What is the Carolina family really like?
It's just guys who love to play the game who bleed this Carolina blue. They come here as young men and leave as grown men. They learn a lot of life lessons. Antawn and Jerry have this function every year. Guys come back and share stories. They acknowledge the younger guys. Guys who have been here for 25 years, it seems like we have known them for our whole lives. For that we appreciate them all. And we appreciate the other ACC guys who come in and share this experience with us. It truly is a special bond.
What is that special bond that you guys have in this fraternity?
It's just that blue - everybody bleeds that blue. You love the game of basketball and you want to win. A lot of kids want to come to Carolina because of that. What brought me here was the tradition. I didn't know the family was this strong. For guys like 'Stack' and Antawn to host something like this and bring everybody back once a year is what you need. You have everybody back for a couple of days to see each other and share some stories. It helps build that family bond.
What is something from the UNC-Duke rivalry that you will always remember?
That last game here - that's the first time I had beaten Duke since I had been here in three years. Down nine with three minutes to go, the game I had [26 pts., 24 rebs.], the game we had to clinch the [Regular Season] ACC Title, it couldn't be a better story.
What has been the biggest change in lifestyle for you in the NBA, so far?
The only lifestyle change for me, really, is that I don't have to go to summer school at 8:00 in the morning. I get up, go to the gym, get my work in from 8-12, and I am pretty much done the rest of the day. I spend more time with my Mom and my brother and his family. I just hang out and try to stay in shape.
Now, to me it is a business. Your body is what is going to take me 10-15 years in this league. I try to take care of my body as much as I can, get my rest and get ready for October.
What was your reaction to the national championship this season?
We played in Cleveland the night before so I flew home that night and watched the game the next day. Everybody was, 'Illinois, Illinois, Illinois' where I was, but I was sticking to my guns, hoping we would pull it out. I was just as excited as anybody. When Sean [May] got that last rebound, I remember the whole scenario.
Who were you talking to during the game?
I was talking to my brother. We watch games, college basketball, especially during that time of the year. I was on the phone, 'Man what are they doing?' You know what I'm saying? I'm yelling and cursing during certain parts of the game. And then I'm cheering and as happy as I could be for them when they pulled it off.
What is your relationship like with Coach Williams?
I have always had so much respect for him. When he was as Kansas, with me being from North Carolina, he did all he could [to go to Kansas] but not tell me not to go to North Carolina, as a Kansas recruiter. That's rare and special. He knew this was where I needed to be, since I was from this state. He followed my career.
I would like to have seen him come [to UNC] the first time [in 2000], and maybe we wouldn't have had that little lull, but sometimes you have to take some lumps to get the growth that we had. I'm glad he's here, and I really feel that the tradition that we all felt and the humbleness that everybody learns as a freshman coming here. If you can take it, you can make it, and I think he instills that. He has the discipline that he learned from Coach Smith. That is back here now, and I think that is why they were able to have success.
J.R. Smith said that when he got here there was a jersey for him for the other team. How did he come to switch teams?
Since he signed the letter of intent why not? You can't help that he is so good that he skipped over college and went straight to the NBA. I think he was on the right track, so I said bring him on in. He's a great guy. I beat up on him a little bit this year as a rookie. I think they won one game in [their division]. I told him that my rookie year we didn't win a whole lot either, but it gets better. If he can work like he has so far, he'll be a player that we'll talk about a long time.
What is special about the North Carolina bond?
Because I'm from here. It might be a little different from guys who come from out of state. When I'm done and my playing days are over, I'm going to come back and be a part of this community. It's home for me. I'm not sure what my future holds. I have some aspirations to coach, to do some commentating, but whatever it is it is going to be back in this area.
You guys have players from all years coming back here like one big family.
Sam Perkins, I played against him a little bit when I was a rookie and he was on his way out of the league. He called me and asked me if I would come to his camp when I was a rookie. I was like 'Will I come to your camp? When?"
Having guys come back that you watched as a little kid, watching him and Michael and guys like Jeff Lebo. Those were guys that I liked to watch play basketball, running up on the break pulling up for jumpers. He was here yesterday and I had to give him a big hug. You don't know how much they meant to us, just watching them play at home. And now these guys tell us the same thing about how they watched us play and that's why they wanted to come to Carolina and that's why they wanted to be here, watching me, Rasheed [Wallace], and Donald [Williams].
What was it like watching the UNC team last year win the national championship?
It was good. I talked to some of these guys, and to see them come in their first year and struggle, to see them get knocked out last year in the second round, to put things together the way we expected really showed a lot, so I was happy for those guys. And they made us happy, because that is something that I was not able to accomplish, something a lot of guys were not able to accomplish.
In some small way do you feel like it is your national championship?
I do. I was on the couch jumping up and down and hollering just like everybody else. It's a great feeling to win it all and to know the guys who won it all. It seems like they won it for every Carolina player who has come through here and not been able to win it.
What does the Carolina family mean to you?
It's special. It's what it's all about to be able to go to the same college and put on the same jersey as Michael Jordan, Vince Carter, James Worthy, that says a lot. To have the tradition we have, you have to be special to partake in that. [Everyone who comes through] is a part of history.
They tell me I have to come back. Nah, in all seriousness I enjoy coming back. I don't get to come back often, but I do come back in the summer for camp and having relationships with the kids. Coming to Carolina, there are so many people, and even though everybody doesn't make it every year, there is somebody who comes. I wasn't here last year, but somebody filled that void. The tradition is so good that we all keep in touch, and everyone enjoys coming back and seeing one another.
Roy Williams is losing his top seven players from his national championship team. Two years ago, right after he was hired, you told me that he's not the 'Aw shucks' guy that he seems to be sometimes - that 'he has a little bit of New York in him.' What makes you think they will be successful?
Yes, he does, and he is always trying to beat the odds when his back is against the wall. Everybody has a critic, but it's not that he takes it personally. He just believes in himself, believes in the guys he has, and no matter what everyone predetermines, it's not necessarily true. It's just an opinion. He takes care of home, makes sure everyone is on the same page, and he is an enforcer. That's what makes him tough.
What does it mean to be a part of the Carolina family and come back to be a part of this?
It's a great thing for a good cause. Jerry Stackhouse and Antawn Jamison do a great job of supporting people in need and raise money for diabetes, things most people don't do. It also brings guys together from past years and recent years. It's good to keep it as a family, and we are probably the only program that does anything like this where we have a great connection between the older guys and the newer guys.
Sam Perkins is here from the '82 championship, you, George Lynch, and Brian Reese from the '93 championship, and Raymond Felton and Sean may from the '05 championship. It seems like there is a bond there for you guys and every player in between even though some of you never played together.
Of course - once you go to this school it is a bond for life. Coach Smith, when I was here, he made it a family atmosphere, and once you get in contact with this family atmosphere, it never leaves when you leave the school, and that's a great thing. There were people who helped us when I was in school, and we want to do the same thing for the kids who come in after us. It's a tradition and it's a great thing. I'm glad we have this type of family to keep this support going on.
What was it like watching last year's team win the national championship?
It was a great feeling. You just felt it this year that it was going to happen. Watching the guys from the year before, I knew it would be a great season, but once they started getting together, you knew there was unlimited potential. Once the tournament started, you knew the Carolina tradition would carry on.
What does it mean to be part of the Carolina family and have that bond among guys from different generations?
It's up to us older guys to continue that. When I first came in it was Michael Jordan, Sam Perkins, and those guys coming back playing pick-up with us. It taught us what it meant to be a Carolina player. For Stack to start this is great. When he finishes playing, I think someone else should continue it. That's what it means to be a Carolina player, to be able to go back and help each other out when we are trying to accomplish something. And you still have that when your playing days are over.
You were on the '93 championship team. What was it like watching this past season's championship team?
It was great. They had a couple of hard years where things didn't work out the way they wanted them to with expectations, but they came back strong and played well. That's what you are supposed to do when you put a great class like they had together who are a great group of guys. Coach Williams was able to pull them together on the same page.
Have you had a chance to play any pick-up games this summer?
I haven't been back to play pick-up games. I have three children now, so the wife doesn't let me out of the house too much. I have to help her around the house. But I do talk to the guys that come back, and I stay in touch with the coaches. They seem to be working hard and they are going to take advantage of that opportunity.
I understand you have a workout facility.
We have a facility going up in Dallas called Integrated Athletic Development. We are supposed to open up October 1st. I'm going to try to get a link on all the Carolina websites so that people, alumni, players passing through Dallas can come in and work out.
Is it true that you had a high school senior, a guy that Carolina is recruiting, who came and worked out at your facility?
We didn't work out at the facility, but we worked out in Dallas. I'm friends with his Uncle, Ken Carter, and the kid is Thaddeus Young from Memphis. His uncle brought him in and worked out with me and a couple other guys. My guy who works me out in the off-season was in town and we had a chance to work out.
I shared with him what it meant to be a Carolina player. I think it was a great opportunity for him to meet some of the alumni that come from Carolina. It gives a kid a better feeling a better understanding of what it means to be a Carolina alum. It was a good opportunity for him, and it was a good opportunity for me to get to meet some of the younger guys coming up. Hopefully he makes the right decision and goes to Carolina.
What was your impression of him as a player?
He's a great talent. We all have to say thanks to the league. If he chooses to go to Carolina, he's one of those players who will probably play one or two years and be gone. This year, if he was a high school senior, he'd have been in the top ten in the [NBA] Draft.