For McGrath, Sunday’s visit to UNC acted as a homecoming


Brandon Sans/The Seahawk

UNC Wilmington men’s basketball coach C.B. McGrath, middle, sits between East Carolina head coach Jeff Lebo, left, and UNC Greensboro head coach Wes Miller, right, after the North Carolina Disaster Relief Fund Jamboree on Sunday, Nov. 6, 2017.

Brandon Sans, Assistant Sports Editor

When North Carolina coach Roy Williams spoke at the UNC Wilmington men’s basketball tip-off dinner on Sept. 21, he did it as a favor to new Seahawk coach C.B. McGrath.

On Sunday, McGrath returned the favor by bringing his team to Chapel Hill to participate in a mini-scrimmage with other programs who had ties to the Tar Heels.

“We have a lot of people that would have enjoyed playing an exhibition game against us,” said Williams. “But having these three guys here was the most important part to me.”

McGrath, East Carolina coach Jeff Lebo, and UNC Greensboro coach Wes Miller all returned to UNC for the NC Disaster Relief Fund Jamboree. Both Lebo and Miller played for the Tar Heels, while McGrath spent the past 18 years as an assistant to Williams after playing for him at Kansas.

“I’ve been around [Williams] the past 20 years of my life. He’s been like a father to me,” said McGrath. “He’s the only person I played or worked under in college basketball. It’s not a bad mentor to have.”

Much like Dean Smith before him, Williams has built a coaching tree at UNC that added a McGrath branch when he was hired at UNCW in March. After spending 14 years with the Tar Heels, it was only fitting he would coach his first “game” in front of fans and media at the Smith Center.

From all the catchup work McGrath has done since taking the job, he still has not had time to reflect on how UNC has prepared him for the current ask of bringing the Seahawks into their new era. He likely will with time, but all McGrath wanted to know after UNC beat UNCW 34-22 was how the Tar Heels managed to shoot 65 percent from the floor.

“I told my wife after the game, ‘I’ve been waiting 14 years to see Carolina shoot like that,’” said McGrath. “And I wish it wasn’t against us in that last scrimmage.”

McGrath is not the only member of UNCW’s staff who has ties to the UNC program. Assistant coach Joe Wolf played at UNC with Michael Jordan in the 1980s, while fellow assistant Jackie Manuel won a national title as a player in 2005 under Williams and McGrath.

Wolf and Manuel give McGrath two assistants who have lived “The Carolina Way,” which is the root of the philosophies McGrath has installed at UNCW. It will not be UNC 2.0 – McGrath is his own man and will coach his own way, but UNC is and always will be in the DNA of the “McGrath Way.”

“Coach McGrath and I have known each other 14 years,” said Manuel at UNCW’s Media Day earlier this year. “And to have people on your staff that know exactly how you want to do things; it makes the transition for [McGrath] a lot easier. There’s things he doesn’t have to say and we just connect on because of our Carolina ties.”

Like Smith hiring Williams, who hired McGrath, it could be Manuel one day hiring a Seahawk to be an assistant on his potential staff if he becomes a head coach. That’s how the Carolina family works, so there’s no reason to believe the Seahawk family will be any different under McGrath.

Nothing illuminated that more than Sunday when coaches and programs came together as a reminder how the bonds forged in Chapel Hill can extend far and wide across the state.

Assistant Sports Editor Brandon Sans can be found on Twitter @bsans10. Any tips or suggestions should be forwarded via email to For video updates from The Seahawk, subscribe to our YouTube channel.