Best of 2013 yet to be written
Posted December 27, 2013
One of the best and biggest North Carolina sports stories of 2013 will not officially end until Duke’s football team faces Texas A&M in the Dec. 31 Chick-fil-A Bowl.
It was yet another eventful year for local and regional sports, one that included a litany of developments that may have to be revised following the Carolina Panthers’ run in the approaching NFL playoffs and the outcome of UNC’s basketball season.
But for now, here’s the way I have the top 10 ranked. But these things are subjective. Feel free to add, delete and/or rearrange.
1. Duke football: Picked for last in the ACC Coastal Division, the Blue Devils won the regular-season race before losing to Atlantic winner Florida State in the championship game. But at 10-3 entering the bowl, the Devils compiled the school’s first double-digit win total, and David Cutcliffe won a number of national top-coach awards.
2. P.J. Hairston/Leslie McDonald: UNC suspended Hairston for the entire 2013-14 basketball season and McDonald for the first semester after a hectic summer.
It began on May 13, when Hairston was handed a speeding ticket while driving a car owned by Catinia Farrington of Durham. Less than a month later, the junior wingman was arrested in Durham and charged with possession of marijuana.
On June 30, leadership of the school officially was passed from Holden Thorp to new chancellor Carol Folt.
3. Panthers turnaround: With the fate of coach Ron Rivera in doubt and the team 1-3 early in the NFL season, there was little way for anyone to predict the 11-4 record the Panthers will take into Sunday’s regular-season finale at Atlanta. A win would lock up the NFC South title and a first-round bye in the playoffs.
4. Sylvia Hatchell: Less than three months after starting treatment for leukemia, the legendary Hall of Fame UNC women’s basketball coach returned to the gym to watch her team defeat High Point on Dec. 23. Hatchell’s primary doctor, Pete Voorhees, has told reporters he’s “extremely pleased” with the coach’s progress.
5. ECU football: With 10 wins, a bowl romp over Ohio University and regular-season wins at UNC and N.C. State, the Pirates had what probably rates as the second best season in school history. The lone disappointment was a late loss at Marshall that ended the team’s dream of exiting Conference USA with the league championship trophy. Next season, the Bucs move on to the American Athletic Conference.
6. College baseball: It was a season for the record book in the Triangle. Both UNC and State reached the College World Series in Omaha with State boasting one of the nation’s best pitchers in Carlos Rodon and the Tar Heels led by one of the best hitters, third baseman Colin Moran.
7. Cam Ward injury: After a bitter labor impasse, the 2012-13 NHL season didn’t begin its 48-game schedule until Jan. 19.
By March 3, the Carolina Hurricanes were 13-8-1 and easily on pace to reach the playoffs when star goalie Cam Ward was injured (knee) in a 3-2 win against Florida. He didn’t return, and the team slumped to 19-25-4 and wound up 13th in the Eastern Conference.
8. NCSU football: Dave Doeren’s first season as the Wolfpack’s head football coach began with a victory over Louisiana Tech but ended with a winless stand against ACC teams. It was the program’s worst conference performance in history.
9. Jim Grobe: The man who led Wake Forest to an ACC football championship in 2006 resigned after the Deacons had a fifth straight losing record. Dave Clawson of Bowling Green was hired to take over.
10. Wil Myers: Only one other native North Carolinian – Tommy Helms in 1966 – had won a Major League Baseball Rookie of the Year until Myers ran away with the 2013 American League honor. The 23-year-old Tampa Bay outfielder hit .293 with 13 home runs in 88 games.
Some of the many sports figures we’ll miss:
Miller Barber (March 31, 1931 – June 11, 2013)
Walt Bellamy (July 24, 1939 – Nov. 2, 2013)
Paul Dietzel (Sept. 5, 1924 – Sept. 24, 2013)
Ed Emory (April 14, 1938 – Jan. 4, 2013)
L.C. Greenwood (Sept. 8, 1946 – Sept. 29, 2013)
Phil Henderson (Apri 17, 1968 – Feb. 17, 2013)
Jack Holley (Aug. 15, 1938 – May 15, 2013)
Babe Howell (June 25, 1928 – May 4, 2013)
Deacon Jones (Dec. 9, 1938 – June 3, 2013)
Jason Leffler (Sept. 16, 1975 – June 12, 2013)
Mike McCormack (June 21, 1930 – Nov. 15, 2013)
Stan Musial (Nov. 21, 1920 – Jan. 19, 2013)
Ken Norton (Aug. 9, 1943 – Sept. 18, 2013)
Ace Parker (May 12, 1912 – Nov. 6, 2013)
Jon Richardson (Aug. 11, 1959 – July 16, 2013)
Ed Seaman (Feb. 6, 1922 - Oct. 13, 2013)
Pat Summerall (May 10, 1930 – April 16, 2013)
Dick Trickle (Oct. 27, 1941 – May 16, 2013)
Ken Venturi (May 15, 1931 – May 17, 2013)
Earl Weaver (Aug. 14, 1930 – Jan. 19, 2013)
Frank Weedon (May 11, 1931 – Sept. 2, 2013)
Art Weiner (Aug. 16, 1926 – Dec. 25, 2013)