CHARLOTTE — Mack Brown will be the first to tell you that he is a big fan of Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney.
“I don’t like Dabo Swinney, I love Dabo Swinney,” the North Carolina head coach said Thursday at the ACC Football Kickoff at the Westin Charlotte. “Wish we didn’t have to play him, but I love him.”
Brown, who is beginning his second stint at UNC after five years as an ESPN analyst, just so happens to have a close relationship with two of the most important people in Swinney’s life – Woody McCorvey, a longtime Clemson administrator and former Alabama assistant coach, and Gene Stallings, a former Alabama head coach whom Swinney played for.
Thus, through those two, Brown has developed a bond with Swinney.
“Dabo and I have been great friends for a long time,” Brown said. “I’ve known Woodrow McCorvey since he was a secondary coach at Pensacola, Florida, and I was at Southern Miss, and just love Woodrow. If I need something, if I need advice, I’m going to call Woodrow McCorvey. Coach Stallings is a dear friend of mine. He’s one of the best friends I’ve got, and they kind of took me and put me with Dabo.”
Going into his first full season as Clemson’s head coach in 2009, Swinney actually traveled to Texas with his staff to learn how Brown ran things when he was at the helm of the Longhorns program. Brown would go on to play Alabama in the national championship game that season.
When he looks at Swinney’s program now, Brown sees similarities to the program he built at Texas as well as the one he is overseeing now in Chapel Hill.
“When Dabo took the job, he came out to Texas with his whole staff and spent three or four days,” Brown said. “The two programs are run pretty much alike. There’s not much difference. We will do the things Dabo’s doing.”
Brown has been impressed by Swinney from the start and believes he is very deserving of the 10-year, $93 million contract he was rewarded with this spring after winning his second national title in the last three seasons.
“The other thing that really caught my attention when Dabo first took the job – he took a lot less salary so his assistant coaches could make a lot more. Nobody does that,” Brown said. “And then when they paid him the  million dollars or whatever it was a few weeks ago, I actually texted him and said, ‘You know what, you got paid in full because you took care of your assistant coaches in your first year, and now it’s come to full fruition.’”
Brown and Swinney will meet up this season when the Tar Heels take on the Tigers on Sept. 28 in Chapel Hill.
Brown, who previously served as UNC’s head coach from 1988-97, admitted he is not looking forward to that matchup with Swinney’s talented bunch, as fond as he is of Clemson’s head man.
“And I am excited about hosting them? Absolutely not,” he said. “Nobody would want to play those suckers. Dabo heard the rumor that I might come back, and he texted and said, ‘Are you really going to go back to North Carolina?’ And I said, ‘Only if I can appeal to the NCAA not to play you.’ And it didn’t work.”