Adam Lucas first interviewed long-time Tar Heels radio play-by-play announcer Woody Durham when Lucas was a teenager.
“In high school, I was assigned to do a biographical paper on someone I thought was important,’’ said Lucas, now the publisher of Tar Heel Monthly and author of six books about North Carolina athletics. “While everybody else was doing Abraham Lincoln or someone like that, I did Woody Durham.”
So naturally, Lucas was thrilled when Durham, who retired in 2011 after serving four decades and calling more than 1,800 football and basketball games as “The Voice of the Tar Heels,” chose Lucas to co-author his book, “Woody Durham: A Tar Heel Voice”.
“I’ve always been a big Woody Durham fan, and he’s been a big part of my Tar Heel life. And who in that world would not want to hear Woody tell 40 years worth of stories?” Lucas said.
Durham and Lucas met between 20 and 25 times -- and for a couple of hours on each occasion -- as Durham recalled favorite moments with coaches and players, key games, and important stories he witnessed first-hand in UNC athletics history.
The memoir will be officially released in early September, although it is already available online at Amazon.com.
I recently caught up with Lucas to preview the book:
Q: As a guy who first interviewed Woody Durham back in high school and has known him for a number of years, what was the one question you wanted to get answered in this book?
A: Well, I think especially at the time we were doing this, everybody wanted to ask him how this retirement thing happened, and what the order of succession was supposed to be. I was personally interested in that. Beyond that, in a broader area, I’ve always wanted to know what his relationship with Coach [Dean] Smith was like, just because they did work together for so long. And Coach Smith was not exactly an open book, so to be able to talk to somebody that had such access to him for such a long period of time was interesting to get a more full portrait of a man that was obviously very important to the Carolina world.
Q: What was the most interesting story he told to you?
A: I think some of the stories he told of going on the road with the basketball team, and especially in an era where there were some different rules about how close you could get to those players. There was a time when Woody and [his wife] Jean could have Mitch Kupchack over for dinner, and that was no big deal. That was something he did just to be friendly.
… And some of the overseas trips -- at one time, the basketball team was going overseas to some crazy places a lot. I love the story Woody told about going to practice on an air base in Germany, and Coach Smith told his team that they would stay there until they signed every autograph, and this was on Christmas. He said, ‘You’re here, making these people’s Christmas, and you’re going to stay here and sign every autograph.’ It was nice to see another side of Carolina basketball.
On the football side, I had never realized how close Tom Osborne had come to being Carolina’s football coach.
Q: What else might surprise people?
A: I think readers will want to hear Woody talk about Wes [his son], and whether Wes was ever interested in being the next Carolina radio voice. Everybody has been really pleased with how Jones [Angell, who replaced Durham on the airwaves] has done, but there was that week or so where people thought it would be Wes. So I think just reading how that all unfolded will be interesting to people.
Q: Why should people want to read this book?
A: I don’t think it’s just Woody’s story, it’s the story of 40 years of Carolina athletics. He was there for everything that happened over the last 40 years, and that’s what interested me, even moreso than Woody’s story. For 40 years of Carolina athletics, he was the only one who was there for all of it -- football and basketball. And there was a lot of stuff that happened in the last 40 years, especially the last 10 or 15. So reading his perspective on this, I think, is something you can’t get anywhere else.
Follow Robbi Pickeral on Twitter at @bylinerp.