Berry, Valentine clear the air with respectful pregame meeting

Referee Ted Valentine apologized to UNC's Joel Berry Saturday for a high-profile incident that took place at Florida State earlier this month

Referee Ted Valentine and UNC point guard Joel Berry made up with one another before Saturday's game against Georgia Tech at Smith Center (Matt Cashore/USA TODAY Sports)

CHAPEL HILL — The last time Joel Berry and Ted Valentine were together, Valentine made headlines by turning his back when the North Carolina captain tried to talk to him during a game at Florida State.

Saturday at Smith Center, the referee college basketball fans know as TV Teddy sought Berry out to have a conversation with him.

The two got together before the Tar Heels’ 87-79 win against Georgia Tech to clear the air and in Valentine’s case, apologize for an incident that created a social media stir and led to the official being disciplined by the ACC.

Not that Berry felt that apology was necessary.

“He was just telling me that I have always had respect for him on the court as a ref and that I deserved to get that back a little bit,” Berry said when asked after the game about the meeting. “That’s all he said. He apologized and made sure there was nothing wrong between us.

“I told him it’s all good. It was in the heat of the moment. At the end of the day, you’re still human. Sometimes we do things that are emotional and do things that we look back on and kind of regret.”

The incident in question took place with 7½ minutes remaining in a game the Tar Heels would eventually lose 81-80.

With UNC trailing by three, Berry was held by Florida State’s Terance Mann as he ran down court on a fastbreak, preventing him from catching up to an outlet pass from teammate Theo Pinson. The ball went out of bounds for a turnover.

When play stopped and the teams headed to their respective benches for a TV timeout, Berry picked up the ball and calmly walked toward Valentine, who was standing on the baseline. As the senior guard approached, the ref turned his back and defiantly crossed his arms across his chest as if to say he wasn’t interested in what Berry had to say.

Although both Berry and UNC coach Roy Williams downplayed the incident when it happened, Williams did admit that the incident “looked bad.” It quickly took on a life of its own when video of the standoff went viral.

“I had no hard feelings for him from the start,” Berry said. “It just happens. That’s part of life and, like I said, you regret some of the things you do. He apologized and I really appreciate that.”

UNC’s Pinson said he was close enough to hear what was going on between his teammate and the high-profile official. But he was also far enough away that he was still able to have a little fun with the situation.

“I was back there clapping behind them, going ‘Yea, yea, they did it. That’s good,’” Pinson said. “It was funny to me. I’m just glad it’s out of the way now.”

Once the game started, it was business as usual for everyone involved — although Valentine and Berry did figure into one high-profile play that resulted in a technical foul being called.

It happened after Georgia Tech’s Jose Alvarado was called for a foul while trying to block Berry’s shot as he drove to the basket with about three minutes remaining and the Tar Heels leading 70-62.

Unhappy with the call, Alvarado stepped directly over Berry. Although he didn’t appear to make contract with the downed Tar Heel, Berry reacted angrily, causing a momentarily scuffle for which Valentine hit Alvarado with a technical.

Berry made three of his four free throws to help his team open up a double-digit lead.

“I don’t like people stepping over me, and I told him ‘watch where you’re stepping,’” Berry said of Alvarado. “At the moment I was heated, but I realized that if I did something Coach was going to get on me. It was just a little disrespectful.”