By Adam Lucas
This, ladies and gentleman, is a very serious story about redemption.
Maybe you don’t remember where you were on November 6, 2015. But Kanler Coker does.
Carolina played Guilford in an exhibition game that day. The Tar Heels were terrific. Six players scored in double figures and Nate Britt had nine assists.
And late in the game, there it was: the Tar Heels were sitting on 98 points. You know what that means. The crowd was chanting, “We want BIS-cuits,” and the starters, long since on the bench, were standing up every time the ball moved close to the basket. Maybe even Roy Williams was smiling a little.
But then it happened.
“I missed,” Coker says, “the biscuit shot.”
That’s right. Coker missed the shot that would’ve given Carolina fans discounted sausage biscuits. He had two free throws with the Tar Heels sitting on 98 points. He made the first one, missed the second. So close, yet so far. It should be noted that exhibition games are not even official biscuit games, but the crowd didn't know that, and neither did Coker.
There were some dark times, such as when he had to pay full price for his Bojangles' products. Look, Dewey Burke can tell you this is a fact: when you are a frequent biscuits provider to UNC basketball fans, you never pay market rate at a Bojangle’s in the greater Triangle area again.
But remember that we told you this is a story about redemption. And so, there was Kanler Coker at the free throw line on Wednesday night. Carolina’s victory over Monmouth had long been assured. But Coker’s victory over the biscuit curse was a significant challenge. (Let’s pause here to acknowledge the speculation that UNC alum King Rice’s slightly heated postgame handshake was because he was miffed about Carolina’s pursuit of the biscuits; that’s not the case—he was miffed about the officials.)
With less than a minute to play and Carolina again sitting on 98 points, Coker was fouled shooting a three-pointer. The crowd of over 20,000 exploded. It was a dream come true. How many times have you shot those exact free throws in your driveway as a child? Bounce the basketball. Eye the rim. These shots…are for the biscuits.
Coker is the Tar Heel who had to bear all that pressure. “I wasn’t blocking it out,” he says. “I knew it was near biscuit time.”
Some men shy away from biscuit time, and some men rise—oh come on, I had to—to meet biscuit time. And some men are like freshman Brandon Robinson, who heard the swelling noise and said to Coker, “Hey Kanler, no pressure.”
Coker had three free throws. He had to make two to provide regional delicacies for an entire fan base. The first one, of course, was the key. “The first one helps,” he admits. And he got the roll on the first one, which made the next two seem much easier. If that first one had rolled off, well, luckily, we’ll never have to confront that reality.
Coker, who began his Carolina tenure on the football team before an injury forced him to switch to basketball, can now move on with his life. For Thursday, he is a biscuit celebrity.
“I checked my phone right after the game,” he says. “I had 56 text messages. Last year when it happened and I missed the biscuits shot, I had a bunch of texts, but they were all dogging me.”
That’s the pain he had to live with for over an entire year. “There’s a little bit of redemption there,” he admits.
He was the only man in Chapel Hill who could answer a very pressing question: why do fans go so completely bonkers for biscuits? They aren’t free biscuits. They aren’t even half-price biscuits. They are slightly discounted biscuits, but maybe, my friends, they are more than that. Maybe they are a mark of achievement you carry with you for a lifetime.
Or maybe it’s something else. Coker shrugs the shoulders that had borne the weight of unfulfilled biscuits for a full year. He knew the answer.
“Hey,” he says, “it’s Bojangles'.”