The mutual respect between Roy Williams and Kyrie Irving is strong enough that the North Carolina coach feels comfortable joking that he has two reasons to hate the Duke-bound point guard.
Of course, the first is that Irving selected Duke over Williams' Tar Heels last year. And the second is that his transfer to Dexter Strickland's school two years ago prevented the current North Carolina sophomore from getting the experience he needed at point guard as a high school senior.
"I'm really mad at Kyrie," Williams told ZagsBlog.com last week. "I don't like Kyrie. I do laugh at that and say that with tongue in cheek."
Williams was under the impression that Strickland would play the point his senior year at St. Patrick, but when Irving transferred in from Montclair (N.J.) Kimberley, he played the point and Strickland stayed at the two. The duo led the Celtics to the 2009 New Jersey Tournament of Champions title, their third in four years.
"[St. Patrick coach] Kevin Boyle was going to play Dexter at the point his senior year and Dexter's never played the point and I thought that's what he was going to be in college," Williams said.
Williams was clearly kidding around, yet there's a kernel of truth to the idea that Irving's transfer limited Strickland's development. After receiving limited playing time as a freshman backing up struggling Larry Drew Jr. at point guard, Strickland will likely move over to backup shooting guard to make room for incoming freshman Kendall Marshall.
If North Carolina fans are looking for a third reason to dislike Irving, one glimpse at this DraftExpress video from the walk-up to this past spring's McDonald's All-American game should suffice. A smiling Irving poked fun at his North Carolina-bound teammates by bringing up which team was playing for a national championship and which team finished 11th in the ACC.
"I was proud of North Carolina this season," Irving joked, voice dripping with sarcasm. "They had a tremendous season. It was amazing to watch them on TV. They played so hard every night. They put on a show every night for me when they lost by 30, 25, 40, 15. You guys got rolling at the end of the season. It was amazing."
Irving and the Blue Devils visit North Carolina on March 5 next season. You can bet Chapel Hill will be ready with a warm welcome.