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May 22, 2017

Mike Fox

Louisville, Kentucky

MIKE FOX: Well, yeah, we're excited to be where we are at this point in the season. I had a good run through the league, so now here comes, obviously, the bigger picture. So we're excited to be going to the tournament. We played pretty consistently all season. The biggest difference, I think, for us from the past couple years is we've been much better defensively. We've won more close games than we've done in the past. We're a veteran team, and only had one or two freshmen on the field. So J.B.'s obviously had a tremendous year here for us, and Josh Hiatt has probably been our biggest surprise from not pitching last year to doing so well at the end of games for us this year.

Offensively, we've gotten contributions from just about everybody throughout our lineup, pretty much all season long. We haven't relied on one or two players, and that's -- I think that's been the difference in us offensively from the previous years.

Q. Obviously you've played a number of tournament games in the home state. How big an advantage is it to have that kind of crowd behind you? How big of an advantage can that be for Louisville this week?
MIKE FOX: Oh, yeah, that's always an advantage playing close to home and not having to travel and kind of keeping your normal routine. I would expect Louisville to have great crowd. You know, when they play, certainly, a great program, and I think they get tremendous support. So we'll see. But it's always an advantage, certainly, to play in front of your home fans.

Q. When you look at the new format, coaches have mentioned it rewards a strong regular season and gets a lot of teams in. But how big an advantage is it to be in the spot you're in where you kind of get to sit back and figure out who you need to beat and how that all plays out?
MIKE FOX: Yeah, it is a different format. I think I've said before, it does two or three things that I think most of our league and coaches wanted, which was to expand the field, not tax your pitching and not have to play five games to win it. Things of that nature. So, you know, it sets up for us to be able to throw Tyler Baum on Wednesday and hopefully keep our rotation after that, the weekend, like it's been. So it sets up well for us.

Q. This is kind of an off-topic question, but doing a story on volunteer assistant coaches at different schools and things like that, what the value that position had. It's also difficult because of the financial piece. What has been your history with it, and how have you kind of viewed that role? At what point do you think that eventually becomes a paid position? I know there's been some push there to get that third paid coach?
MIKE FOX: Yeah, I mean, our volunteer position is extremely important, and it is at a lot of schools. It's that third assistant that we really need with the 35-man roster. As most people have noted, the coach-player ratio in baseball is the lowest, I should say in the NCAA. So that was why there was a push for the third paid assistant.

Typically for us, our volunteers have been former players who have come back and wanted to get into coaching, and they've rotated out for us anywhere from two to four years. Scott Forbes, our assistant, was a volunteer for four years. That's the most I've been able to hold on to one. They do full-time work for us. I don't know about at other places, but for us, they're there every day. It becomes, obviously, a challenge to make ends meet and try to pay them through your camps, et cetera. They work full-time for us as well as I'm sure other schools. I hope at some point we'll get a third paid assistant and not lose a volunteer, since we don't have graduate assistant coaches anymore in baseball.

Q. You added Robert Woodard to your staff after he had spent a little time at Virginia Tech, and obviously you're very familiar with him from his playing days. What has his work been like, and why did you add him?
MIKE FOX: Well, he's been a tremendous addition to our staff. Obviously we changed roles with him taking over pitching and Scott Forbes going back to the offensive side, which he hadn't done in a while, but he'd done at Winthrop. But Robert has brought a different aspect. He's got more of an analytical mind in that regard. He kind of brought in that aspect of using TrackMan and data. That's why we have done a lot of shifting this year on our infield. But it was a pretty easy decision for me, just because of his history at UNC and just being a winner. You know, he's young. He's got a great mind, great pitching mind, and it's worked out well for us.

Q. What kind of a future in coaching do you see for him? You mentioned the analytics, and obviously his actual experience. What kind of future do you see for him?
MIKE FOX: Oh, I think one day he'll be a head coach. At least I hope he will. I think that's his ultimate goal to be a head coach. He's, obviously put in his dues and continues to put in his dues. Once he got out of pro ball, I think that's -- out of playing pro ball, I think that's what he wanted to do. Of course, this is from Wilmington to Virginia Tech to North Carolina, he's hopefully laying a good foundation for himself. I think ultimately that's where he'll end up.

Q. What do you think he learned from that Virginia Tech experience? And what did he take away or how did he react to kind of the way it ended?
MIKE FOX: We haven't talked very much about that. I think you learn every stop, every place you go, you learn just different things. Whether it's different people, whether it's admissions, how different schools do things, and I think experience is the key. I think that's how you learn. Robert is one that he focuses on the positives going forward, and he was excited to come back to UNC. That all just kind of fell in place for him after he had left Virginia Tech and was available. Then obviously Scott Jackson, Bryant Gaines left our program to go to Liberty. So the timing was right for us and for Robert.

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