Return of the Mack – but not the rap song

Published 12:00 pm Monday, December 3, 2018

“All that he knew was that the years flow by like water, and that one day men come home again.” – Thomas Wolfe


I canvassed a few fellow UNC grads over the last couple of days about North Carolina’s hiring of Mack Brown – make that ‘re-hiring’, since he’d already spent a previous 10 seasons prowling the sidelines of Kenan Stadium.

The first response came from an alum with a greater musical ear than the tin-ny ones that resides on both sides of my still greying head. He sent me a GIF of a British R&B singer named Mark Morrison singing ‘Return of the Mack’ (wonder how long it took T-shirt entrepreneurs to seize onto that one!). I especially enjoyed the line, “Pump up the world, watch my flow, here I go’. Those of you more familiar with the tune can figure out its meaning for yourselves.

Another response on the return from the same friend was to tweet that it’s great to get excited about Brown, but what he’d really like to see return to Chapel Hill is Hector’s Famous Hot Dogs restaurant on Franklin Street (their dogs were great, but what I really loved were their Greek grilled cheese sandwiches, and their pressed lamb, which the proprietor always pronounced, ‘limb’. Yum!).

Another reply came from a fan who noted that while there are some who think Carolina should’ve hired a head coach in his 30’s and 40’s, Brown is the same age as Nick Saban – 67. Now wrap your noggin around that little gem of info, folks.

But after five wins the past two years – and three years removed from an 11-win Division championship campaign this was a program in need of a fix, and who better to bring in than college football’s version of ‘Mr. Fix-It’.

Starting with his resurrection at Appalachian State, then to Tulane, his first stop in the Hill, to Texas, and I’ll even throw in ESPN – where he succeeded a former NC State coach, Lou Holtz – Brown seemed to always be the one riding in like the Lone Ranger (had to throw a little Texas in, you understand) at the right place and at the right time.

News of Brown’s return has elicited reactions from around the country has ranged from raised eyebrows to laughing out loud,

I think it’s important to know who you are, where you came from, and why you’re here. While it’s important to remember all that, I believe it’s just as important to know when it’s time to leave some of that stuff behind.

But Brown is a living reminder of when football times were good in Chapel Hill; a period of success that might have been taken for granted at the time but now is appreciated in retrospect.

“I owe this place a whole lot,” Brown said Tuesday at his introductory press conference. “And that’s why I want to come back and do my part.”

Face it, the Carolina faithful – heck, even his ESPN audience – loves Mack. At a reported $400,000 a year base salary, he’s coming back at the right price. He’ll bring some stability to the program, he’ll be a recruiter, and door-greeter, high-fiver, back-slapper, and like any good CEO, he’ll let some top-shelf assistants handle the X’s and O’s.

All it’s going to take are a couple of winning seasons, no off-field distractions for the program, and some solid recruiting. Stir them all together and afterward you can bring in the next ‘wunderkind’ young coach, since for millennials age is now more than a number.

As one columnist put it, “He’d better come early, stay late, and tighten that Texas belt buckle. This go-round might be a much, much bumpier ride.”

By the way, when you talk about Sabans, and age, and returns, I recollect that Chowan had a coach named Lou Saban back at the turn of the millennium. Seems I recall they brought this much-traveled almost-Hall of Famer back into the college coaching ranks. And he came back at the ripe plumb age of 80.


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