"Brian, he's the quietest," says Fox.
But you said Montross was the quietest.
"I'll have to take that back. I completely forgot about Brian, he's so quiet."
Reese, from St. Nicholas of Tolentine High in the Bronx, has the kind of self-effacement that comes with being the youngest of 10 children. It's his curse to be playing a position that was defined by Michael Jordan, yet his 42-inch vertical leap and knack for the pull-up jumper equip him to do a fair impersonation of the master. "I call him the Human Grasshopper," says Konchalski. "Most players spend themselves with their first step. Brian has a tremendous second step." Reese had been at first intrigued at the prospect of attending Georgia Tech, where he could launch jumpers from the wing and convert alley-oop passes from Kenny Anderson. But then he made his visit to North Carolina and came away impressed by the puritanical and cooperative spirit prevailing at practice. Meanwhile, Phelps was confiding in him his choice of the Tar Heels, and Reese knew that a Phelps alley-oop would be every bit as dunkable as one from Anderson. An hour after Phelps announced his choice, Reese did too.
It's worth noting that Smith's class of '94 eerily resembles the group that won for him his only NCAA title, in 1982. Think of Phelps as metro New Yorker Jimmy Black, Sullivan as suburban New Yorker Doherty, Reese as the avian Jordan, and Montross and Rozier as Sam Perkins and James Worthy, respectively, the unusually complementary post tandem.
Lurking behind North Carolina's epic haul is something of a soap opera. The Tar Heels had long possessed one of the most stable coaching staffs in the game until, in the space of two years beginning in 1986, preeminent recruiters Eddie Fogler and Roy Williams left to take head coaching jobs elsewhere. Meanwhile the hellion duo of center/forward J.R. Reid and swingman Steve Bucknall—they were involved in an incident at a Raleigh nightclub three years ago, and never fully lived it down—wasn't the greatest advertisement for the program.
Compounding their problems, in 1988-89 the Tar Heels, with the 6'9" Reid and 6'10" Scott Williams already on the roster, made an early commitment to a 6'9" recruit from Elizabeth City, N.C., named Kenny Williams. Williams subsequently failed to qualify academically and ended up at Barton County (Kans.) Community College. He now plays for the Indiana Pacers. The signing of Williams seemed to scare off such big men as Christian Laettner, who wound up at Duke; Michigan State's Matt Steigenga; and Adam Keefe, who chose Stanford. Carolina was also a bridesmaid during the '80s for the affections of such stars as Danny Manning, Danny Ferry, Billy Owens, Bobby Hurley and Anderson. All but Owens have taken their teams to at least one Final Four, a place Carolina hasn't been since That Championship Season. Anderson even made a notorious remark about not wanting to be "just another horse in Dean Smith's stable."
To any other school these would be the usual vicissitudes. But to UNC, the college game's IBM, this was turmoil, events that stripped away some of the aura of a program that, legend had it, could call recruits collect. To compensate, the North Carolina coaches worked so hard that they could have given each other the famous Tar Heel tired signal—the raised fist that flagging players direct toward Smith when they want to come out of a game. As Phil Ford, the former North Carolina point guard who replaced Williams, grew into the chief recruiter's job, Smith himself hit the road as never before. "He realized he had to," says Konchalski. "He saw Phelps play and practice more times than he saw Ford and James Worthy when they were in high school. He's not as omnipresent as [Georgia Tech's] Bobby Cremins. But that makes it special when he does show up. It's like God coming down from Mount Olympus."
Gibbons thinks Smith's earlier recruiting setbacks actually made this year's coup possible. "It was a first-class program with immediate opportunities to play at every position," he says.