Three Things: Basketball Media Day
1. The Roy Williams press conference portion of media day kind of slumbered along. The first 14 minutes were devoted to his health, and then a reporter from a local paper (who weirdly began his questioning with an, “I’m happy to see you are back on your feet”) spent about five minutes asking the same academics question in different ways, eventually eliciting a groan from the room. But then, in the final five minutes of the session, the head coach dropped the news that, “I expect Marcus (Paige) to be there” as the starting point guard. He even threw in a Tyler Hansbrough reference as another freshman on whom he’d placed big expectations from the outset.
Paige has roughly half the size of Hansbrough, but looks like he’s going to have all of the responsibility. His future Tar Heel teammates have reported to Williams that Paige could eventually be as good as the recently departed Kendall Marshall, which is high praise. Keep in mind that the heavy responsibility placed on Paige could be a reflection on the distance Dexter Strickland still has to go in his rehab. “Part of it is that Dexter is somewhat limited in what we’re going to do with him in practice,” Williams said. “And Dexter has never been a point guard. That has something to do with it, too.”
No freshman point guard has started the season opener for the Tar Heels since Bobby Frasor did it in the 2005-06 season.
2. Give Williams credit for the way he handled the academics inquisition. What could have been a very tense situation instead turned into an excellent point by the head coach. Asked about the teaching methods in the naval science class that was the subject of a recent story, he replied, “I don’t make anything of it because I wasn’t the professor. It’s the same thing in college basketball. Some people watch six hours of tape a week with their team. I watch six hours of tape a month with my team. One of the best courses I ever had at this University was a guidance counseling class. It was classroom participation and role playing. We didn’t have any tests. If the professor felt like he was teaching somebody something and they were learning what he wanted, he must have felt good about doing it that way, just like I feel good about teaching my guys and not making my guys watch six hours of tape a day.”
By the way, the professor in question for that class was a graduate of the Naval Academy who piloted combat support flights into Iraq. That doesn’t exactly sound like someone accustomed to taking shortcuts.
3. I’m not sure where Media Day is going, but it’s clear there’s an evolution. The day itself is a relic from the era when no one saw or heard Carolina basketball players from the time they played the final NCAA Tournament game in March until the annual Blue-White game (yes, that used to exist) in November. Media Day was a way to catch up, see who had gained or lost weight and generally refamiliarize yourself with the roster.
But these days, you can follow the players on Twitter 24 hours a day. Hundreds of Tar Heel fans went and watched several current players participate in the NC Pro-Am over the summer. So what we get on Media Day is dozens of reporters going from player to player as they answer the same questions over and over. If the purpose is to remind people about Late Night—which is helpfully timed on the day after Media Day—then it’s working, because the day moves Tar Heel basketball to the front of the news cycle at exactly the right time. But if the purpose is to generate interesting content about Tar Heel basketball…well, that may not be quite as successful.
The problem is that there are no games played. The surest way to write a boring story is to follow everyone else and get the same player answers to the same reporter questions that everyone else is getting. That’s OK during the season, when the same dozens of reporters will go to the Nov. 9 season opener against Gardner-Webb. But because there’s also a game involved, there will be something else to write about other than the quotes. Everyone will interpret the game differently, so there will be a more varied tone to the coverage.
NBA teams have taken to inviting bloggers and tweeters (sounds like a new bluegrass band) to Media Day and inviting them to cover the experience to provide a fresh take. Maybe that’s the wave of the future. It wasn’t that long ago that no one could decide if websites deserved press credentials. Flash forward to today, and virtually everyone in attendance at Media Day filed some type of online component to their coverage.