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Above Them All
Alexander Wolff
April 13, 2005
Tough when it counted, Carolina held off top-ranked Illinois and gave Roy Williams his first NCAA title
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April 13, 2005

Above Them All

Tough when it counted, Carolina held off top-ranked Illinois and gave Roy Williams his first NCAA title

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For his part, May corrected his lax conditioning, reinventing himself with a summer of workouts and dieting. "He's taken parts of his body and moved them around," his coach says. May passed up his hometown team, Indiana, for North Carolina because "it would have been too hard to be the second Scott May in Bloomington," he says, referring to his dad, the former Hoosiers All-America. "And I knew from the way I ate that I wouldn't be a small forward [like him], shooting jump shots." Still, May's footwork, the way he uses screens, how he puts the ball on the floor only when absolutely necessary, all betray the bloodlines of Scott, who led Indiana to an NCAA title in 1976.

On the afternoon of the final, in the spirit of that Illinois video his coach had screened earlier in the season, May showed a couple of teammates clips of his father's championship Hoosiers, the last team to go unbeaten. "They had five NBA draft picks, but they didn't care who got the credit," Sean said. "I want people to see guys coming together for one cause, one purpose, and putting all the selfishness behind them."

Sean had no idea he would soon catch one more replay from '76. During warmups he looked up at the Jumbotron to see his dad running into the embrace of Indiana teammate Quinn Buckner. "That really pumped me up," Sean said later. "It gave me goose bumps."

When Roy Williams finally made it out of that tunnel after consoling Weber, he found May sprawled on his back on the floor. "What's this, my big man is tired?" he joshed. Then, from the winner's podium, he waved to Smith, his mentor and patron, who sat with Jordan in an upper-level box (and who needed two more Final Fours than Williams did to win his first title). Williams's opening words to the press echoed almost precisely what Smith had told his then young assistant upon winning in 1982: "I'm not really that much better a coach now than I was about three hours ago."

Earlier this season Williams had snapped at a fan in a hotel lobby who told him not to "let us down."

"What do you have invested?" he replied. "It's our lives. It's just for you to go bragging at the coffee shop." Win or lose, he insisted last week, he'd "be on the 1st tee" on Tuesday morning.

To fully understand the grand design of North Carolina basketball, it's always best to study the fine details. For years Smith had organized a gathering of Carolina-bred coaches for a long August weekend of golf and chalk talk; this year he turned over to Williams the responsibility for arranging it. For almost as long Williams had picked up his old boss's tickets at the Final Four; this year he sent his administrative aide, Jerod Haase, to fetch them. The succession is complete.

Moreover, and more important, the brand has been rehabilitated. Carolina basketball is, as Felton said, "back to where it's supposed to be."

[This article contains tables. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]

NCAA NATIONAL SEMIFINAL

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