Roy Williams’ allegiances are not as divided as one might think for Monday’s national championship game.
Williams coached both Kansas and North Carolina during his Hall of Fame career, but he does not have to think hard about who he would prefer to win Monday. A North Carolina native and graduate, Williams admitted to USA TODAY’s Scott Gleeson that while he is fond of Kansas, he’s rooting hard for the Tar Heels.
“It’s an unusual game for me,” Williams told Gleeson. “They’re the first two schools I check on. I always root for Kansas to win if it’s not against North Carolina. I don’t know how to even feel. I’ve decided I’m not rooting for Kansas to play poorly or bad or to lose. I just want North Carolina to play great, and I feel like that’s pretty reasonable.
“I look at this Kansas team and I really enjoy them. I have love for the program. But with North Carolina, my (allegiance) is quite thicker and deeper because it’s a school where I went, where I was an assistant there and it’s where my family all went. So it’s an easy decision on that front but having ties to both does lead to some (inner) conflict.”
Williams coached in national title games for both schools, though he lost both of his appearances with Kansas. He left for North Carolina in 2003 and wound up winning three titles there.
This is Williams’ first year watching March Madness from the sidelines following his retirement as North Carolina’s coach in 2021. At the time of his departure, Williams predicted that his successor would do even better than he had. The former coach will clearly be rooting for that prediction to be proven correct on Monday.
Photo: Mar 28, 2019; Kansas City, MO, United States; North Carolina Tar Heels head coach Roy Williams speaks during a press conference for the midwest regional of the 2019 NCAA Tournament at Sprint Center. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports
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
Roy Williams shared a wonderful message on Tuesday as Hubert Davis was introduced as the new head coach at North Carolina.
Davis, a former Tar Heels player, served on Williams’ staff as an assistant coach since 2012. Williams is delighted to pass the program along to Davis.
In the video message, Williams lauded Davis for his “competitiveness” and labeled him an “overachiever” as a basketball player.
“I’ve never known a finer person in my entire life,” Williams said of Davis.
Williams, who won three national championships, says he expects Davis to be even more successful than he was.
“This is hard because I love this program. But you love this program and have the same passion that I do, and you’ll do better than me,” Williams said.
If Davis can match the success Williams had, North Carolina will be in great shape.
Here’s the video:
Roy Williams surprisingly announced on Thursday that he was retiring at the age of 70. There were no real hints that he would be calling it quits, so this was a surprise.
So why did Williams retire? Why now, especially when he won a national championship as recently as 2017? We may have a few ideas.
Williams said in his final words that he no longer felt he was the right man for the job. What makes him feel like he’s no longer right for the job? USA Today’s Dan Wolken tweeted that he was told by someone who knows Williams that the coach had become fed up with the direction of college basketball. Also, that person believed the transfer of Walker Kessler was the final nail in Wiliams’ decision.
One of the big changes recently with college basketball was the addition of the transfer portal. That essentially gave the ability of players to transfer anywhere, at any time, without penalty. Though it is nice to give players this freedom, you have to ask whether this is best for players in the long run. Does running away from adversity rather than fighting through it make someone better? Probably not, but the ability to transfer so readily gives players the easy way out.
Maybe when Williams saw a guy like Kessler leave, he couldn’t take it anymore. Kessler was a McDonald’s All American and didn’t play much for most of his freshman season. But he started to significant minutes over the last month and a half of the season and had five games where he scored in double figures.
Jim Boeheim, who outlasted Syracuse’s attempts to push him out, called Kessler’s transfer decision “crazy.”
Boeheim also was one of the only figures in college basketball who called out Jalen Johnson for quitting on Duke.
Many coaches began and remain in the profession because they enjoy building teams, building programs, building men, and building winners. It’s increasingly more difficult to accomplish any of that when players don’t give you an opportunity and when so many factors in the sport are fighting against that as well. What are some other directional issues? The NBA’s G League is competing with college programs for players too, and even stealing their recruits.
H/T Big Daddy
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski faced off against Roy Williams many times in one of college basketball’s most heated rivalries. On the day of Williams’ retirement, however, Coach K demonstrated just how much he respects his North Carolina counterpart.
Coach K issued a statement after Williams announced his retirement from coaching on Thursday. The Duke coach paid tribute to Williams’ longevity and success, and praised Williams for what he has done for the sport.
“College basketball is losing one of its greatest coaches and a man who genuinely cares about the game of basketball, and more importantly, the people who play it,” Coach K said. “Roy has led two iconic programs as a head coach and did so in exemplary fashion. I have the utmost respect for Roy and his family, who represented themselves and their institutions with class, grace and humility. While were on opposite sides of college basketball’s greatest rivalry, we both understood how lucky we were to be part of it and always tried to represent it in the way it deserved.”
Williams and Krzyzewski treated fans to plenty of memorable Duke-North Carolina games over the years. Ultimately, Coach K got the better of their personal rivalry, going 22-18 against Williams’ Tar Heel teams.
One of the greatest coaches in college basketball history is calling it a career, as Roy Williams has announced his retirement.
Some fans wondered if Williams’ retirement could be an April Fools’ Joke, but the University of North Carolina issued an official press release.
Williams, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2007, won three national championships at North Carolina. The 70-year-old has the third-most wins all time by a Division I coach with 903. He is the only coach in history to have 400 wins at two different schools, as he also had a highly-successful tenure at Kansas before returning to UNC.
North Carolina was eliminated in the first round of the NCAA Tournament this year, but Williams led his teams to nine Final Fours between Kansas and UNC. The loss to Wisconsin in tourney this year ended an incredible streak for Williams.
Roy Williams is one of the most accomplished coaches in NCAA Tournament history, but he saw one of his most incredible streaks end Sunday.
Williams’ North Carolina Tar Heels were blown out 85-62 in the first round of the tournament on Friday. The significance is simple: Williams entered Friday’s game 29-0 all-time in NCAA Tournament first-round games, meaning this defeat was the first of his career at this stage of the Big Dance.
To put this in perspective, Williams has been a college head coach since 1988. His teams have reached the NCAA Tournament in all but three of those seasons, and one of the years he didn’t was 2020, when no tournament was held. That’s why Williams’ streak was one of the most durable and impressive in sports. It hardly matters that he’s had extremely good teams more often than not during that span. Give an underdog 29 chances against a favorite and the odds are they’ll probably win at least once.
It’s been a bad year for college basketball’s blue bloods, and even though Williams made the tournament, this just contributes to it. Don’t expect North Carolina’s rivals to have any sympathy here given the year they had, though.
Roy Williams had a funny response to North Carolina’s loss to Marquette on Wednesday night.
North Carolina and Marquette only scheduled Wednesday’s game four days ago. The Tar Heels have had numerous cancellations over the last month-plus of the season due to COVID-19, so they tried to get in an extra game. But Marquette came into Chapel Hill and beat them 83-70.
After the loss, Williams was asked what he would tell Tar Heels fans questioning the game being scheduled given the defeat. Williams had a great response.
“We can’t operate in hindsight … if you had told we were going to lose, hel- yeah, we wouldn’t have played the game,” Williams joked. “Carolina fans, they’re not that dumb. If they are, I’ve got no answer for them.”
He’s right. What else can you say? Of course they didn’t intend to lose. This has been tough for Williams, who also had to answer questions last year after a bad home loss too.
North Carolina blew a big lead late and lost to Clemson at home on Saturday for the first time in program history. Nobody took the loss harder than Roy Williams.
Williams blamed himself for the loss and was incredibly hard on himself after the game.
“I’d say that right now that this is my lowest (moment). Losing this game was my fault,” he said.
Williams called the loss his biggest regret of his coaching career.
North Carolina was up 68-58 with 2:08 left, which helps explain why Williams was stunned and taking the defeat so hard. One of his biggest mistakes was not telling his players to foul in the final 10 seconds with his team up 70-67. Instead, they let Clemson’s Aamir Simms take and make a 3-pointer to tie the game and send it to overtime, where the Tar Heels lost 79-76.
North Carolina is now 8-8 and 1-4 in conference play this season. This is the worst team Carolina has had in Williams’ entire tenure and their worst seasons since Matt Doherty’s 2001-2002 (8-20) and 2002-2003 (19-16) squads.
Roy Williams is not buying into the new theories on load management that have permeated the NBA.
Williams’ North Carolina Tar Heels beat Notre Dame 76-65 in their season opener on Wednesday night. Junior forward Garrison Brooks played 39 minutes while freshman Cole Anthony played 37 of 40 possible minutes. Anthony was the big scorer in the game, throwing in 34 points with 11 rebounds to lead the Tar Heels.
Williams was asked after the game about the minutes Anthony played and dismissed the issue as “load management crap in the NBA.”
At the same time, Williams did recognize that it’s a long season and he doesn’t want to burn out Anthony or any of his other players.
There are a few aspects to take into account in this matter, such as the differences between the NBA and college games, before jumping on Williams for “riding his players too hard” and “misusing them.”
Load management was developed in the NBA because the league could sometimes have a difficult schedule, where teams play multiple games per week, sometimes on consecutive nights that also involve traveling. Gregg Popovich began giving some of his older players days off to let them heal and recover better between games in which they played. Then LeBron James and others started doing the same thing, and the concept was given even more validation after Kawhi Leonard led the Raptors to the championship while managing his load.
Keep in mind that the NBA schedule is twice as long and much more grueling/demanding for NBA players than college players. College teams usually only play two games per week. Additionally, NBA games are 48 minutes long, compared to 40 for college. When NBA players take games off for load management, it’s to get down to a schedule similar to what a college player plays.
There is another argument though, and that is that the concept of load management is the product of long-term thinking. Players want to extend their careers, and teams want to protect their long-term investments. If that means taking games off here or there in the interest of longevity, the plan can benefit both parties. In college, top players usually only stay at a school for a season or two. A coach therefore has little long-term incentive to manage the player’s load. In fact, they’re incentivized to maximize the time they do have a player by using them a lot.
While college players should be able to easily handle 35 or so minutes per game playing twice a week, coaches should not be burning them out. Williams seems to recognize that.