As the Tar Heels took on the Pirates in their first contest, another former Tar Heel came into view. Phil Ford sat with Cooper and his daughter. The two chatted animatedly during the game and joked with guard Joel Berry II, who didn't play on Sunday as he recovers from a right hand injury.
UNC won the first contest against East Carolina, 21-20. Graduate transfer Cameron Johnson stood out, scoring five points and swishing a 3-pointer in the win.
“I’ve made some good progress the last couple days,” Johnson said. “Any time you go to a new program, there’s a lot of stuff you have to learn. In the last couple days I’ve made steps in the right direction.”
His promising progress continued to show in the second game as he made both of his shots. The rest of his teammates struggled, though.
Even though it was a charity event with friends, Williams was frustrated by his team’s effort as UNC lost to UNC-G 32-24 and let his team know its play was unacceptable before the third matchup against UNC-W.
“I felt sorry for C.B. because I got ticked off in the second scrimmage and jumped on their rear ends,” Williams said with a grin on his face. “All of a sudden we had guys diving on the floor instead of Wes’ guys diving on the floor.”
The players responded to their coach’s frustration, blowing out the Seahawks, 38-22, in the final scrimmage.
As the coaches sat awkwardly cramped together in the press conference, it was clear that their connections were still strong. The laid-back atmosphere allowed some old memories come to the surface.
Miller recalled when Williams told him he might not see the court when he first arrived at UNC. McGrath quipped back, jokingly, saying that he wished Miller had not ever played.
“Yeah C.B. didn’t want me to play,” Miller said. “I didn’t like him until three years after I graduated."
It was clear the influence Williams had on all the men in the room. From Wes Miller, who came to UNC in hopes of learning to become a head coach under Williams, to Lebo, who played for Dean Smith from 1985 to 1989 and was recruited by Williams, to McGrath, who played for Williams at Kansas and spent 14 years as his assistant at UNC.
"It was really important to me, and it was more special because it was the three guys sitting up here," Williams said. "They helped recruit and helped coach, and I recruited and coached every one of them and loved every moment."