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#pounditFriday, July 1, 2022

Roy Williams’ wife convinced him not to work under Bob Knight

Roy Williams at the podium

Roy Williams is one of the best college basketball coaches ever. But before he became a head coach, he was an assistant at North Carolina under Dean Smith. He even had an opportunity to coach under Bob Knight for a year, but his wife put the kibosh on that consideration very quickly.

L. Jon Wertheim had a very cool story published in Sports Illustrated on Wednesday. The story focused on the unlikely friendship between Knight and Smith. The two coaches were friendly and shared coaching advice with each other despite their differences and despite coaching rival top schools.

The trust between the two men was so strong that Knight sought help from Smith in adding an assistant coach to his staff. This was back in the ’80s, when Williams was still an assistant but getting a little restless under Smith.

Knight wanted to hire Williams, but that was until Williams’ wife interceded.

From Wertheim’s story:

Smith offered to lend Williams to Knight for a year. Knight would get access to a bright, diligent coach. Williams would get exposure to another program and would likely return energized and with new ideas. Smith was, apparently, unconcerned that Knight would try to poach Williams. Knight was, apparently, unconcerned that Williams would return with trade secrets.

Williams went home to bounce the idea off his wife, Wanda. She had just read John Feinstein’s A Season on the Brink, which portrayed Knight as both a basketball genius and an emotionally turbulent bully. “She said, ‘Are you serious?’” Williams recalls. He graciously declined the sabbatical.

Well that took care of that.

Williams left after 10 seasons as an assistant under Smith to become the head coach at Kansas. He coached the Jayhawks for 15 seasons before returning to UNC to coach them for 18 seasons.

Williams eventually passed Smith for career victories. He won three championships, made nine Final Fours, and received two AP Coach of the Year Awards. The College Basketball Hall of Famer retired after last season. He seemed to have plenty of success without ever working under Knight.

Photo: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

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