Fan’s passion project becomes key to Carolina basketball

By Chapel Fowler

In the spring of 2016, North Carolina made its first Final Four in seven years — and Chris Gallo ran into a problem.

He’d long been interested in not just sports, but how they worked. As a teenager, Gallo would dig through college football stats for fun during bowl season. Baseball sabermetrics intrigued him, and he was a longtime user of

So, naturally, he wanted to do the same with UNC basketball. How did this team — led by seniors Marcus Paige and Brice Johnson and rising stars Joel Berry II and Justin Jackson — compare to the 2005 championship team? Or the 2009 team? Or, for that matter, any other year?

“I really enjoyed that season, and I wanted to reference it,” said Gallo, a 2009 UNC graduate. “And I found it just really difficult to locate any old box score. It wasn’t that the information wasn’t available. It just wasn’t as easy as I thought it should be.”

Almost three years later, Dadgum Box Scores — the website Gallo created to compile just that — has flourished into something he never could have imagined.

It’s a two-part system. On, he lists each and every box score — 580, as of Wednesday — since Roy Williams became North Carolina’s head coach. The games are easily filterable: by year, by opponent, by location. There’s a separate page to track referees for each game.

And on Twitter, @dadgumboxscores provides something no other account does: immediate replays. Choose any big moment from UNC basketball this year, and Gallo has probably tweeted a GIF of it, within minutes of the play actually happening.

He also writes blog posts, produces infographics and edits longer videos. Gallo, now 32, has rapidly turned Dadgum Box Scores into an essential account for UNC basketball fans and media. Not bad for something that began as “purely a passion project.”

“To be honest,” he said, “I didn’t have a ton of expectations.”

Big things have small beginnings

Dadgum Box Scores took around a month to build from scratch. Gallo, who lives in Charlotte, chipped away at the site during nights and weekends. His day job — customer operations for Zipline, a company that helps retail brands communicate — still tookpriority.

From the start, he wanted his project to have a narrow focus. That meant immediately accepting that he wasn’t going to create a massive “encyclopedia of Carolina basketball.” Starting with the 2003-04 season worked for a few reasons. Finding box scores from earlier seasons was a challenge. Plus, lining up the project with Williams’ first year coaching UNC just made sense.

“A clean break and good starting point,” Gallo said.

Then, he had to choose a name, so he kept it simple. Williams has long been known for swapping curse words for euphemisms: “Jiminy Christmas,” “frickin’,” “blankety-blank.” Gallo took the most prominent one — and his personal favorite, as a longtime North Carolina resident — and popped it into the title.

His one hesitation? Spelling. With no universal style for dadgum, Gallo flirted with the possibility of using two G’s in the title. When he purchased his domain name, he even bought, just to be safe.

But one G has worked out just fine. Gallo debuted Dadgum Box Scores right before the 2016-17 season started. As North Carolina went 33-7 and won its sixth NCAA championship, Gallo was there to log every game.

On the side, he wrote occasional blog posts, breaking down advanced stats in a digestible way. He also collaborated with Adrian Atkinson, the creator of The Secondary Break, another UNC analytics site, in an effort to get more eyes on his project.

And then, on Nov. 10, 2017, Gallo struck gold.

Getting a jump on the competition

His wife Katrina was out of town that weekend, leaving Gallo home alone and bored. UNC was opening its season that night against Northern Iowa, so he had a full setup: the game streaming on his TV, the game streaming on his laptop and the Tar Heel Sports Network radio broadcast, his preferred way of listening, playing in the background.

“Since the radio is sometimes a touch faster, I could understand what was going to happen before,” Gallo said. “Which, for most people, is a frustrating thing. But for me, it worked out.”

He had a realization — that brief TV delay was his friend. If radio announcers Jones Angell and Eric Montross could alert him of a play a few seconds early, Gallo could be ready to screen-record it, convert it and post it within minutes.

On Nov. 11, he tweeted his first in-game GIFs. It’s taken off from there.

For the past two seasons, Gallo has been documenting the layups of Berry and the passes of Theo Pinson, the post jumpers of Luke Maye and the 3-pointers of Cameron Johnson. He’ll highlight smaller things, too: a good defensive possession by Kenny Williams, the first career points of reserve Walker Miller. It’s gotten to the point where followers, familiar with his work, will ask: “Did you grab this?”

“A lot of people think that analytics is just about numbers,” Gallo said. “A lot of it’s about video. I really think that’s the future of it. You’ve got to see what’s going on.”

Noticing the Dadgum difference

Dadgum Box Scores has also become a go-to resource for UNC media. Take Tuesday night as an example. When Nassir Little threw down an inbounds alley-oop from Coby White, giving UNC a 75-52 lead over Boston College, the game’s online play-by-play reflected just that.

But Gallo’s GIF revealed what happened right afterward on the broadcast: a slow zoom onto the face of Jim Christian, the Eagles’ head coach, who stood motionless, hands on his hips, deadpanning as his team’s deficit reached 23 points.

“When you can actually see it yourself, you’re able to process the play and get it to your readers in a much clearer way,” said Chris Hilburn-Trenkle, the sports editor of the Daily Tar Heel. “It’s easy visuals.”

“It’s one thing to say that Carolina scored a season-high 62 points in the paint,” Atkinson said. “But pairing that insight with a clip of several plays in which Carolina created paint chances can help provide the context behind the statistic.”

“If you’re trying to remember one specific play, there’s like a nine in 10 chance he has it up there,” said Sam Doughton, the editor-in-chief of Argyle Report.

When he talks about Dadgum Box Scores, Gallo likes to credit others. Atkinson, for helping him grow an audience. The UNC athletic communications department, for giving him his first behind-the-scenes look at sports (he interned there during and after his undergraduate career in Chapel Hill). And the men’s basketball team itself, for getting “pretty damn good,” to the point where people wanted to follow it fanatically.

“I’m not going to be the smartest one online,” Gallo said, “but I do want to try to contribute and be useful.”

With Dadgum Box Scores, he’s done just that.

Edited by Johnny Sobczak

UNC-Chapel Hill students stand out as color-coordinated twins

By Chapel Fowler

Under Armour Havocs, with high tops and white laces. Golf caps, bought five years ago when the 2014 U.S Open came to their hometown of Pinehurst, N.C. Google Pixel 2 XL smartphones, with identical plastic cases.

Matthew and Luke Wheeler have fallen into this habit for years. As identical twins, it’s easy for them to buy and wear the same thing. And it makes gift buying a breeze.

But, when it comes to the Wheelers’ accessories, there’s one blatant difference: the color. Everything of Matthew’s is green. Everything of Luke’s is red.

For the past two years, this has turned the Wheelers into campus celebrities of sorts at UNC, where they’re both sophomore computer science majors.

They call it “color coding.” You can call it whatever you want. Just know it’s not for you, or professors, or attention, or anyone or anything else.

“We don’t necessarily do it to help other people,” Matthew said. “I do it because I like green.”

“And I like red,” Luke said.

The contrast is most evident when they’re together, which they almost always are. Matthew in green shoes and his green hat; Luke in red shoes and his red hat.

Color-Coded Beginnings

Their color preferences go back to elementary school, when the Wheelers had a brief and unsuccessful run in a rec basketball league. But ahead of the season, their parents let them pick out shoes. Matthew chose green, and Luke chose red.

They’ve been wearing color-coordinated basketball shoes ever since. The Wheelers were longtime Nike customers, but when they outgrew their last pair, they couldn’t find new ones of their preferred size and color. Thus, the switch to Under Armour.

“In middle school, people started mentioning, ‘Oh, just remember them by their shoes,’” Matthew said. “So it kind of gave us an excuse to say, ‘Hey, I want green shoes.’”

“It was a self-fulfilling system,” Luke said.

At West Pine Middle School, Matthew and Luke took an extracurricular class called Future City. In the program, students work on designing and creating their own miniature city dioramas. Their teacher, Ms. Hippenmeyer, had trouble telling them apart — even with the shoes.

So she came up with nicknames: Mint Matthew and Lava Luke.

The Wheelers still use them to this day. They even have them printed on clothing — thanks to a longtime tradition of their high school speech and debate team.

Every year, juniors at Pinecrest High School are tasked with getting gifts for departing seniors. When Matthew and Luke were seniors in 2017, a junior named Caleb printed their nicknames onto red and green T-shirts for them.

The words are in a collegiate font, white and bold and in the center of the shirts. Matthew and Luke keep them in their closets on the fourth floor of Cobb Residence Hall, where they room together. The shirts have very specific washing instructions, so they don’t get much use — except for special occasions, like the first day of classes.

“It usually spikes during the start of the school year,” Luke said. “People say, ‘Are you doing Mario and Luigi?’ Those kind of things. And then people just get kind of used to it.”

As Matthew is quick to point out, that Mario and Luigi nickname doesn’t even hold up well. Both sets of brothers have the same initials — M and L — but their colors are swapped. Mint Matthew doesn’t line up with the red Mario, and Lava Luke conflicts with the green Luigi. (The Wheelers are also identical twins; Mario and Luigi are just fraternal).

“For people who aren’t going to know us well, it’s fine,” Luke said. “But if you’re going to know us, it probably helps to not think that. If you remember us as ‘Mario and Luigi — but not,’ I guess that works.”

Campus Celebrities

Save for a few recitations, the Wheelers have had near-identical class schedules. Matthew and Luke’s colors usually don’t matter in large, impersonal lecture classes. But they have helped people differentiate between the two in smaller ones — except for a Spanish class last semester, where they think their professor was colorblind.

The coordination extends to basically everything the Wheelers do. Sophomore Casey Quam remembers the twins introducing themselves as Mint Matthew and Lava Luke on the first day of LFIT 110, a beginning swimming course. They wore red and green swim trunks and goggles the entire semester.

“It was definitely something neat to tell friends about, and we never forgot who was who,” Quam said. “It’s been fun to see them walking around campus since then and see that they’ve kept it up.”

Matthew and Luke’s commitment to green and red isn’t hard and fast, though. They only own a few T-shirts in each color and one pair of gym shorts. No pants or socks. Matthew’s been trying to find a green jacket. Luke can’t track down a red Yankees hat for the life of him.

Their usual coordination — just hats and shoes — pales in comparison to sophomore Benjamin Davis, who has dressed head to toe in yellow since the first day of his freshman year.

Ironically, Matthew and Luke lived just one floor under Davis last year at Graham Residence Hall. They’ve never met, but Davis(known as the Yellow Guy) said the Wheelers’ color choice is “amazing.”

“I think it’s beautiful,” he said. “I love that we have this culture where everyone can just have their own individual thing and somehow get recognized for it.”

Colors aside, the Wheelers are huge fans of video games. Luke plays “Overwatch” on UNC’s official team within Tespa, a college esports organization. Matthew is a bit more casual, sticking to some “Super Smash Bros” or “Dungeons & Dragons” on the side.

Looking (and Color-Coordinating) Ahead

Ideally, they’d work within North Carolina and in the same area after graduation. Both aspire for a job in programming, like their older brother John, or even better, in video game design.

If their offices have a formal dress code, Matthew and Luke have a solution: green and red ties, just like they wore in speech and debate tournaments. Even if they don’t live or work near each other, they still think the coordination can live on.

“It’s just our favorite color,” Luke said. “So it’s technically independent of the other one.”

Until then, they plan on rooming together and wearing their respective colors for the rest of college. They’ll keep walking around campus, almost step for step, and eating similar food in Lenoir Dining Hall: burgers, chicken nuggets and especially fries.

Matthew and Luke haven’t heard any negative comments yet. More frequently, a student will approach them and admit: “Hey, I’ve got to at least talk to you once.” Some will swear they’ve seen the Wheelers, who are sophomores, around campus for the last three years.

Matthew and Luke both find that claim hilarious. As they laugh and smile, they reveal the braces they wear. When those braces were put on about two years ago, each twin was offered a selection of rubber band colors.

You’ll never guess what Mint Matthew and Lava Luke chose.

Edited by Johnny Sobczak