By Adam Lucas
I want to show you how the Carolina Family happens.
It was not created during a marketing meeting. It was not chosen because it sounds good in a hashtag. It is not part of a recruitment campaign.
It’s just the way things are done here. The Carolina family was a way of life before the word hashtag was even invented. That’s why it seems authentic, because nobody in Chapel Hill is actively trying to create it. It exists. Those who are Tar Heels understand. That is how it works.
The Carolina family is real because she’s tightest when the spotlight is out. Like in a darkened corner of the house tunnel at the Smith Center on Tuesday night, when the most Carolina storyline all took place off-camera—except for the watchful eye of Maggie Hobson, who created the image you see above. There’s so much history in that photo, so much love, so much carolina.
Hubert Davis was about to walk onto the field for the busiest day of his working life. The person who met him was Linda Woods, whom you and I know as Mrs. Woods, but whom Davis knows simply as Mama Woods.
Woods worked in the basketball office for decades. She helped Dean Smith with correspondence, she talked on the phone, she did pretty much everything except make the carrot cake (Lillian Lee did it in a legendary way).
a teenager Hubert Davis probably noticed some of those responsibilities. But what struck him most was that she cared about her. She asked how he was doing and then she listened. She knew what he liked to eat. She wouldn’t let him walk around the office without a hug.
You’re going to learn more about Davis over the coming weeks, months, and years. You will learn that he is very close, that he cherishes the memory of his mother who died while in high school, that he is passionate about his faith and his family and Carolina.
You’ll find that he’s the kind of dad whose college-age son, Elijah, wouldn’t mind driving from Virginia to Chapel Hill on Tuesday night to be there when his dad left the field after his first game. The head coach nearly missed Elijah on his way to the locker room after the win, and when he finally saw him, the two hugged in the kind of hug usually reserved for airports or dorm parking lots on move-in day.
By the time he reached his players in the locker room, tears were rolling down Davis’s cheeks. It had overwhelmed him to see his wife, Leslie, and his children, and his father. This is a man who cares about you and doesn’t mind that you know he cares about him.
That makes him a very good match for Carolina. Davis, of course, learned to care from his parents. But he also saw it modeled in Chapel Hill, under the watchful eye of Dean Smith and, yes, Linda Woods. You’re going to learn that it was important just before Hubert Davis walked onto the track, wanted to see Mama Woods.
She has undergone multiple chemotherapy treatments. She may not be moving as fast as she used to when she kept the Carolina basketball office running flawlessly. But she was there on Tuesday, when one of her boys needed her.
I’m going to tell you the secret of the Carolina family, which is why it hasn’t been reproduced yet. Everyone thinks you do it with flashy graphics or slick videos. New. The secret, folks, is caring. It’s Coby White hugging Roy Williams on an NBA track in Chicago. It’s Marvin Williams flying to Europe to watch one of Deon Thompson’s matches. It’s the handwritten “PS” at the bottom of every letter from Dean Smith, just to let you know it wasn’t a form letter and that he really took the time to think of you. It’s Linda Woods and Hubert Davis, in a tight embrace, just before Davis officially becomes one of the most important figures in Carolina Basketball history.
Caring is the easiest and the hardest at the same time. And it’s the Carolina family.
“At a time when I needed a mother, she was my mother,” said the new head coach. “She would prepare lunch for me and she took care of me. I called her Mama Woods. I asked her to be there tonight. That was important to me. And that she was there also reminded me of Coach Smith.’