CHAPEL HILL—North Carolina coach Roy Williams wanted to raise money to help his home state rebuild from a hurricane. He also welcomed the chance to give his defending national champions a taste of Division I competition with the regular season starting later this week.
So he invited a few friends — and their teams — to spend a low-stress afternoon back in Chapel Hill.
Call it a hoops homecoming for hurricane relief, with three coaches with strong Carolina ties returning to the Smith Center. The ninth-ranked Tar Heels brought in UNC Wilmington, UNC Greensboro and East Carolina for a round-robin jamboree of scrimmages.
"We had a lot of people that would have enjoyed playing an exhibition game against us," Williams said. "But having these three guys here was the most important part to me."
UNCW coach C.B. McGrath played for Williams at Kansas, came with him to Carolina and is in his first year with the Seahawks. UNCG coach Wes Miller played for Williams from 2004-07, and his brother, Walker Miller, is a freshman on UNC's roster. East Carolina coach Jeff Lebo played for the Tar Heels from 1985-89.
"I'd look at (Walker) as he was running down the court and thought to myself, '(Williams) never put me in as a freshman,'" Miller joked.
The scrimmage drew roughly 4,000 people, and UNC spokesman Steve Kirschner said the final tally of funds raised won't be complete until later in the week. Proceeds were to benefit the governor's North Carolina Disaster Relief Fund, which supports the long-term recovery efforts from Hurricane Matthew after it ravaged the state last October.
"What a great idea for people who really are in dire need of help," Lebo said. "We in North Carolina know and feel the effects of hurricanes, particularly in eastern Carolina where we are. ... It's something bigger than basketball that we can give back to people in this state who have helped us."
Gov. Roy Cooper's office has set Matthew's cost at $4.8 billion in damage, with nearly 100,000 homes damaged or destroyed. The governor watched from a front-row seat behind the UNC bench, next to former Tar Heels guard Phil Ford.
The NCAA has said at least two dozen Division I programs have taken advantage of a waiver that allows teams to play an extra exhibition game if the proceeds go to disaster relief, with the organization approving those games on a case-by-case basis.
The most high-profile of those games was between Kansas and Missouri, whose longtime rivalry went dormant when the Tigers moved to the Southeastern Conference. Their exhibition game last month in Kansas City raised more than $1.75 million for a handful of charities, including one to help Houston rebuild after Hurricane Harvey.
North Carolina's jamboree was structured a bit differently than the others.
Each team played either a 13- or 14-minute scrimmage against each of the other schools, meaning each team played for 40 minutes. To keep things moving, for the first 10 or 11 minutes of each scrimmage, only one free throw was awarded for two-shot fouls — the other free throw was considered a gimme — though normal game rules applied in the final 3 minutes.
"It doesn't seem like I've been gone that long," McGrath said. "I told my wife I'd been waiting 14 years for Carolina to shoot like that. I wished it wasn't against us."