Lynch. Montross. Williams. Phelps. Reese. I know their names Jalen Rose. I also know their numbers 34, 00, 21, 14 and 31. I know this because my mother put their jersey numbers on the birthday cake she baked for me in March of 1993. I know this because a couple of months after winning the 1993 title, I recognized George Lynch outside of a restaurant in Durham, and he gave a star struck 12 year old girl an autograph. I know this because last spring Eric Montross was kind enough to grant me a telephone interview for an article regarding his broadcasting career. I also know a name that the rest of college basketball is familiar with: Dean Edward Smith.
In case you missed it, Jalen Rose, one of ESPN’s more colorful analysts is back in the twitter feeds, and he’s still not winning over college basketball fans in the state of North Carolina. Some of the more loyal, Keeping It Heel fans might recall that Rose’s controversial comments were the focus of my first KIH contribution. In March 2010, Rose went on the offensive against Duke and Coach K when he claimed that he never liked Duke because he felt like Coach K never recruited inner-city kids and only recruited “Uncle Toms”. I actually agreed with Rose, but not because I thought Coach K was a racist. I did, however, feel that Rose’s use of the word “Uncle Tom” in reference to college basketball was a little offensive and disrespectful to his ancestors.
I suppose Rose still harbors resentment against anyone wearing any shade of blue because he was at it again this weekend in a USA Today article where he called the 1993 Tar Heel basketball team a bunch of “no-names”. Rose claims that 20 years after the fact that he still had not seen 1993 Championship game until last week in preparation for Friday’s edition of ESPN’s “Numbers Don’t Lie.” First of all, I find it hard to believe that during the two decades that have passed that Rose has never sat down and watched one of the two National Championship games that he has ever played in. Granted, he might have needed a few cocktails to numb the pain. But, I find his claim that he never watched it until now implausible at best.
The first sentence sets the tone of the article as it refers to the 1993 National Championship game as “the infamous timeout game”. Like many Tar Heels, I have a slightly different recollection of the final 19 seconds of the title game. The way I remember it, Chris Webber brought the ball up the court AFTER dragging his foot and blatantly committing a travelling violation that went unnoticed by the officials. After Webber crossed midcourt, the Tar Heel defense took over and Webber found himself trapped in a corner by Derrick Phelps and George Lynch. So, rather than turn the ball over, Webber did what any deer caught in headlights would do: He panicked. He couldn’t think. He called a timeout to prevent the turnover. Technical Foul is called. Donald Williams goes to the foul line. Dean Smith wins his second national championship, and all is well in Tar Heel nation. So, if you ask me, it should not be referred to as the infamous timeout game, but the game the Tar Heels won with one of the best defensive plays in tournament history.
Here are a couple of my favorite quotes from Rose regarding the game:
“It upsets me looking at the North Carolina bench, a bunch of no-name players that have championship rings that they can be proud of forever,” he said, “and I don’t have one. …” JR
First of all, last time I checked players don’t win basketball games. Teams do. And the 1993 Tar Heels may have never started in an NBA All-Star game, but they were all great collegiate players. Seven-footer, Eric Montross was one of the most dominating centers in the game at the time. The East Carolina Pirates drew their in-state rivals as a #16 in the first round of the tournament. I remember watching highlights of ECU’s practice as they employed a broomstick to prepare for Montross’ height and wingspan. Fellow Senior, George Lynch was also one of the best power forwards in the ACC. Add to that the 3 point fire power of Donald Williams and the defensive pressure of Phelps and Reese, and you have the perfect ingredients for a championship basketball team.
“The first time we lost to a team that was better than us” — Duke in 1992 — “but I’m pretty sure in this game that we were the favorite. So what bothers me is that we let a team that we were better than, beat us.” JR
Rose is right. Michigan was favored and picked to win that night in New Orleans. I was only 12 years old at the time, but I remember one of the Tar Heels in the crowd holding a sign for Dick Vitale, “You picked the wrong one tonight, BABY!” I will agree with Rose that the 1992 Duke team was one of the best the tournament has ever seen. But, once again Mr. Rose just because the experts pick you does not make you the better team. The Wolverines and Tar Heels had met earlier in the season, and Michigan had squeaked by with a last second shot and won 79-78. If that makes one team leaps and bounds better than another then I guess I need to change how I pick my winners. Furthermore, the Tar Heels finished the 1992-1993 season with a 14-2 record in the ACC and a 34-4 record overall which is a pretty solid resume no matter what decade.
In case you haven’t noticed Rose’s comments infuriated me. They infuriated me because very little has changed since 1993. Rose was right that the Michigan team had all the hype, the swagger and dominated in the talent department which were the reasons they were favored to win the Championship game. What pisses me off is that ESPN is still showcasing and making documentaries about the Fab Five despite the fact that Michigan later had to vacate the wins because of NCAA violations. However, I know one name that probably made all the difference in the world for the Tar Heels not just for that game but for that season and many seasons beforehand. Dean Smith was always the trump card. And while I like and respect Steve Fisher, he is no Dean Smith.
I recently read an article about the 1993 Championship team, and how they are not doing a lot to commemorate the 20th anniversary. This is largely due to Coach Smith’s continuing battle with a neurological disorder that keeps him from recognizing his players like George Lynch. Lynch admitted that he is taking Smith’s illness especially hard because he always felt like he was one of his coach’s favorites. I realize that it makes more sense to cover the 1993 Michigan team because Michigan actually made it to the Final Four this year. But, here’s a story for you. A story about a team of players who worked and played hard all year, coached by one of the best whoever stood on the sidelines and cut down the nets in New Orleans even though everyone else wanted the sexier team to win. Here’s a story that could raise awareness for Alzheimer’s, Dementia and other debilitating diseases that now prevent the man who orchestrated that team from recognizing his own players. But, I guess there’s no story there. I’d much rather hear about Jalen Rose, and how he’s still bitter that he lost a national championship to a bunch of no-names.