When I spoke to people associated with North Carolina back during the summer, or anybody close to the program in the preseason, they were consistently optimistic that P.J. Hairston would, at some point, play for the Tar Heels this year.

They knew those rental cars were questionable.

They knew he probably messed up.

But they thought, for whatever reason, that Hairston would be back.

Fast-forward to Saturday afternoon, here at the Mohegan Sun, where the Tar Heels beat Richmond 82-72 in the semifinals of the Hall of Fame Tip-Off, and I can tell you that the tone, if nothing else, surrounding Hairston's situation has changed. Nothing is official, of course. And trying to predict exactly what the NCAA will do is almost always, at best, a guessing-game. But there's no denying that optimism has waned as it pertains to Hairston.

With this in mind, I asked UNC coach Roy Williams a very simple question.

I asked if he thinks he'll ever coach Hairston again.

"I think I will," he said. "There's no doubt in my mind that I think I will. But I don't know."

To understand the weight of that quote you need to understand that Williams would never rule anything out until it's officially ruled out. He's forever positive and hopeful. But it should be noted that even the Hall of Fame coach has changed his position since the preseason. Back then, Williams admittedly seemed unsure about how much time Hairston might miss, but he never publicly entertained the idea that Hairston would not play for the Tar Heels again. Now, Williams acknowledges, that he just doesn't know, and that public uncertainty can be interpreted as serious doubt.