Thoughts on the UNC Rivalry

Yesterday’s discussion about Roy’s advice to Sid propmpted me to think a bit more about rivalries (particularly vs. UNC in basketball). I have pointed to Matt Doherty as the ideal UNC coach for State fans (incompetent, easy to hate), and Roy Williams is pretty much the anti-Doherty – which kind of sucks for us. Or does it?

First, let’s state the obvious – UNC isn’t going to keep a grossly or even partially incompetent coach for very long. As much as we hate to admit it, UNC will always be one of the “Golden Three” mens’ basketball programs (UNC, UCLA, Kentucky) – i.e., a program that has intrinsic advantages that more or less make it impossible to wallow in the muck for very long. So, to count on an endless procession of Doh’s is simply unrealistic, which is why you really needed to enjoy that 20+ loss season when it happened.

Those of us that came of age as State fans in the 70s or 80s (or even earlier) remember State/UNC as the rivalry. Pretty much every kid in elementary school was either a State or Carolina fan. David Sedaris (hilarious Raleigh author, for those of you not familiar with his work) opened one of his recent books with a chapter outlining this phenomenon perfectly. Note that Roy Williams also shares this perspective, as best evidenced by his bewilderment (he “will never understand as long as [he] live“) over his players’ failure to match NC State’s passion for the rivalry game earlier this year.

I can also remember the miracle ACCT run during Sendek’s first season. I was in law school at the time, surrounded by UNC fans (also my strongest allies during the quarterfinal upset over Duke). As one of them told me after the final – “I said ‘Go to hell State’ today. And you know what? It felt GOOD.” There was no real malice there, just an acknowledgment that he liked having State as a major rival, as the two teams squared off in a very meaningful game for both. It had been a long time coming.

Since we can’t realistically expect a putrid Carolina basketball program with anything more than Haley’s Comet (sp?) frequency – isn’t that the best we can hope for? Two fierce (but with no personal malice) rivals, going at each other full throttle, with both programs relevant in the ACC and nationally. Perhaps in a eagerly anticipated national TV matchup, with both teams in the Top Ten. Despite being told how “unrealistic” our expectations are, we don’t have to dominate (or even win more than half of) such matchups. All we ask for is to win at least 30-40% of the time, with some memorable victories in clutch spots. You might know this as the “V standard.”

The events of this season (and those past) show how Roy’s tenure at UNC is compatible with this ideal. Roy doesn’t like NC State, and wants to beat us badly (ask anyone with access to Ram’s Club events, if you want confirmation on that front). It might seem strange to “outsiders”, but every Pack fan will take that in an instant above patronizing, nonchalant ambivalence. But, as he showed in his reaction to Sid’s health issues, it’s not evident of personal animus. When it’s over, he can sit down and have a beer with State folks (at least metaphorically) – and so should all of us. After all, every last one of us diehard NC State folks have some friends and/or family with baby blue degrees and/or loyalties. And most (if not all) of them are decent people at their core – just a bit misguided, in our view. In the end, fans on both sides should be enormously proud of their respective co-flagship institutions of the UNC system. Telling jokes or ending fight songs calling for the other to “go to hell” is just a fond, traditional part of a great sibling rivalry.

I look forward to many more intense, no-holds-barred battles between Sid and Roy – especially when Sid has a few more bullets in his gun (starting next year, hopefully).

About BJD95

1995 NC State graduate, sufferer of Les and MOC during my entire student tenure. An equal-opportunity objective critic and analyst of Wolfpack sports.

General NCS Basketball Sidney Lowe

66 Responses to Thoughts on the UNC Rivalry

  1. coppertop 02/27/2007 at 11:57 PM #

    I certainly agree with the overall premise that both schools are better off having a rival that is worthy of compition, one that isn’t an after thought on the schedule.
    having grown up a few years behind the era of valvano, I too was in elementary school when it was are you a UNC or State fan, and no one but the kid who moved in from out of state pulled for Duke. I was at NCSU when the Sendek Era Began and enjoyed many a game in the Barn. It wasn’t to me when in the course of the last 10-15 years things went south, teams would not see it as important but every now again, it was worth watching.
    I had a friend during this period who was a UNC fan and she knew that it was pretty sad what was happening back then to our program. Even a UNC fan could see that they were pulling away from us while we promptly put our sports into neutral, sometimes Reverse.
    I am excited for the seasons to come, I will be more excited when in football, basketball and all other sports we can look to Tobacco Road and not automatically assume the trip up the hill will comeback with another Loss.

  2. stejen 02/27/2007 at 11:58 PM #

    I went to State and am still a State fan but I work at UNC. I have never spoken to Williams but I can tell you that he lives by the advice he gave Lowe. I like to walk during my lunch break and it is not uncommon at all for me to pass Williams going the other way jogging or walking after he has been jogging. I have never figured out who the two guys he jogs with (maybe bodyguards?) are but I know they are not his assistant coaches or players.

  3. Classof04 02/28/2007 at 2:16 AM #

    Roy’s action to Sid was a PR-driven stunt and that’s it.

  4. kbstokes09 02/28/2007 at 2:46 AM #

    I disagree with guy ledouche up here ^^^. I really do think Roy is that classy of an individual to actually Mrs. Lowe, check on Sid, and even go so far as to even visit him in the hospital and tell him some good advice. If it wasn’t true friendship and care there, then Sid wouldn’t have felt compelled to talk so highly of him saying the things he did. I agree 100% with the column, and yes as much as it sucks that Roy is as good of a coach as he is and it will be a long time before we see another 20 loss season, it’s good to know he’s not as arrogant as Smith and that he doesn’t play up the Duke rivalry half as much as the media does. I like his values and I really do think The Big 3 (sorry Wake) have 3 outstanding coaches.

  5. kbstokes09 02/28/2007 at 2:47 AM #

    Sorry, to actually *call* Mrs. Lowe…

  6. whitefang 02/28/2007 at 6:15 AM #

    04, I really think it was sincere. First Roy doesn’t need any extra PR.
    More importantly many times fans look at sports personally insteas of what they are to coaches and others inside. It is more of a business. In all businesses you have rivalries. When you are running a business, the head of one of your rivals you might really hate (ie. Barnes vs. Smith), but many of these guys or gals you see socially at times – cocktail parties, business conferences, golf games, call them up to shoot the shit about business (without giving away to much info of course). in fact 2 of my best friends are really running rival businesses. Of course I want to beat them at business, but have a drink with at least one of them every week. And I don’t want there businesses to fail – only I want MINE to be better than theirs. It is only natural that Roy visited Sidney. Hell he probably likes him as hard as that is to believe.

  7. legacyman 02/28/2007 at 7:22 AM #

    Liking someone comes as a result of respecting that person. You can work with business peers without totally liking them but you can respect their person and knowledge. With time perhaps you even begin to like some folks that you didn’t at first.

    Roy and Sidney share something that is rare. They both understand what winning an NCAA title in basketball means as they have either experienced it as a player or as a coach. One of these days I hope Lowe adds the experience of winning a title as our coach.

    Roy is a native of North Carolina so he is a Southern boy and knows how to be courteous to others. Sidney lived in NC for four years and for a good part of the time he has been in the pros he has had a home in Raleigh. So we can claim Sidney to now be a Southerner and totally one of the Wolfpack family. I imagine that were the tables reversed Sidney would have responded in kind. Those two coaches are really nice guys and both schools are extremely lucky to have native sons for coaches.

    In my opinion (which matters only to me) the ideal situation is to have a former player as your coach who boths wins and represents the school well.

  8. LRM 02/28/2007 at 7:39 AM #

    This is refreshing. I’d forgot what kinds of things we make news out of when we’re in last place…with Barbaro dead, T.O. relzxing, and Amaechi out of the closet, I was worried we’d have to start talking about Barry Bonds again…

  9. wirogers 02/28/2007 at 8:16 AM #

    This is a good statement about the type of fans. I have a few misguided blue degree friends. Over the last few years they have hated not having the game with us. It was nice on both sides to have a reason to call and rib each other.

    I think the difference is that we are fans that actually went to one of the schools; therefore, we have a reason to actually support ‘our’ teams. The fans we all hate are the ‘Wal-Mart’ fans; those who went to WalMart, bought a shirt, and became a fan. They have never been on campus and are the most obnoxious fans you would ever meet.

    I think this is why most of us HATE Duke, they have very few real fans and mostly WalMart fans. (one of the reason I have started to hate Penn State is the high number of WalMart fans they have up here in the cold north)

  10. Packaholic1 02/28/2007 at 8:42 AM #

    Coach Case and Frank McGuire were actually pretty good friends, used to visit in each other’s homes, etc, while still fierce competitors.

  11. gopack968 02/28/2007 at 8:49 AM #

    “As much as we hate to admit it, UNC will always be one of the “Golden Three” mens’ basketball programs (UNC, UCLA, Kentucky)…”

    What these schools share is that they have excelled (defined as winning national championships) over the years under multiple coaches. To the list, though clearly below those three schools, you might add Kansas, NC State, and a few others. These are what you could call “Great Programs.” They have a commitment to excellence and a history of achievement that transcends individual players and coaches. It is the program and the school that is great, not any individual.

    The nice thing about this definition is that Duke fails the “Great Program” test. If they can win a championship after K leaves they are great. Otherwise they are just a fancier version of UConn. A great coach, but not a great program.

    It is so healthy to hate Duke – and having a rational methodology that marginalizes their achievements just makes it more fun!

  12. NCSUownzJoo 02/28/2007 at 9:01 AM #

    self-imposed sanctions will hurt any school, regardless of prestige or “goldenness”. Of course we’ll never see that happen to UNC because they don’t ever do anything wrong *roll eyes*

  13. adchappe 02/28/2007 at 9:19 AM #

    Great post. Very classy.

  14. class of 74 02/28/2007 at 9:33 AM #

    Roy is as classy a person as is as great a coach. Both schools are lucky to have who we have heading our programs. And the author nailed every point in this piece too! Good article.

  15. TNCSU 02/28/2007 at 9:35 AM #

    GREAT POST! I actually don’t wish a 20 loss season on the Holes, but I want us to be in the Top 5 or 10 WITH them. That’s what will bring the rivalry back — both teams winning. That is not to say that I ever root for them, but it doesn’t hurt us for them to win. What will help us, is Coach Lowe bringing back a winning tradition. I’d like to see him do what Tom Izzo has done at Michigan State. In the early 90’s, it was all Michigan, now Michigan State has definitely eclipsed Michigan in terms of production year in and year out. I think we will be there in a year or two.

    Along these lines, did anyone see the UNC/Duke Basketball Rivalry special on FSN last night? I don’t think NC State was mentioned once. It pained me so much to watch it, that I had to turn the channel. But, with 3-4 years, they could very well be doing another special about the history of the NC State/UNC rivalry — and it actually wouldn’t hurt if Duke were included. I think it is special to have 3 different schools w/in 30 minutes of each other with 9 National Titles — I’m just hoping in 5-10 years, it is 12 titles — with NC State at 5, UNC still at 4, and Duke still at 3. One can dream — anyway, a fantastic post about a rivalry that the National Media will start to cover more as we win and compete year in year out.

  16. primacyone 02/28/2007 at 9:39 AM #

    “Go to hell Carolina” – Most of my UNC games take this as a compliment.

    “Go to hell State” – As a pack fan, I take that as a compliment when said by the UNC die hards. Much more so than having to listen for the last 10 years saying “it’s just another game”.

    All of us “Carolinians” that grew up in late 70’s and 80’s love each other because we hate each other. Just like most of you, some of my very best friends are UNC fans. We have some of our very best times getting nasty over NCSU Vs UNC. The nastier the better. The closer the game the better.

    Most of my UNC fans friends are just as excited as me that we are showing improvement when it come to playing them. When we beat them this year, most of them were just as happy as me about it, becasue it was just dang fun. They hated me for it, but that’s why I love them. I hate them, but that is why they love me.

    Thats why I love Roy, because he hates state. He cares for us, respects us, and if we are not playing them, I’m sure he would be pulling for us, but he hates us and I that is why I love him.

    Roy understands. Sidney Lowe understands. They will probally be great professional friends, because there is no one else that will understand where they stand.

  17. GoldenChain 02/28/2007 at 9:47 AM #

    “And most (if not all) of them are decent people..”
    Let me introduce you to some that I know then. I pretty much had this same attitude until at a party in 1983 when a unxer upon learning that my wife was a State grad (as well as myself) blurted “I’d rather say my wife was a slut than went to NC State!” The rest of the xarolina guys just stood around and watched with smirks looking to see if I’d deck the guy, which I ignored his comment and walked off. BUT I’ve never have gotten over it.
    Since that moment I’ve been 100% ABCer. Period.

  18. TNCSU 02/28/2007 at 9:56 AM #

    ^^”when a unxer upon learning that my wife was a State grad (as well as myself) blurted “I’d rather say my wife was a slut than went to NC State!”

    If his wife went to UNX, maybe she was a slut, and he was jealous??

    Any State guy who didn’t go to UNX to meet easy women didn’t know the best place to go! 😉

  19. tvp 02/28/2007 at 10:02 AM #

    ^His wife probably was a slut.

  20. redfred2 02/28/2007 at 10:04 AM #

    I think the statement about Roy’s concern about his team’s inability to match our intensity level in the first game was very telling. The rivalry is dead, at least in the minds of these young kids/now players, who would have to wonder how a program like NC State thinks it is in the same league with either UNC or Duke. If they’ve been watching basketball for their ENTIRE lives they wouldn’t have a clue that would lead them to believe that NCSU owns a share of the ACC’s upper echelon.

    It’s a great thing for all of us, UNC and NCSU fans alike, that Roy and Sidney still feel every bit of the rivalry, because once, it was what it was ALL about. Now they both have to bring it back to life in the minds of those young kids/now players, Sidney especially, he has to make his players believe what he knows and instill that same heated passion that had been discarded and tossed aside for years. He’s batting .500 in that single category right now. When he has time to bring in more reinforcements, he’ll then have more ability to spread that intensity level over the course of an entire season of ACC basketball.

  21. the_phisherman 02/28/2007 at 10:44 AM #

    ^ Great point. Most of these kids playing now did not grow up with the NCSU/UNC rivalry that others of us know and love

  22. Spin Wolf 02/28/2007 at 10:54 AM #

    This is going to sound very non-PC, but I don’t care. I strongly disagree with the part of this piece that implies the malice isn’t personal between the programs/fanbases, etc.

    IMHO – it IS filled with personal malice. With the exception of one family I’ve been close to my whole life (which makes them the exception that proves the rule) EVERY Carolina person I’ve ever known has a condescending, superior attitude towards State. Thus if they have this attitude towards State, which is an integral part of me – they have this attitude towards me.

    Besides the one family mentioned above, I am not friends with any Carolina people. Are there Tarholes that I have to deal with at church/work/etc.? Sure. But as soon as I learn of their dark side, they get crossed off my list for anyone to have a true friendship with.

    This rivalry IS personal, it IS filled with malice. I wouldn’t shed a tear if the whole town of Chapel Hill burned down tomorrow.

  23. Dr. BadgerPack 02/28/2007 at 11:00 AM #

    Roy has to be extremely happy to battle a coach who is equally passionate about the rivalry in Sidney. Putting myself in Williams’ shoes, I’d probably have been pretty steamed to continually win what I knew to be a rivalry game only to have “oh, it’s just another game… no biggie” thrown in my face.

    Sidney’s presence at State makes the rivalry bigger, and justifies the added importance– the little extra desire to win– for Roy. It makes the rivalry. That may be a big reason why Roy’s concern for Sidney’s health would be genuine. I would think Roy wants Sidney at State for as long as he is in Chapel Hill (although maybe not a second longer!)

  24. packbackr04 02/28/2007 at 11:18 AM #

    did anyone else see that javi gonzales from fla recieved an offer from NCSU and has set a visit to come to Raleigh????? big news… maybe something broke on the tracy smith front

    shooting guard? you out there. i know you know what is going on

  25. gopack968 02/28/2007 at 11:31 AM #

    Gonzales will apparently be at the WF game tonight…

    Monte Towe was in Miami to see him play on the 15th…

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