Roy Williams, North Carolina Tar Heels basketball coach retires after 33 seasons
The last time Roy Williams left North Carolina, he was an essentially obscure assistant who was getting his first shot as a college head coach at tradition-rich Kansas.
Presently Williams is retiring, leaving the Tar Heels again with a résumé chock-full of honors – as a Hall of Famer with in excess of 900 wins, three national championships and an legacy based on 33 seasons of success at two of college basketball’s most storied programs.
“It has been a thrill. It has been unbelievable. I’ve loved it,” the 70-year-old Williams said during a news conference to announce his retirement on the Smith Center court that bears his name. “It’s coaching. And that’s all I’ve ever wanted to do since the summer after my ninth-grade year of high school. No one has ever enjoyed coaching like I have for 48 years.”
Williams has burned through 18 seasons at UNC, going 485-163 while leading the Tar Heels to national titles in 2005, 2009 and 2017. He also coached Kansas for 15 seasons, taking it to four Final Four appearances prior to leaving for his alma mater.
However Williams described himself as a mentor who was also bothered by losses and by his own missteps in the course of the last two troublesome seasons, one denoting the just losing record of his career and the other with a young group playing in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Everybody wants to know the reason, and the reason is very simple,” Williams said. “Every time somebody asked me how long I was going to go, I’d always say, ‘As long as my health allows me to do it.’
“But deep down inside, I knew the only thing that would speed that up was if I did not feel that I was any longer the right man for the job. … I no longer feel that I am the right man for the job.”
The Tar Heels lost to Wisconsin in the first round of the NCAA tournament in quite a while last game, his solitary first-round loss in 30 tournaments.
“I love coaching, working the kids on the court, the locker room, the trips, the ‘Jump Around’ [pregame] music, the trying to build a team,” Williams said. “I will always love that. And I’m scared to death of the next phase. But I no longer feel that I’m the right man.”
Williams ranks fourth unequaled among Division I mentors in successes with a 903-264 record (.774 winning rate), and he was accepted to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007. He is the solitary mentor in NCAA history to post 400 successes at two unique schools.
Mike Krzyzewski, the coach at rival Duke who drives all Division I coaches with 1,170 profession wins, said he was “surprised” to know about Williams’ retirement.
“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,” Krzyzewski said in a statement. “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 we 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. Personally, I will miss competing against him, seeing him at coaches’ meetings and having the opportunity to discuss how to make our game even better. Roy is a great friend, and our sport was very fortunate to have him as long as it did. We have all benefitted from his longevity in and commitment to coaching. His legacy is secure as one of the greatest coaches in college basketball history.”
Subsequent to coaching for a very long time at Charles D. Owen High School in Swannanoa, North Carolina, Williams started his college career at North Carolina as a assistant under late mentor Dean Smith – he still respectfully refers to him as “Mentor Smith” after so long.
Williams consistently pushed for more – and ordinarily he got it. His teams played fast, with Williams wildly waving his arms for them to push the ball. They assaulted the sheets with his favored two-post style.
His competitive drive was wild and just marginally darkened by his folksy expressions and appeal from his time experiencing childhood in the North Carolina mountains.
Williams’ time as a assistant included the Tar Heels’ rushed to the 1982 NCAA title for Smith’s first title, a game that significantly highlighted a green bean named Michael Jordan making the approval jumper late to beat Georgetown.
“Roy Williams is and always will be a Carolina basketball legend,” Jordan said in a statement through his business manager. “His great success on the court is truly matched by the impact he had on the lives of the players he coached — including me. I’m proud of the way he carried on the tradition of Coach Smith’s program, always putting his players first.”
After 10 seasons on the UNC seat as a collaborator, Williams left for Kansas to supplant Larry Brown in 1988.
More than 15 seasons with the Jayhawks, Williams won nine normal season meeting titles and went to 14 NCAA competitions – making it multiple times to the Final Four and twice to the public title game.
“Roy Williams has been an icon in our industry for the last 33 years, and his retirement is very well deserved,” current Kansas coach Bill Self said in a statement. “Roy won at the highest level, and projected first-class while doing so. To have the opportunity to follow him here at the University of Kansas and see firsthand the type of program he ran was an honor of a lifetime. Congratulations to him on a Hall of Fame career and for the lasting impact he has had on our sport.”
Williams passed on taking at UNC in 2000 after the retirement of Bill Guthridge, yet he at last couldn’t say no a subsequent time and returned as mentor in 2003 after the Matt Doherty time, which incorporated a 8-20 season.
Williams immediately stabilized out the program and got through for his first public title in quite a while second season with a success against Illinois, denoting the first of five Final Four outings with the Tar Heels. His subsequent title came in 2009 with a group that moved through the NCAA competition, dominating each game by at any rate twelve focuses, including the last game against Michigan State played in the Spartans’ home state.
The third title in 2017 was conveyed by a group that included players who had lost in the earlier year’s title game to Villanova on a bell beating 3-pointer. This time, the Tar Heels beat a one-misfortune Gonzaga team for the championship.
“The countless lives he positively affected surpasses all of the individual honors and awards,” ACC commissioner Jim Phillips said in a statement. “Roy’s fingerprints will forever be on the sport of college basketball, and specifically the Atlantic Coast Conference. We wish him, Wanda and his entire family all the best as he begins this next chapter of an amazing life.”
Williams won nine ACC regular season championships and three meeting competition titles with the Tar Heels. He won seven league tournament titles with the Jayhawks.
En route, Williams had only one losing season – a physical issue tormented long term in 2019-20 – and in any case missed the NCAA tournament just in his first season at Kansas, when he acquired a program waiting on the post trial process, and in 2010 with an UNC group that arrived at the NIT last.
Since taking over in Chapel Hill, Williams had 21 players taken in the first round of the NBA draft – the third-most noteworthy complete by any college coach in that range, following just John Calipari (35) and Krzyzewski (24).
Philadelphia 76ers guard Danny Green, who played four seasons for Williams and was essential for the 2009 title champ, said Williams has been a “father figure.”
“I became a man in four years there,” said Green, a three-time NBA champion who recently made a $1 million endowment scholarship gift to the Tar Heels’ basketball program. “He’s always been more than a coach to me. He taught me how to be a man and how to do things the right way.”