NCAA-champion Tar Heels return home

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — North Carolina saved the last dance for Danny Green.

North Carolina coach Roy Williams makes comments during the Tar Heels' return to the Dean E. Smith Centre in Chapel Hill

North Carolina coach Roy Williams makes comments during the Tar Heels' return to the Dean E. Smith Centre in Chapel Hill

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — North Carolina saved the last dance for Danny Green.

The Carolina blue-clad crowd prodded him, and “Jump Around” blared from the speakers in his honour. So, just as he did before four seasons’ worth of tip-offs at the Smith Center, the senior shook his hips, dangled his arms and cut loose one last time.

Whoop it up, Tar Heels, you brought another NCAA championship trophy back to campus.

Coach Roy Williams’ team returned home Tuesday to celebrate the proud program’s fifth national title and first since 2005 with about 13,000 revved-up fans less than 24 hours after beating Michigan State 89-72 in Detroit.

Thousands of fans poured into the stands and onto the arena floor before the Tar Heels’ flight had even landed at nearby Raleigh-Durham International Airport, and they cheered fanatically every time live television footage of the team’s motorcade was shown on the giant video boards.

Last to enter the arena was Williams, who carried in the trophy and the net he helped cut down at Ford Field.

“I stood up here in 2005 and told you how great it was to win a national championship for our alma mater,” Williams said. “And I’ll tell you right now, winning the second national championship for our alma mater is even sweeter.”

Especially for seniors Tyler Hansbrough, Bobby Frasor and Green.

They came to campus in the fall of 2005, a few months after the school claimed its previous title, and went on to post a 101-14 record through four years with three regular-season ACC titles and two Final Four appearances. They capped their run with a never-in-doubt victory over the Spartans, who got no closer than 13 points in the second half.

“We did it. But the way we did it? Isn’t that great?” Green asked the crowd.

Then, the fans pleaded for Green to dance one last time, prompting fellow senior Mike Copeland to hold the back of Green’s suit jacket while he danced like a puppet — the trademark move that earned him the nickname “Dancin’ Danny” — to the 1990s rap song that they play before every tipoff at the Smith Center.

Later, they showed season highlights on the arena’s four video screens, located high above scoreboards that read: “Carolina 89, Mich. St. 72.”

“If I’m lucky enough to coach another 20 years, it’s going to be awful hard for kids to give me the memories that this club did,” Williams said. “But I will always remember not just the wins. I will remember the fun, the laughs and I will remember how lucky Roy Williams was to be their coach.”

This was how nearly everybody figured this season would end, yet the celebration was no less satisfying for Hansbrough, who returned for his senior season for the chance to claim the title.

North Carolina (34-4), the first unanimous pre-season No. 1 in the history of The Associated Press Top 25, overcame an 0-2 start to the ACC season to claim another regular-season title and posted double-figure wins in all six of its NCAA tournament games.

“There’s not much to say — we’re national champs,” Hansbrough said. “It’s the best feeling in the world. When I come back and watch these games here at the Smith Center, I’ll always look up there and remember this team and what we were able to accomplish this year.”

Added Frasor: “This is a storybook ending, and I couldn’t ask for more.”

———

AP Sports Writer Aaron Beard contributed to this report from Detroit.

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