One shout-out for the good guys

Published 10:15 am Monday, October 15, 2018

A couple of college basketball coaches get the big hand-clap from me for something they did this week that caught my eye and I found it worthy of a little praise on this page.

UNC-Wilmington and Clemson will play a charity exhibition basketball game at UNCW’s Trask Coliseum Oct. 27. A year after matching a school-record 25 wins and taking the Tigers to their first Sweet 16 since 1997, Brad Brownell could’ve scheduled any school at renovated Littlejohn Coliseum and cashed a big check for his school. Instead he chose to do something for a place he once called home.

Brownell is the former coach of the UNCW Seahawks, and before he left for Wright State in Ohio and later landed in Pickens County, SC, he prowled the sidelines at ‘the Dub’. His in-laws still live in the town, so when Hurricane Florence was bearing down on the Port City three weeks ago, Brownell was obviously concerned.

Now that the city – and the school – are facing some challenges as they attempt to jump-start life on the coast again, Brownell has stepped up, called on new ‘Hawks coach C.J. McGrath, and got the NCAA’s blessing to stage the fund-raising event.

“Obviously this one hit home with me because (my wife) Paula’s parents live in Wilmington. We have a million friends back there,” Brownell said earlier this week. “I felt like this was just a small gesture for us to help and we certainly wanted to do that if we could make it work.”

Last year, the NCAA granted waivers that allowed programs to play a third exhibition game if the money raised went to hurricane relief efforts following Hurricane Harvey.

So, to pull this off, Clemson cancelled an exhibition with Ole Miss and UNCW did likewise with Coastal Carolina.

Brownell’s reached back before: in 2016 when Kevin Keatts coached Wilmington, the Seahawks went on the road to face the Tigers, with Clemson getting an 87-73 win.

The next round of applause is for UNC basketball coach Roy Williams. In five years, plus a quarter century, at the ‘top’ of his profession (it’s my pedestal, and I’ll put whomever I want on top of it!) Williams was asked Tuesday during the Tar Heels’ Basketball Media Day whether the “fire in his belly” had changed since he started carrying a whistle and clipboard and sitting in the first-chair on the bench 30 years ago. Williams seemed to take exception to the question, but did admit the fire still burns.

But Williams, who is now entering his 31st year as a head coach, said the fire remains. You couldn’t fault him if he said those flames were smoldering a little bit, because the man’s 68 years old and 16 of those 31 years have been spent prowling the sidelines of the Dean Dome. It only seems like he’s been around forever.

“I still think there’s quite a bit of fire in the belly,” Williams revealed. “If you don’t believe me, ask the kids how they felt after Saturday morning’s practice.”

Williams then went to Wrightsville Beach where he had hoped to receive word that North Carolina and South Carolina would play a charity game similar to the Tigers and Seahawks. UNC alum Michael Jordan had even offered the Spectrum Arena in Charlotte free of charge as a staging ground.

Instead, the “all-wise” NCAA doused this flame because both schools had already scheduled their allotment (two) of pre-season exhibition games.

But ‘Ol’ Roy’ remains undaunted. He says he’s ready for another season and another run at a national championship. Controversy may swirl around other hoop programs, but the man from Black Mountain is as serene as a meandering stream. He has to be relieved that he’s healthy again, his golf handicap is back to single digits and the controversies swirling around UNC’s basketball program are finally left behind like tired opponents on a UNC fast-break.

If there’s any constant in these two coaches, it’s putting their hearts out front in an age and time when most of us don’t. And that’s worth shouting about.


Gene Motley is a Staff Writer at Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact him at or 252-332-7211.