My father played basketball at the University of Michigan fromat the end of the Cassie Russell era. So it should come as little surprise that my first real exposure to Carolina would take a while. It came on a steamy summer day, inside my high school gymnasium in Indiana, where we met to play pickup. As my truck slowed to a stop in the parking lot, I was greeted by one of my closest friends, who was quickly approaching my rolled down window.
Details within the story were updated on March 7, Woody Durham passed away on March 7, , at the age of He apologizes for taking his medicine in front of you.
But he missed breakfast today, he explains, and his daily prescriptions require food. He plucks one pill from the pile. Another is a blood thinner. The next is for fluid in his ears. To his listeners, he was the first to relay messages from New Orleans twice , St.
Louis, and Detroit that the Tar Heels were indeed national champions. He continues, slurping soup and naming each pill and what it does.
In between, he fills the conversation with stories of UNC basketball and football, from golf outings with Dean Smith to car rides with Roy Williams, contents of a career that spans nearly half of the year history of Carolina basketball.
These are the stories that define him for the outside world. But my son is the biggest Carolina fan. Can you sign this? You want to know what the pills are for. And I never had allergies until I moved to Chapel Hill.
The mold content is higher here. I never had a problem anywhere else. Smith Center toting a work bag. He should have been here at Traffic was bad, he explains. In his pressed shirt and work bag, you see his preparedness. In his wedding ring, you see his devotion to his wife of 46 years, Jean, and the family they created.
After the apologies for being late, he walks into the arena and straight to his seat along press row. He pulls out a pouch of supplies — Scotch tape, markers, highlighters, glasses, a calculator, and a notepad.
Then he brings out his scorecard. He spent all day preparing it in his home office. Woody typically uses Friday nights in the fall to prepare his scorecard for the Saturday football game. But for this function, he put everything down, went to the dinner, and tried to finish the card when he got home.
Around 2 a. And he lay there.
Thinking about not having finished. Then got back up and put the last touches on the card. The next day, one of the scribbles of information he added in the wee hours became useful. Since then, Woody has finished his scorecards.
No exceptions. After he tapes his notes into place, he leaves the floor to meet with North Carolina basketball coach Roy Williams to record the pregame interview in a private room. They shake hands and smile, seeming far more relaxed than the veteran leader of the group. He gives Montross and Angell some talking points.
They feed him some of theirs.
And he thinks of one. During that run, in , Webb had a small-size senior guard named Woody. Just the kind of kid you want to have around. There were kids at Albemarle High School. Then there was Bob Harris, the team manager. Woody was always a Tar Heel.
Michigan State is dressed in green. White trim. White numbers … His voice is steady, his words always measured. He might charge up excitement sometimes, but mostly, he stays even. Fred Brown, looking … Throw away to Worthy!
Worthy, five seconds left! The Tar Heels short breath are going to win short breath the national championship! But then Woody saw Dean Smith holding his right palm out, telling people to stay calm.
Worthy had been fouled with two seconds left, meaning Georgetown would have another shot. Had he blown it? Fortunately for his career, Georgetown missed a desperation shot at the buzzer. Deep breath. If people wonder whether Woody is a homer, absolutely he is.
His career has banked on it. The more successful the Tar Heels, the more iconic his name and voice. As freshman Dexter Strickland hits a long shot just before halftime, the Smith Center crowd explodes.
Jean met Woody when she was in high school in Winston-Salem through a regional debate program. The two married a month after he graduated from UNC. Reading a book, golf, eating dinner, drinking a glass of wine.
Wes is the radio play-by-play man for Georgia Tech and the Atlanta Falcons. They learned by watching their father. Jean and Woody moved to Greensboro when Woody took a job at a local television station, and both boys were born there.
Then, when Taylor was in high school, they moved to Chapel Hill. But it always worked. This is Woody Durham, the son, the father, and the grandfather behind the man with the familiar voice.
I quit trying a long time ago to figure this group out. But Woody believes the fans should stay the duration, for the team.