For five weeks now, North Carolina coach Roy Williams has been mostly silent.
On June 7, when police said they seized a gun, nine rounds of ammunition and less than a half-ounce of marijuana from a GMC Yukon being driven by UNC guard P.J. Hairston, Williams' response -- that the program was aware of the issue and would wait for the "appropriate facts" to surface before it decided to do anything -- was issued through a spokesman. Later, in his only public remarks on the matter, Williams said the summer schedule allowed him to take his time and truly wait until "all the information comes out."
In the five weeks since, the fallout from Hairston's arrest has intensified. Eventually, USA Today Sports tracked down rental receipts for the vehicle Hairston was driving, and another when he was ticketed in May, both of which were rented to the last known address of Haydn "Fats" Thomas, a convicted felon.
The receipts -- one of which totaled $5,717.47 in two extended rental periods spanning nearly three months -- created more questions than answers. Initially, Thomas denied knowing Hairston or being a UNC booster and said the Yukon was borrowed by his friend, Miykael Faulcon, the day of the arrest. Why was another vehicle (rented by Catinia Farrington, whose address matched Thomas') being driven by Hairston a month earlier? The story of these rentals, and of the connections therein, remains incomplete. But nothing about it looks good.
Even then, Williams was quiet. Last we saw him, he was being sweatily pestered on his daily jog by a local TV news reporter, whom he politely and efficiently referred to UNC's media relations staff. That was it, and the questions -- even things as simple as Hairston's current status with the team, to say nothing of what UNC had found out about the whole mess -- remained unanswered.
On Monday, Williams finally spoke -- sort of.
Williams' statement, issued via email through UNC's media relations staff, is new in at least one way: It addresses the Hairston issues head on, and describes the meetings Williams has held with the player. It also promises consideration of "serious consequences," including discussion of "the idea of suspending P.J." Currently, Williams said, Hairston is not enrolled in summer school and is not practicing with the team (and "we have no games until November," which, thanks for the reminder), conditions which make it easier for Williams to essentially maintain the line he has taken all along: That nothing will happen until the "process is complete."
Despite the lack of public comment to date, Williams is clearly aware of the mess that Hairston's traffic stop catalyzed:
"Other issues have been written about recently that are disturbing and bother me deeply. Our basketball program is based on great ideals and these issues are embarrassing. These are not common in my 10 years as head coach at UNC and they will all be dealt with harshly and appropriately at the correct time to ensure that our program will not be compromised."
Going forward, that is the biggest minefield North Carolina has to traverse. It's not so much that Hairston made the just-downright-awful decision to drive around with bud and a gun; were those the only issues here, he could be suspended or dismissed with little fanfare. UNC would miss its leading scorer next season, but it would cope, and that would be the end of it.
No, it's the rental cars, not only the Yukon but the earlier rental Hairston was ticketed in, that are the issue here. If the NCAA -- which has refused to comment, saying it doesn't talk about "potential investigations" -- somehow summons the enforcement manpower in time to unearth a clear connection between Hairston's status as a UNC basketball player and his ability to transport himself in expensive rental cars, the resulting investigation and ruling could be felt long after Hairston's on-court abilities are forgotten.
It is that possibility that must truly frighten Williams and UNC. Any agony over whether Hairston will play for the Tar Heels this season feels laughably minor by comparison.
Here is Williams' full statement:
“I initially decided not to make a statement about PJ [Hairston] until the legal process had been finalized. I believe that is the fair way that everyone should be treated and is the way of our country.
PJ and I have had several discussions already and he knows he has made serious mistakes and there will be serious consequences as a result. Certainly the idea of suspending PJ has been discussed. However, he is not currently enrolled in summer school, is not practicing with the team and we have no games until November. There are several options available in terms of discipline but we are going to wait until the process is complete to decide on those options.
Other issues have been written about recently that are disturbing and bother me deeply. Our basketball program is based on great ideals and these issues are embarrassing. These are not common in my 10 years as head coach at UNC and they will all be dealt with harshly and appropriately at the correct time to ensure that our program will not be compromised.
We will care about each individual but there will be serious actions taken that will fix these issues. I take pride in our values and how we have conducted ourselves for a long time here at Carolina and this time will pass but it will be dealt with strongly.
We are talking about a program that has been a model of success on and off the court and it will be again. I want to thank our fans for their patience, understanding and support.”