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August 12, 2011Newly promoted interim head coach of the North Carolina Tar Heels, Everett Withers greeted the media with a smile Thursday. When one reporter asked him if he enjoyed this aspect of the job he jokingly said it is like being at home talking to his wife.
"Once I get on the football field, and once the team gets on the football field it's like boy I'm glad to be here," Withers said.
Out on the field one sees the other side of Withers, the intense football coach, who moves around with purpose, providing instruction and exhortation to his players, along with stability.
Stability is what this program needs to wade through the deep and murky waters of this upcoming season. A season laced with uncertainty, and now it is Withers responsibility to navigate the ship through the storms to come. The first-year interim head coach is going to need all hands on deck to keep an already gashed ship from capsizing.
"Here's what I believe: We are teachers, and we are mentors," Withers said. "As a coach what we need to be able to do is help guide our kids, whether it's educating them, teaching them about experiences that we've had, and help them on campus more."
"I believe if we'll take that responsibility, which I think our assistant coaches do a great job of helping our kids understand their responsibilities, their accountabilities, those types of things. If we just keep those things going we'll be fine," Withers added.
Butch Davis' surprise dismissal barely gave Withers any time to settle into the season.
As soon as this heavy load fell into his lap the start of training camp was at his doorstep, as was a group of players looking for someone to trust in, with barely any time to heal from seeing Davis's abrupt firing amidst the turmoil the program has undergone through the NCAA's investigations.
"It's behind us," UNC junior middle linebacker Kevin Reddick said. "We healed for a couple of days, and now we just have to move on as a team. We do what we have to do."
Like Reddick, it appears the rest of the team is moving on, which is making Withers transition easier.
"We've gone through a lot already," Withers said. "We're battle-tested on this thing, and we won't flinch, and we'll move forward. I think all of the kids have adjusted to that, and they've moved forward."
Withers will again have to depend on the leadership of Reddick and other veteran players to continue to help the younger players navigate through the unforeseen adversity that will surely come.
"Through all this that's gone on, the leadership on this team has really come to the forefront," Withers said.
"They've done a great job of taking some of the younger guys, and helping them understand the situations and what's going on. I'm really, really proud of that."