Haase has next-best seat in Tar Heels’ championship run
April 8, 2009
With the national championship well in hand with a minute remaining Monday night, University of North Carolina star Tyler Hansbrough was subbed out by coach Roy Williams. As Hansbrough neared the Tar Heels’ bench, he hugged Williams first, then embraced assistant coach C.B. McGrath.
If North Carolina had won the championship a year ago, South Tahoe High graduate Jerod Haase might have been the second coach Hansbrough bear-hugged.
Such is the life of a rotating Tar Heels’ bench coach.
McGrath and Haase trade off as the ‘Heels’ fourth assistant, leaving the odd man out as the director of basketball operations.
“It’s logistics more than anything,” said Haase, a sixth-year assistant for the Tar Heels, about his role this season. “It’s all the no-fun stuff, figuring out team itineraries and hotel rooms and going to NCAA meetings. I’d prefer to be involved in other ways, but it’s great to be a part of it.”
Even if that meant that Haase’s seat at the national championship game with Michigan State on Monday was opposite North Carolina’s bench on press row. The NCAA allows a maximum of four assistant coaches on any team’s bench, so Haase tries to locate the next-best seat.
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“I find the lucky seat, whether it’s on press row or behind the bench,” Haase said.
Since he was relocated to the scribes’ working area, Haase followed the etiquette of the journalists, restraining his enthusiasm for the Tar Heels throughout the game.
“I don’t do a lot of cheering from there if I’m on that row. You are quiet and to yourself,” he said.
Haase had a similar vantage point when the Tar Heels’ won the 2005 national championship. Haase has remained good-humored about the situation, and joked that Williams hasn’t noticed.
“I hope not. I’ll never get back on that bench,” he said. “I’m in a good spot. It will all work out in the long run.”
Once the final horn sounded, Haase joined the team’s celebration.
“It was pretty wild and something to remember for a lifetime. It’s special to have two championships in five years,” Haase said. “By the time the trophy presentations were made and the interviews were done, it was time to go to bed. We didn’t get back to the hotel until 2 a.m.”
The Tar Heels were greeted by 15,000 fans when they returned to the campus’ Smith Center on Tuesday afternoon. By Tuesday evening, Haase was at home feeding his 2-year-old son Gavin. But life rarely becomes routine for an assistant coach of a major program.
“During the season it’s always full bore, and the offseason it’s cyclical,” he said. “For two weeks it will be real crazy and for two weeks it will really slow. It goes up and down based on camps and recruiting.”
As Haase reflected on his final season as a Kansas player in 1997, he had trouble pinpointing a single reason why the Jayhawks didn’t win the national championship. The Jayhawks were the top-rated team in the country for most of the season that year, but were upset by Arizona in the Sweet 16.
“There’s no rhyme or reason,” he said. “Our teams at Kansas back then were able to compete at this level and for a national championship. Whether it was bad matchups, injuries, not playing well or not getting a break in the seeding, needless to say, it was frustrating.”
Haase said there are many similarities between the 2008-09 Tar Heels and his final team at Kansas.
“There was more of an emphasis placed on the postseason with this team. This team was all about winning the national championship,” Haase said. “There are a lot of similarities and some differences between the teams, but this one was able to get it done.”