athletes so much money if they need the Atkins diet as bad as the average middle aged mother? I guess we’ll just have to ask May.
Check Crazie-Talk tomorrow for our final five most hated Tar Heels. A little hint—a certain Muppet look a like made the cut.