And yet, Dean Smith got 69 percent of votes against Roy Williams, and I can't help but feel that number is a little high. Nice, but a little high. More than 2 out of every 3 people polled said that Smith is (at least slightly) more important to UNC basketball history than Williams. I would agree, with the caveat that such a claim is obviously frivolous and entirely semantic and definitely not worth fighting over.
I can't be mad at the results of the poll, and arguing with said results is pointless anyway. So why do they matter?
They matter because they got me thinking about the nature of fandom, and how polls and statistics work, and how much originality matters — things that probably aren't worth thinking about when asking questions about basketball on Twitter (yet here we are).
The great thing about conducting such polls — with limited samples — is that you consider the types of people who are responding and the types of people who are not responding. The DTH's audience is some unknown combination of students, alumni, UNC basketball fans, Chapel Hill citizens and random Twitter eggs. Should I conclude from this poll, then, that our audience is mostly middle-aged people who remember the good ol' Dean Smith days and/or 20-somethings who readily appreciate Smith's legacy? (I expected Smith to win, but for it to be somewhat close considering Twitter typically skews young. This, I thought, would favor Williams.) I also wondered about the timing of the poll. How much would the Roy-Dean split change if we polled people after, say, the 2016-17 title season, instead of after the only losing season of Williams' coaching career?
Stats questions aside, though, how much should the fact that Smith came first matter? I'm not interested in trying to definitively answer that question, but I am interested in how other people answered that question.
One way to look at it, I suppose, would be that Williams, as mentioned, has the upper hand in both all-time wins (about half of which came at Kansas, it's worth noting) and national championships, yet received just 31 percent of our audience's vote. To give Smith even most of the credit for Williams' career seems ridiculous; Roy has succeeded in a sport that today hardly resembles the basketball of Smith's last season in 1997, and there are plenty who come from Smith's coaching tree who haven't sniffed Williams' level of success.
And yet it's undeniable that "Carolina basketball," such as it is, was essentially patented by Smith — the culture, the family, pointing to the passer, playing smart and playing together. One could argue that this, more than anything, is what's responsible for the Tar Heels' year-over-year success: UNC basketball as both a recognizable brand to the larger public and a "way of doing things" in practice every day.
And that was all (or mostly) Smith. That seems to be the dominant viewpoint, at least from a certain group of Twitter users on a certain day after a certain season.
And this (I think) is what I've learned from this whole thing: That we value innovation above all else; that inventing something is seen as more consequential than improving on it; and that even with arguments that (probably) don't matter in the grand scheme of things, you can come up with some harebrained reasoning that (probably) does.
Or, you know, people just miss the Four Corners offense. That's also a possibility.
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