The offseason is a time for building chemistry, building your roster, and most of all, building culture. It’s important for any coach, but crucially so for a newly-hired coach entering a difficult situation. At times where the previous regime may have left a house in disarray, it’s important for the new coach to make his mark.
One coach in an uniquely challenging situation is North Carolina’s Mack Brown. Most well-known for his national-championship-winning tenure at Texas from 1998-2013, Brown also coached the Tarheels from 1988-97. Still, coming off a five-year stint in the broadcast booth, and taking over after the disastrous end of Larry Fedora’s tenure in Chapel Hill, he’s got a lot of work to do.
Part of this work is rebuilding a recruiting network in a different part of the country after over twenty years living and working in Texas. We were fortunate enough to get embedded with Brown as he worked his way up the East Coast.
ME: Well, Mack, that was an interesting stop in Maryland.
MACK BROWN: Let’s just move on, take some lessons from it, and focus on our next stop.
ME: I thought you knew you had to take the shell off the crabs.
BROWN: [mouth bandaged] We’re movin’ on, son.
ME: So where’s our next stop? We’ve been working our way up I-95, reacquainting you with the an ACC footprint that’s a lot bigger than it was in your first stint here.
BROWN: We’re goin’ to New York City!
ME: Oh, okay... visiting with well-heeled boosters? Touching base with some of your media connections, talking about what you’re building in Chapel Hill?
BROWN: Naw, there’s a camp I want to check out. Big one, gonna be a lot of scouts there.
ME: In... in New York?
BROWN: Yep, I just read about it in this coaching magazine. [flops it on dash]
ME: Mack, that’s Vogue.
BROWN: Yeah, well, you know what, I was listenin’ to the sports-talk radio ‘n all, and they were yapping a lot after I was hired. Criticizin’ it! This one fella, young fella, nice fella I’m sure, but doesn’t know his head from a hole in the fence, he says he was surprised UNC didn’t hire someone younger, someone who’s style was more in Vogue.
ME: I see.
BROWN: Didn’t know what in the heck he was talkin’ about. Anyways, I come home that night, I see my wife’s got this here magazine right there on the settee! I realize, maybe I am out of touch, if Sally’s stayin’ up on the schemes more than I am? I start flippin’ through it, and I’m confused, though. Whole thing smells pretty, lotta lovely young ladies, but I’m not seein’ anything about offensive philosophy or nothin’.
ME: This is a fashion magazine, Mack.
BROWN: Anyways, I was about to throw the whole thing in the trash, until I see this thing about a big event in New York, gonna bring in some of the best and brightest stars for a camp.
ME: [reading] Mack, this is the Met Gala, and this year’s theme is “camp”.
BROWN: Well I figure that’s just great, we’ll scout some prospects, make some contacts, maybe even pick up some of these “in vogue” schemes. I love a good spring camp.
ME: Are you Amelia Bedelia
BROWN: [screeches our rented Elantra onto the steps of the Metropolitan Museum of Art] We’re here!
ME: I regret every decision I’ve ever made that led me to this point.
BROWN: Boy, the game sure has gotten fancy in the last few years, must be all that Nike money. Lotta flashy uniforms goin’ on here. See, I told you we needed to come - even Oregon’s here!
ME: Mack, I’m gonna go get a hot dog, okay.
BROWN: Alright, now, look at this fella. This is what you like to see, Got his head on a swivel.
ME: Yeah, he’s a real joker.
BROWN: I don’t get that reference. But he’s got field vision. Sees all the angles. Like he’s got a second set of eyes. Think he’d make a great-
BROWN: Nose tackle.
ME: Alright then.
BROWN: Alright now, this lady over here. That’s a scheme right there. She’s got field coverage. Takin’ up a lot of real estate, just smothering coverage. You love to see that. Can put someone on an island.
ME: [attempting to play along] She’d made a great free saf-
ME: I don’t know why I try anymore.
BROWN: This lady here. Look at this.
She’s got team buy-in. That’s what you want to see as a coach — we can lead on the sideline, but you want to see someone who’s going to be a leader on the field. Everyone’s bought into this scheme, everyone’s doing their part.
ME: Okay, wait, I think I can guess this one. Tight end?
BROWN: Son, that’s Lady Gaga. Get yer head in the game.
BROWN: Followed her last tour around. Can’t get enough. True star.
ME: Mack, what are we doing here? I think it’s become obvious that this is not a spring football camp, as evidenced by the fact we’re at a museum in Manhattan, or by the complete lack of football players here-
TOM BRADY: [squeezing past us] Excuse me.
ME: [does not acknowledge him] or the fact that everyone’s in elaborate costumes in an attempt to pay homage to the nebulous concept of “camp”, rather than a literal interpretation of “camp”.
BROWN: Son, wasn’t it Susan Sontag who said that the Camp sensibility is one that is alive to a double sense in which some things can be taken? The difference between the thing as meaning something, anything, and the thing as pure artifice? That to “camp” is a mode of seduction -- one which employs flamboyant mannerisms susceptible of a double interpretation; gestures full of duplicity, with a witty meaning for cognoscenti and another, more impersonal, for outsiders?
ME: [hot dog falling out of mouth]
BROWN: It’s like a run-pass option.
ME: Is there a medical tent here
BROWN: Now, check out this fella. Incredible wingspan.
BROWN: Gonna slot him in at DB.
ME: I might actually watch a North Carolina game this year.