ACC Basketball: Woody Durham retires
By Aaron Beard
CHAPEL HILL ó Woody Durham saw it all at North Carolina, from Dean Smith winning his first national championship to the playing careers of Michael Jordan and Lawrence Taylor.
Now, after four decades calling some of the biggest moments in the schoolís sports history, the ěVoice of the Tar Heelsî is retiring with a significant place of his own in that lore.
The radio play-by-play announcer said Wednesday the time is right to call it a career. Durham, who turns 70 in August, said he felt the quality of his broadcast presentations had begun to sag in the past year or so, prompting him to decide he wanted to retire when he could do it on his own terms.
ěI knew it was time,î Durham said. ěAnd I wanted it to be my decision and not that of somebody else a few years from now, when they might have to come in and literally carry me out of the booth kicking and screaming.î
Durham had called football and menís basketball games since 1971, calling more than 1,800 games. Along the way, Durhamís voice became inextricably tied to some of the schoolís most unforgettable victories, including the 1982 and 1993 NCAA basketball championships under Smith as well as the 2005 and 2009 titles under Roy Williams.
He called 23 bowl games, 13 Final Fours and six basketball title games. He also worked with four menís basketball coaches, six head football coaches and four athletic directors.
ěGood gracious,î he said, ěwhat a ride.î
Williams and football coach Butch Davis attended Wednesdayís news conference, with Williams flying in from a recruiting trip ó his luggage was lost in transit ó before flying back out later in the afternoon. He still remembered hearing Durhamís game broadcasts when he was a student at UNC in the early 1970s.
Williams greeted Durham with a handshake and a hug at the end of the news conference.
ěTo me, Woody is the voice of the Tar Heels and Woody Durham will be the voice of the Tar Heels,î Williams said. ě … Itís going to take somebody an awfully long time to change that for me.î
Durham said he thought about retiring during the 2009-10 season before deciding in December that the 2010-11 season would be his last. He said he was in good health.
Durhamís tenure has spanned the college careers of basketball stars like Jordan, Phil Ford, Antawn Jamison and Tyler Hansbrough as well as football stars Taylor, Amos Lawrence and Julius Peppers, among others.
His retirement follows a year in which the football team won the Music City Bowl despite playing the entire season in the shadow of an NCAA investigation. The menís basketball team won an Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season title before falling a win short of the Final Four.
Among his familiar refrains: ěGo where you go and do what you do,î a message to fans encouraging them to follow whatever superstitious routines they had to help the Tar Heels rally or win a tight game.
Durham said he missed 14 games due to scheduling conflicts between football and menís basketball in his four-decade tenure.
ěHis sound is distinctive, itís unique, itís professional and itís truly Carolina blue,î athletic director Dick Baddour said.
Durhamís son, Wes, is the play-by-play voice for Georgia Tech and the NFLís Atlanta Falcons. Wes Durham refused to say whether he would be a candidate to replace his father in Chapel Hill.
ěI respect and appreciate you guys have to ask that question, but this is not about me,î Wes Durham said. ěThis is about my dadís 40 years at Carolina.î
Mick Mixon, a longtime color analyst to Durham who now is the play-by-play voice for the NFLís Carolina Panthers, said he wouldnít be a candidate to replace Durham.
As for his retirement plans, Durham said he would work on his golf game and possibly a book. He said he would miss the job and got choked up both when mentioning the fans and the support of his wife, Jean, who had already put in a request.
ěNow she deserves part of my time,î he said. ěThe only thing on her list right now is she wants to see Cape Cod in the fall. Weíll take care of that.î