A Request: Please Share the Road

The drive back from our two-week sabbatical at the beach helped restore my faith in humanity.

The four-hour hump back from Myrtle Beach can be a pain, especially around Chadbourn – as forlorn a town as I’ve ever driven through. But on this particular day, Sunday, I spent most of my time around folks who share the same highway philosophy.

In that, I mean, they share the road.

Before we continue, I’ll make anyone reading this a promise. If ever I’m in the left (passing) lane and see you approaching in my rear-view, I’ll look for the next opportunity to pull right and let you by.

After all, it only makes sense. I’d rather have you in front of me than hanging on my rear bumper. And if you want to proceed at a speed faster than mine, your wish is my command.

I’m not into vigilantism. Besides, if there’s a highway patrolman up ahead, he’ll see you before he sees me.

Part of it is my lifelong aversion to being in other people’s way. It makes me uptight to think I might be blocking someone else from seeing what they want to see or going where they want to go. With each passing year, I’ve grown to despise big crowds more and more.

So a recurring problem, especially while driving, is to encounter people who obviously don’t have the least bit of problem being in other people’s way. If I didn’t know better, I’d surmise that some even relish it.

If it were only discourteous, boorish or ill-considered, that would be bad enough. But truth is, those who commandeer the left-lane and render it their own personal lane are actually causing far greater risk to all those they encounter on their trip from Point A to Point B.

There’s a good reason some states and municipalities erect highway signs that say “Left Lane for Passing Only.’’ 

Some are even imposing fines.

The Winston-Salem Journal, in an obvious attempt to lighten its insurance load, once required us all to sit through a session on defensive driving. The first question asked was “What causes wrecks?’’

The answer, to me, was obvious. “Two or more cars winding up at the same place at the same time.’’

“Exactly,’’ the instructor said.

It’s a moment that invariably comes to mind every time I find myself in a logjam on a four-lane road. And when one driver is taking their own sweet time in the left lane, and determined to exercise their constitutional right to which every lane they choose, then it doesn’t even matter if I’m in the left lane or right.

What does matter is that before long there is bound to be four, five, six or even more cars jammed together in close proximity, all piled up on each other with blood pressure spiking. And some of those cars are going to be hell-bent on getting by the logjam, and they’re going to start taking, in the words of Rodney Crowell, those crazy chances.

This is where I confess I’m not the most patient person in the world. And I readily admit I’m guilty of moves on the road, and gestures to my fellow travelers, of which I’m not proud.

But then there are days like Sunday when I’m cruising along with people who show consideration. Except for a couple of notable exceptions, the drivers I encountered recognized how much better – how much more civilized – a drive can be when the left lane remains open to those who wish to proceed at a higher rate of speed.

My best moments on the highway are when I can find that sweet spot – I call it a bubble – when I’m moving along at preferred speed with all other traffic well ahead of me and the rest just dots in the rear view. It can be relaxing even, and again, so civilized.

And it’s then, and only then, that I can groove on all that beautiful scenery our country has to offer.

So if we encounter each other out on the highways and byways, I’m hope it’s a pleasant experience. Just share the road, and I’ll promise it will be.

Heaven Must Have a Beach

My hometown of Franklin, N.C. is a good 100 miles west of the continental divide, which means the rivers and streams there flow not toward the Atlantic, but instead toward the Mississippi River basin and eventually the Gulf of Mexico.

North Carolina is a long state. So is neighboring Tennessee. It’s always amazed me that one can start out on the coast and reach the Mississippi while traversing just two states.

A quick check with Google Earth informs me that there’s 363.3 miles – many of them mountainous and snaky – between Franklin and Myrtle Beach. All of which might explain how I was 14 years old before I ever laid eyes on the ocean.

My brother Tom, being two years older, got there before me. He returned with this sorrowful story how he bolted out of the car as soon as it reached the ocean, rushed into the breakers, and came up without his glasses. Being as blind as I am, he spent the entire week stumbling around in the fog and haze of acute near-sightedness.

Other than that, he had the time of his life.

My first beach trip was with the Methodist Youth Fellowship. I’ll have to check the statute of limitations before I reveal all that happened on that church-sponsored trip, but let’s just say I’m eternally grateful my mother never found out just what a numbskull I proved myself to be at 14 and away at the beach.

Or at least I never found out that she found out, which, truth be told, was just as good.

What I came to find much later, after I’d migrated to Chapel Hill for the next chapter of my life, was that many people living in North Carolina – especially those living east of Greensboro – consider it a birthright to get at least a week every summer at the beach. One of those was Tybee, who turned out to be my bride.

Tybee was raised in Raleigh, and some of her happiest childhood memories were made when her parents, Herman and Becca, loaded their four children in the car for their cherished week at the beach. They often camped, and she recalls her family walking the path from the campground to the beach at night.

Because she was the littlest, and because of a debilitating case of ostraconophobia, (fear of crabs), she just had to be carried.

So it was only after I was 27, and Tybee and I got together, that I was able to experience the beach through the eyes of someone who knew the ocean and loved it. Most everybody likes the ocean, but nobody I know loves it as much as Tybee.

In time I became comfortable among the sand and wind and heat, and I started looking forward with increasing excitement toward our sojourns to the coast.

There’s never been a better big brother than Tom, who has pulled his numbskull of a little brother out of more crises than said numbskull little brother cares to recount. But let’s just say he’s always looked out for me throughout my life.

Tom also married a beach bunny in Jenny, who actually spent part of her childhood in Myrtle Beach. So there was great joy throughout the Collins clan when Tom and Jenny bought a house at Myrtle Beach, and absolutely insisted that Tybee and I and our family make it down for at least a couple of weeks a summer.

Did I mention how there has never been a better big brother?

We’re midway through our first of two weeks down here. These days it’s just Tybee and me (Nate is in Dallas, Rebecca in Boston) but we’re making do quite fine.

I’m really not that crazy about Myrtle Beach Proper, if there really is such a place, but the fine home of Tom and Jenny is more than 50 blocks to the north where the streets are quiet and the beach – four blocks away– is practically private. What we found early is that there’s a golf cart culture in these communities, and we just park the car and drive Whitey the Golf Cart everywhere.

About the only time we drive into Myrtle Beach Proper is on Thursday, when there’s a weekly Open Mic at this really special Faith-based place called Fresh Brewed Coffee House. Because Fresh Brewed, unlike Muddy Creek Cafe, specializes in caffeine and does not sell beer, it takes an adjustment on my part to not be at my usual level of libation when I break out Buckshot for my set.

But the folks are friendly as can be, the Open Mic is well-run, and I’ve really enjoyed playing there.

Our schedule is our own, and for Tybee, that means logging as much TBT (Tybee Beach Time) as she can possibly pack in. It’s not unusual for the two of us to make it down to the shore by 10, set up our umbrella and chairs and for Tybee to still be completely content until I drive Whitey back down there at around 7 or 7:30 to bring her back to the hacienda for a shower and dinner.

Today she has to cut her TBT short because she wants to make the Open Mic with me. I know I’m asking a lot, but her willingness to do so must mean she really does care about me.

Happy Birthday, Frances Cooper Collins

Early one morning in June,

With the Mountain Laurel in bloom,

The Bluecoats came.

And they weren’t a’knocking.

Frances Cooper Collins was born on July 4, 1925 in Cherokee, N.C., the third of nine children of Zolley Arnold and Amandaville Myrtle Keener Cooper.

Zolley was a carpenter/handyman who worked for the Cherokee Boarding School and Myrtle, as she was commonly known, had her hands full keeping house and raising nine kids through the Great Depresssion.

Frances, our mother, taught us – and by us I mean my sister Sara Sue, brothers Tom and Joe and me – pretty much everything we know.

But one thing she made absolutely certain she taught us was to curse the ground that Andrew Jackson ever set foot on.

They drug us out of our doors,

Said `You don’t live here no more,’

Herded us up like cattle,

And put us in the stockade.

Frances was a righteous woman who raised us in the First United Methodist Church, but she converted to the Church of Latter Day Saints after all her children had flown the coop. I couldn’t resist chiding her about how she drug me out of bed all those Sunday mornings to worship at a church that she, herself, abandoned, but Frances Cooper Collins did not find her religion to be a laughing matter.

But for a righteous woman, Frances sure could hold a grudge. And her most celebrated and dead-set grudge dated all the way back to the 1830s. For if you know your American history, then you’ll know that no one on earth was more responsible than the aforementioned Andrew Jackson for removing her people out of their idyllic ancestral homeland in the mountains of North Carolina and moving them off to this far away place called Oklahoma.

The Cherokee knew nothing about Oklahoma, and so many of them didn’t want to go to Oklahoma. But thanks largely to Jackson, they had no say in the matter.

Our people argued our case and won,

In the marble halls of Washington,

John Marshall said it was our land,

Like it had been all through the years.

Though born almost 100 years after this sorrowful chapter of our nation’s history, Frances wasn’t one to let such a grievous matter drop. So throughout our childhood, the name Andrew Jackson couldn’t be mentioned without our mother reminding anyone within earshot what a lowlife and scoundrel our seventh president truly was.

We’d chuckle over how worked up Frances could get, but only when she wasn’t looking. Like her religion, the removal of her people was no laughing matter to Frances Cooper Collins

Old Hickory was having none of it,

Said `You’ve made your law, now let’s see you enforce it,’

So the Cherokee marched the Trail of Tears.

The Coopers are known for their strong blood because almost all of Frances’ brothers and sisters have lived, or did live, into their 80s or 90s. But Frances was the unlucky one; she died of leukemia in 1989.

I am grateful she lived long enough to know Nate, our son born in 1986. But it’s always caused an ache in my heart she didn’t know Rebecca, born in 1990. Rebecca reminds me of Frances in so many ways. The two would have made quite a team.

The mud had frozen hard,

In the stockade yard,

When, by the point of a bayonet,

Our march began.

Given how deep the villainy of Andrew Jackson had been seared into my consciousness, I felt a real responsibility to make sure that grudge didn’t simply wither away in time. Frances’ grudge was way too good a grudge for that.

So throughout Nate and Rebecca’s childhood, I made sure they knew just who Andrew Jackson was, what he had done to my mother’s people, and just what their Maw Collins felt about it.

By foot, by horse and by boat,

Only the lucky wore coats,

It was more than any woman, child or man

Should ever have to stand.

But no matter how hard and adamantly I railed, my sermons just weren’t seeming to take. I’d go on and on about what a wretched, good-for-nothing, incorrigible piece of human excrement Andew Jackson was for what he did to the native Americans, and I never could detect the least bit of rancor or enmity on their part.

I was looking for froth, serious froth, and I never even saw so much as a fleck on Nate or Rebecca’s lips.

Eventually I began to despair that I was letting my mother down for not extending a perfectly good grudge past my own generation. So what, in such a sad conundrum, is a man to do?

Well, I reasoned, he could always write a song. And after reading one of the saddest stories I’ve ever read, that of a child survivor the genocide named Samuel Cloud, that’s exactly what I did.

I wrote it for my mother.

Happy Birthday Frances Cooper Collins.

Beside my mother I’d lie,

Until the night my mother died,

The night I learned how to cry,

On the Trail of Tears. – Trail of Tears by Dan Collins

Joke’s On Me

Frank: It isn’t right for a college to buy football players.

Wagstaff: It isn’t, eh? Well, I’ll nip that in the bud. How about coming along and having a nip yourself?

Frank: Anything further, Father?

Wagstaff: Anything further, Father? That can’t be right. Isn’t it ‘Anything Father, further?’ The idea! I married your mother because I wanted children. Imagine my disappointment when you arrived. – HORSE FEATHERS, starring the Marx Brothers.

Humor is a funny thing. You either get the joke or you don’t.

Which is why I rarely watch contemporary sitcoms. From time to time I’ll give one a try, but humor requires a latitude I just can’t make myself extend to what I’m watching on today’s television.

If you enjoy Modern Family or The Big Bang or Bob’s Burgers, I envy you. I love a good belly laugh as much as the next mark, but, to me, nothing I’m seeing on the tube these days is even chuckle-worthy, much less chortle inducing.

Mulling my obvious and sad defect, it occurred to me that a person’s sense of humor can reveal much about the person. What it reveals first and foremost is the person’s age. Humor changes generation by generation, as I learned while raising kids. A joke or scene that wold have me rolling of the floor so often produced little more than a roll of the eyes from Nate or Rebecca.

We did find common ground, thankfully, with such treasures as Ghost Busters and Animal House and early episodes of The Simpsons, but the act of renting a movie could be fraught with peril.

What does my sense of humor say about me? Again, the first thing it says is I’m old. I try not to be a crusty old curmudgeon (could there be any other kind) but the effort from time to time overwhelms me.

From my aged beef point of view, the greatest comedy ever made is Blazing Saddles. I’ve watched it hundreds of times and I swear I still come unhinged every time Mongo tells us all he’s only a pawn in game of life. Or when Taggart confronts the William J. Le Petomane Toll Booth in the middle of the desert. Or when Lily Von Shtupp, asks Sheriff Bart “Tell me schatze, is it twue what they say about the way you people are. . . gifted?’’

The tragedy of this comedy, however, is that it could never be made today – which a part of me doesn’t understand. Sure I recognize that it’s outrageously politically incorrect, and I do recognize the need in these politically charged times to show all people of all persuasions the proper respect they deserve.

But in Blazing Saddles, Mel Brooks, bless his delightfully demented soul, wielded satire laced with a certain word that is jarring to today’s sensibilities to absolutely shred bigotry in all its unsightly forms. He left no doubt with this classic just how stupid stupid can be.

So obviously I lean toward the absurd and I appreciate a good social commentary. But I also get off on word play, and total, unadulterated chaos. Which is where the Marx Brothers come in.

I love the Marx Brothers. We watched Horse Feathers just last night (a perfectly precedent statement on the unholy marriage between big-time football and institutions of higher learning) and I reveled in every pun and pratfall. Groucho can have me in stitches just by walking in a room.

While reflecting on just what my sense of humor says about me, I decided to draft a baseball team of my favorite comedians. Every time I did, I remembered a favorite I had left out, but eventually I came up with the following lineup. I’d be curious to hear from you on just who and what tickles your own personal funny bone.

Batting order
1. Richard Pryor CF
2. Charlie Chaplin SS
3. George Carlin 3B
4. John Belushi C
5. Robin Williams 1B
6. Bill Hicks DH
7. Eddie Murphy RF
8. Dan Aykroyd LF
9. Harpo Marx 2B

1. Groucho Marx
2. Steven Wright
3. Gilda Radner
4. Chico Marx
5. Andy Kaufman

Long relief – Lilly Tomlin
Set-up – Andy Kaufman
Set-up – Chris Rock
Closer – Steve Martin

Battling the Beast

So to those who might wonder why a man who is retired would need a vacation, an explanation is perhaps in order for the weeks since I last posted on MTOW.

Generally I resist making a public to-do about my health, knowing that so many – especially anyone as old as I – have problems far more pressing than mine. And as I’ve often acknowledged, I’m healthier at 65 than I deserve to be given my lifelong, headlong pursuit of the fruit off the vine.

Whatever pain and discomfort I might feel these days, I can honestly say I came by honestly.

But the reason I haven’t been writing is that I’m wrestling with this beast in my chest that rears up from time to time and lays me low for days at a time. It’s industrial-strength indigestion, gerd, acid reflux, a problem I’ve battled most of my life that has been getting the best of me these past few weeks.

The first time it hit me full-force, I was convinced it was the big one – the heart attack all people of my age of considerable girth who have lived life to the marrow all but come to expect. Turns out, it was a gas bubble burning a hole in my chest for a good 30-45 minutes before I was able to douse it with antacids and deep belches induced by carbonated soft drinks.

And yes, I’ve had the endoscopy, and yes I’ve had the colonoscopy, and yes I’m taking two different acid blockers and yes I’m sleeping these days with my head elevated. The endoscopy revealed Barrett’s syndrome, which my specialist assured me is usually only fatal when it deteriorates into something worse.

Two of the people I’m closest to have successfully battled esophagus cancer, so I’ve been getting the best of advice from the best of people.

One of the survivors mentioned, tactfully, that one prudent course of action would be to lose weight. So that’s been my overriding goal of the summer, to shed some of these pounds I’ve accumulated over the years.

My new scales bought just for the occasion revealed I’m down about 15 pounds, which is a good start, but hardly the target I’m shooting for.

A great advantage of retirement is that you can set up your days as you wish, without regard for assignments or deadlines. All my life I’ve heard how much wiser it is flip the normal routine, and eat your biggest meal at mid-day and then graze and nibble in the evening. So over the past week to 10 days, that’s what I’ve been doing.

If the coffee I’m tentatively sipping as I write this doesn’t rear up on me, then I can report that the beast, for the past few days, has been held at bay. I’m not ready to celebrate but I am, as the politicians say, cautiously optimistic.

But if you know me, you’ll know that I’ll find a way to have fun regardless of the circumstances. I know very little about soccer – my high school tucked deep in the mountains of North Carolina didn’t offer the sport – but I am really getting off of the color, pageantry and drama of the World Cup. (And yes I’m definitely in high dungeon over Sweden not getting a penalty kick against Germany). There’s something way cool about a world expending its excess energy on rooting for a favorite sports team instead of the killing of fellow human beings.

I would be mentioning how much I’ve enjoyed watching my favorite baseball team, the Chicago Cubs, if it weren’t for the horrendous slump that has befallen Joe and the Boys. Sure the Reds were hot, but yesterday’s loss in the fourth and final game of the sweep was as brutal as I’ve endured this season.

My bride Tybee is a teacher, and thus on vacation herself for the summer. We’re watching a lot TV of the best kind, the fourth season of The Wire (best drama series I’ve ever seen) and the early seasons of Downton Abbey. Tybee never started Downton Abby and I was ready to start again from scratch.

And in case you’re wondering, yes I have been able to muster up enough energy to make it down to Muddy Creek Cafe on Thursday nights for our weekly Open Mics. We had our fourth anniversary earlier this month, and the recent shows have been as memorable as any we’ve ever enjoyed.

The difference is I used to return to the hacienda and keep the good times roaring until the wee hours of the morning. Now I come home and go to bed.

All of which is to say that I’ve felt remiss for leaving my blog unattended these past few weeks and there’s few things in the world I hate worse than to be remiss. So there you have it, and hopefully, if the beast can be kept at bay, I’ll be back in days to come with My Take on Whatever.

Hanging with Kyle Petty at Muddy Creek

Upon retirement from the Winston-Salem Journal in August, I had plenty of plans for the next chapter of my life – all of them vague.

Music has always been one of my passions, and I knew much of my time would be devoted to writing songs and performing them around town. But in my eight or so years spent ramroding Open Mics – at the Garage from the summer of 2007 through 2011 and for the past four years at Muddy Creek Cafe – I’d honed a natural ability to stand in front of audiences and run off at the mouth.

So I could see myself not only playing and singing, but serving as a M.C. – although I prefer the word impresario — for various events around town. To that end, I convinced Shana Whitehead and Bill Heath, my good buddies who own and operate Muddy Creek Cafe and Music Hall, to allow me to sharpen my skills by introducing certain performers that I wanted to see perform.

This past Sunday, I had the great pleasure of introducing Kyle Petty and David Childers for their sold-out show at the Muddy Creek Music Hall. I also did the honors for the opening act, Jon Montgomery, whose band Jukebox Rehab is rocking various venues in and around Winston-Salem.

A quick word about the Muddy Creek Music Hall. If you’ve never seen a show there, you’re missing an experience unlike any other I’ve ever known. The Hall was fashioned out of the Bethania Mill, which has been a fixture of the original Moravian settlement since 1899, and the acoustics in the cozy room all surrounded by aged wood are perfect.

And if perfect took a qualifier, they would be really, really perfect – so perfect we say it’s like Church.

Only it’s better than Church because it’s Church with Beer. Enough people agree that Muddy Creek Music Hall was voted by readers of the Winston-Salem Journal as “the best place to see a concert.’’

The concert last Sunday was one I was excited to see.

I had caught a show by David Childers downtown a few years back, when he lived up to his reputation as one of the best singer-songwriters our fair state has produced. I come to find out on Sunday that Childers, a lawyer-turned-troubadour from Mount Holly, had been at the University of North Carolina for the first three of my four years there from 1970 through 1974.

We both spent the 1970-71 school year in James Dorm on South Campus, but it was a big, 10-story dorm and we couldn’t say that we’d met each other.

But the real thrill was getting to meet Kyle Petty, whose people actually brought Petty’s No. 42 Coors Light Silver Bullet Pontiac and parked it out front. Truth is, they parked it in my regular spot, but seeings how it was Kyle Petty, I forgave them.

A guilty pleasure for me has always been NASCAR. I know it’s a 20th century sport rapidly losing its audience in today’s times, and I know most young people of today don’t see the point in fast cars making left turns around paved tracks all afternoon long.

But there was a real romance to the way the sport began, with bootleggers outrunning revenuers up and down the back roads of our hills and hollers. And I came along in a day when the heroes of the sport, guys like Junior Johnson and Fireball Roberts and Kyle’s dad, King Richard, were not all that far removed in terms of lifestyle and social standing from the people who packed the grandstands to see them knock each other around and into the walls.

Besides, in what other sport, I ask you, do the participants have to deal with the element of fire? And thankfully enough advancements have been made in the safety of the sport that the drivers aren’t killing each other off like they were in the early years.

The hook was really in me by the time my brother Tom and I sat in the infield of the Dixie 500 at Atlanta Speedway in 1971 and watched King Richard and Bobby Allison swap paint and rub fenders over the final laps of Petty’s victory – the victory, in fact, that made Petty the first winner of a million dollars in the history of the sport.

I’d never met Kyle, but I knew that my long-time compadre Ed Hardin of the Greensboro News and Record had known him since childhood. Turns out their grandmothers were fast friends, and that they’d participated in many overnight pajama parties with their siblings over at Level Cross while one grandmother or another took care of the kids.

So I knew Kyle played the guitar and wrote his own songs, but I have to say I was not prepared to hear what he had for us last Sunday at Muddy Creek Music Hall. He’s not what some might suspect, a former race car driver posing as a musician. He’s the real thing, a natural performer who knows how to work a crowd.

If you ever get a chance to catch him live, I would highly recommend that you avail yourself of the opportunity.

One great lesson Kyle learned from his daddy was how to treat people. King Richard is the greatest hero in the history of the sport as much for his accessibility and unaffected charm as his 200 victories on the track.

Kyle, I was delighted to come to find, is also regular people. We swapped stories about my time at the Winston-Salem Journal, and told some good ones on Mike Mulhern, a character and a half who covered racing for the paper for 36 years.

I took the opportunity to pass along to Kyle the lyric of a song I wrote about stockcar racin’ called Trackbar Adjustment and a High Groove. So if you ever hear him sing it one day, you’ll know where it came from.

I also told him I was convinced it would be his first No. 1 hit. And it goes a little something like this.

We’re going to take the checkered flag, I can already hear them squall,

How I tagged 18 on his rear bumper and how I sent him straight into the wall.

We’re still just a little squirrelly, but by Gawd we’re on the move,

All I need’s a Trackbar Adjustment and a High Groove.


My great granddaddy ran the liquor from his granddaddy’s still,

You know my family always ran liquor and I reckon we always will,

Granddaddy raced Daytona, he always thought it might have been the first.

He says he lost it coming off AIA, and remembers sliding through the surf.


My daddy raced King Richard, Junior, Bobby, David and Cale,

The only man he said he couldn’t stand was a young ironhead named Dale,

Daddy probably would have won North Wilkesboro if he had taken on a round of wedge

Handsome Harry got his rear bite, you can’t give a man like that the edge.


Once they drop that green flag, I’m willing to do whatever it takes.

I’ve never been light on the throttle, or what you’d call easy on the brakes,

I’m a better driver than my daddy, and my boy’s better still,

He knows I love him, but once we’re racin’ I don’t know his ass from Bill.


We’re going to take the checkered flag, I can already hear them squall,

How I tagged 18 on his rear bumper and how I sent him straight into the wall.

We’re still just a little squirrelly, but by Gawd we’re on the move,

All I need’s a Trackbar Adjustment and a High Groove.

Rating the ACC’s Best Coaches Ever

The first reaction anyone has upon meeting my bride is always the same.

What is an Angel like her doing married to a hound dog like you?

Wily me, I knew how much Tybee loved the ocean, so I promised her a house at the beach to get her to the alter. Going on 36 years later, she’s still waiting on me to make good on that promise.

I was absolutely sure I was going to be able to swing it five years ago when Blair Publishing of Winston-Salem rolled out my The ACC Basketball Book of Fame. Seeings how no one had ever gotten around to establishing a hall of fame of ACC basketball, I decided to do it myself and turn it into a book.

When I first held a copy in my hands, I could hear the waves crashing and see the smile on Tybee’s face.

Alas, the public didn’t buy the concept, and thus didn’t buy the book. Instead of a home by the shore, I barely made enough for a long weekend at Myrtle Beach.

The concept was borne out of my participation, back in 2002, in the “blue-ribbon committee” that celebrated the first 50 seasons by naming the 50 greatest players in the league’s illustrious history. There were 120 members of the “BRC”, and as knowledgeable and well-meaning as we all were, we really botched it in several regards.

Bobby Jones and Walter Davis were both really good players and good guys. I should know, because I covered both during their careers at North Carolina and got to know them.

But to include Jones and Davis on the 50th Anniversary team, and leave out the likes of Bob Verga and Rod Griffin was an egregious oversight.

Jones made second-team All-America as a senior, the only season he made first-team All-ACC. And Davis made second-team All-ACC as a junior and first-team as a senior (barely, with the fifth-most votes), but never made All-America.

Verga, conversely, was first-team All-ACC all three seasons he played for Duke, and made consensus second-team All-America as a junior and consensus first-team as a senior. And Griffin made second-team All-ACC as a sophomore and first-team as a junior and senior at Wake Forest, and was a consensus second-team All-America his final two seasons.

What became obvious upon reflection is our memories are never quite what we thought we remembered. So I took it upon myself to devise a formula that take into account accomplishments accrued during a career – such as All-ACC and All-America voting and additional decorations like conference or national Player of the Year, Rookie of the Year, All-Tournament, etc. – and assign a weight to each and add up the numbers.

If a player good enough to be a candidate reached the magic number of 1,000, he was in. If not, he was relegated to the annex, which I termed the Portico of Prominence.

To this day I feel the formula was a useful tool for deciding who belonged in the Hall of Fame and who did not., But it had a flaw, in that it never reconciled the difference of some players being eligible for only three seasons (pre-1975) and some being eligible for four.

So when Tyler Hansbrough accumulated the most points, I had a real problem. I tried to write my away around it by prominently recognizing what everyone should know, that David Thompson was the greatest player to ever grace an ACC basketball court. And the incomparable Thompson did finish second in the voting, despite playing one season less than Hansbrough – who started piling up the honors as a freshman and kept piling them up all four seasons.

But when people saw Thompson listed below Hansbrough, they didn’t bother with the fine print. They, again, didn’t buy the formula, so they didn’t buy the book.

To this day, I’m glad I wrote the book. I loved working with the good folks at Blair, and I’ve always loved history as well as ACC basketball. I remain proud of the 800-1,500 word profiles I wrote on each of my 79 inductees, which were chock full of stories and anecdotes that might have otherwise been forgotten.

And it’s always a kick to walk into a library, or maybe even a book store here or there, and find your contribution on the shelf.

Furthermore, I will argue that the concept of ranking players based on objective contemporaneous measures instead of subjective memory remains valid. So I hauled it out again a couple of weeks ago when I watched Virginia beat North Carolina for the ACC title and put the finishing touches on one of the most dominating seasons in conference history.

It got me to thinking about where Tony Bennett, after only nine seasons, would rank among the greatest coaches in ACC history.

So I pulled out my ACC media guides, a pen and a notepad and went back to work. The first order of business was to establish a formula, and this time I didn’t have to worry about comparing a player eligible for only three seasons with those eligible for four.

What I quickly found is there are relatively few great coaches in the history of ACC. It occurred to me that the great ones, coaches like Mike Krzyzewski and Dean Smith have been so dominant over the years that they weeded so many others out.

The baseline for the formula is a coach’s record against the other ACC coaches he was hired to beat, in regular-season and ACC Tournament play. And then I added bonus points for additional accomplishment and awards.

What I came up with is as follows. In days to come I will reveal which coaches made the cut and where they ranked. And if you see any obvious flaws in the formula, please speak up before I publish another book and it becomes too late.

1 point – For each ACC win over .500 (including ACC Tournament play).

2 points – Per win in NIT play.

3 points – Per win in NCAA Tournament play.

4 points – ACC Coach of the Year.

5 points – For tying for first-place finish in ACC regular season.

7 points – For finishing first outright in ACC regular season.

7 points – NIT Championship.

7 points – For National Coach of the Year.

10 points – For ACC Championship.

15 points – For appearance in Final Four (without winning title).

20 points – For National Championship.

The cutoff is 100 points, and 15 coaches made the grade.