North Carolina Coach Dean Smith isn't a student of the ancient thinkers. "I'll take Kierkegaard or Martin Buber," he says. But when his team had an opportunity to play a series of exhibitions in Greece during October, he didn't spend much time mulling the offer over before accepting it. The Tar Heels brought along James McCoy, a history professor, and each player was required to attend seminars on Greek history and culture and keep a journal of his experiences.
The last time the Heels played someone from Athens, it was in the East Regional final last March, when Georgia derailed Carolina's national championship hopes 82-77. "It left a bitter taste in my mouth," says Michael Jordan, the marvelous junior swingman. "Maybe I got spoiled, winning the NCAAs as a freshman."
But, as Euripides said, "Waste not fresh tears over old griefs." It's not worth it when you have back four of five starters, including two of the best players in the country, from a 28-8 team and have snared the three blue-chip recruits you went after. Who's better, the 6'6" Jordan or 6'9" senior Forward Sam Perkins (page 52)? "There are two sides to every question," said Protagoras.
Jordan is the more versatile and spectacular. Last season he beat out Ralph Sampson for Player of the Year honors in two polls and, with Perkins, helped lead the U.S. team to the gold medal at the Pan Am Games. Only when he returned home to Wilmington, N.C. at the end of the summer and his mother confiscated his car keys, did he stop playing ball. "Coming from New York I've seen so many players with great talent waste it," says senior Matt Doherty (right), who will be one starting forward. "Michael puts every ounce of talent to use." In the words of Aeschylus, "His resolve is not to seem, but to be, the best."
Perkins, the workmanlike lefty, has twice been a first-team All-America. "Sam might be a little more subtle in his greatness," says Doherty. "He'll kill you by playing his normal game—blocking shots, using his lefty inside hook, busting a few jumpers, getting fouled a lot." Aristophanes put it another way: "Let each man exercise the art he knows."
Meanwhile, Brad Daugherty, the 18-year-old, 6'11" sophomore center, has continued to mature physically. "There were times last year when he should have gotten a rebound, and guys took it away from him," says Perkins, who's free to play forward thanks to Daugherty's progress. "But he's trained hard with weights. I guess he got tired of guys pushing him around."
Additional depth will come from sophomore Curtis Hunter, who broke his left foot in a summer pickup game but is expected back as Jordan's understudy, and 240-pound junior Center Warren Martin. Two freshman forwards, Joe Wolf and Dave Popson, who looks malnourished but is favorably compared to Bobby Jones, were Parade first-team high school All-Americas.
The only uncertainty is who'll replace the graduated long-range bomber Jim Braddock at the crucial point position. Among the candidates, 6'3" junior Buzz Peterson was the preseason pick. An erstwhile shooting guard, he was sixth man until a knee injury sidelined him at mid-season last year. Sophomore Steve Hale, whose father, Jerry, is the former coach at Oral Roberts, and Kenny (The Jet) Smith, a freshman from New York City, are other possibilities. Smith's playing style and personality remind upperclass teammates of another New Yorker, Jimmy Black, the man who quarterbacked Carolina to the 1982 national title. Peterson, Hale and Smith all have the talent, but, says Smith the coach, "It's the toughest position to adjust to here. We throw so much at them." Aristotle: "For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them."
During his annual summer film review, Smith gave high marks to last season's team defense, but decided there were too many individual breakdowns. He doesn't expect those breakdowns to occur so often this season. Smith also expects the team's 1982-83 shooting percentage (a 13-year low of 51.5) to rise now that the ACC has abolished the three-point field goal attempt.
Are the Tar Heels the best team in the country? Right now, on paper, they look to be. And they figure to be there after the national championship game in Seattle on April 2 as well. But harken to Pericles. He said, "Wait for that wisest of all counselors, time."