Wednesday, January 29, 2014
Tar Heels navigate Atlanta gridlock
By C.L. Brown
North Carolina has had enough problems with ACC road games without adding travel to the equation. The Tar Heels came out flat in losses at Wake Forest and Virginia when their trips were uninterrupted.
In preparation for Wednesday night's game at Georgia Tech, the Heels arrived in Atlanta on Tuesday night just in time to experience firsthand how an ice and snow mix shut down the city. It could have been worse.
Despite a winter storm that caused massive traffic problems in Atlanta on Tuesday, the Heels were able to -- finally -- make it to their hotel.
UNC's departing charter flight was delayed almost two hours, according to the school’s sports information director, Steve Kirschner, and the Heels landed around 11 p.m. ET. The problem came with getting from the airport to the hotel. The bus that was supposed to transport the team was stuck in interstate gridlock.
“And had been stuck for four hours and was still 10 miles away from the airport,” Kirschner said. “They called us about a half hour after that and had gone about one mile. So just doing the math, it didn’t look very good for when we thought we’d be able to get to the hotel.”
It took some coordination between Delta airlines officials, UNC director of basketball operations Brad Frederick and assorted staff to secure vans to take the team from a charter hangar to the main airport terminal, where the team could take the city's MARTA train.
Kirschner said the train dropped the team off several blocks from the hotel.
“It was 1:30 in the morning and you’ve got 10 or 12 people in Carolina sweatsuits and jackets and (carrying) bags,” Kirschner said.
There weren’t any cars on the street, but there were other people who also had to trek through the snow to reach their destinations. Kirschner said they received unexpected well-wishes from passersby.
The Heels might need a little luck for their shootaround. As of 10 a.m. ET, they were still waiting to determine whether they would keep their midday shootaround. But the good news for basketball fans is that there are no plans to cancel the game.
Still, travel difficulties could make for a different environment in McCamish Pavilion. The atmosphere might end up being a lot like Tuesday’s LSU-Kentucky game, where the same winter storm that shut down Atlanta caused LSU to have a half-full arena. It was mostly comprised of students, and that’s what the Heels could possibly face Wednesday night.
And the travel (mis)adventures won’t end with playing the Yellow Jackets because the Heels are already confronted with their next question.
“We’re trying to figure out, are we going to be able to get out of here tonight?” Kirschner said.