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But, surprisingly, there are a few new things at Chapel Hill this year. For once nobody on the Carolina staff hears much from the players except at practice. This was hardly characteristic of some of the busy BMOCs who have played for Smith in the past. Steve Previs, for example, did color commentary on the Carolina baseball network. George Karl used to live in the publicity office, checking his stats and snooping for pictures. And the off-court antics of All-Americas Larry Miller and Billy Cunningham are legendary. By comparison, the current UNC starters—6'10" Center Mitch Kupchak, Forwards Walter Davis and Tom LaGarde and Guards John Kuester and Phil Ford—have a low profile.
"They're so happy playing ball they do whatever I ask," Smith says. "I used to think you needed a problem occasionally to keep things interesting, but here's what you run into with this bunch. The other day my seniors came in and told me that some guys were taking two glasses of water at dinner instead of one."
In their defense, it must be said that this year's seniors are not wholly stick-in-the-muds. They like a glass of ale now and then, and they did vote to push back the team curfew from 10:30 to midnight. But the team's favorite topic is the intramural softball championship it won last spring, with LaGarde providing a rare sight as a 6'10" catcher.
On the basketball floor Carolina won 23 of 31 games last season and narrowly lost in the NCAA regionals. There is no outstanding freshman waiting in the wings, as Ford was a year ago, but Kuester handles the ball well and is the only regular who did not start last season.
The Tar Heels' record was news of sorts, since it included Smith's lowest winning percentage since 1970. He was named U.S. Olympic coach in March, but remains a mysterious figure. Few people are close to him. Smith refuses to accept junior college transfers, tells terrific Al McGuire stories and hustles from Carmichael Auditorium to his new country pad in a gadgety 1976 Cadillac.
And there's nothing new about that sentiment in North Carolina.
And now for the latest Cincinnati success story, here are the national champion Bearcats, with Paul Hogue, Tom Thacker, Ron Bonham.... Whoops, sorry, this season's University of Cincinnati team just seems like the championship squads of 1960 and 1961. Good size, no dominant player, a record of beating favored opponents. Which is not to say the current Bearcats lack things distinctly their own. Where else can you find a team of veteran sophomores and a recruiter from big-league baseball?
Last year Cincinnati could have been called the Four Freshmen. No sooner had Steve Collier, Pat Cummings, Mike Jones and Bob Miller peeled off their high school letter sweaters than they were starting. And excelling. The Bearcats, 23-6, won 16 straight and defeated Marquette and Notre Dame on the road. Collier, a 6'4" guard, was the leading scorer with a 13.8 average and was elected the team's most valuable player, a feat Oscar Robertson first accomplished in his junior year at Cincy. And Collier can play so many roles other than scorer that he may be recruited next by David Merrick. Cummings, 6'9", is a 58% shooter with excellent range; Jones, 6'6", averaged 21 points against Marquette, Louisville and Houston; and Miller, 6'11", has a 42-inch vertical jump.