Blue heaven for Haase and Tar Heels |

Blue heaven for Haase and Tar Heels

Steve Yingling

Being on at least one team to end the basketball season with a victory is the goal of any devoted player or coach.

Jerod Haase, a North Carolina assistant in charge of basketball operations, hadn’t accomplished such a feat since his senior year at South Tahoe High School.

There have been many disappointments between helping the Vikings win their Nevada state basketball title in 1992 and North Carolina’s national championship on Monday night in St. Louis.

“Very rarely do you end the season with a win,” said Haase by phone on Tuesday while practicing his short game in his back yard in Durham, N.C.

Haase has fond memories of the STHS fans who lined the Stateline corridor to cheer the team as it bused back to the school the day after winning the championship in Reno.

“It was awesome,” he said.

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When the Tar Heels returned to their hotel on Monday night, a few thousand fans greeted them in the lobby and more spilled out on the streets. The team also received a phone call from North Carolina Gov. Mike Easley.

“It was a party like you’ve never seen,” he said. “But the celebration isn’t a one-night kind of deal; it’s an ongoing thing.”

Obviously, the reception was much larger for the Tar Heels on Tuesday when the team returned to Chapel Hill.

“It was great. There were police escorts, helicopters flying about and probably 15,000 to 20,000 people at the Smith Center when we got there,” Haase said.

North Carolina’s 75-70 victory over Illinois enabled Roy Williams to win his first championship in 17 years as a major college coach.

“I hadn’t had a lot of time to congratulate him yet. He’s been swamped and afterward it was chaos,” Haase said. “No question, with everybody on the court the focus was on the team, but a big part also was on coach Williams.”

Williams will have little time to enjoy the championship and won’t be spending his “free” time working on his golf swing as reported on CBS. Haase said Williams must catch a 5 a.m. flight today to start a recruiting trip.

Replacing a talented core of seniors will make it tough on Williams and his staff to duplicate their championship season.

“It will be different team, an adjustment,” Haase said. “My throughts now are that I’m thrilled for the guys on team and especially coach Williams. They have earned this championship.”