I guess it was not meant to be.
I debated writing a post this morning about Roy Williams' decision to pull the team off the floor vs FSU with 14.2 seconds left to avoid the crowd rush. Then I decided it wasn't that big of a deal and it wasn't. The decision to leave was the right one and while I didn't agree with Roy leaving Blue Steel to fend for themselves it was largely irrelevant to the larger problems faced by this team. So here I was all prepared to let is fade away when the story takes another odd twist. Apparently Roy Williams thought the game had been called and did not know Blue Steel finished the game.
Roy addressed the end of the game on his radio show Monday night(via Inside Carolina)
“After the game, I always usually say a couple of things to the team, sometimes a little longer. One of our wins this year I kept them in the locker room a little longer. I think the media made a statement about that because I was concerned with how we were playing. I had a friend of mine who said, ‘You’ve been so frustrated, but you’ve been winning, you’re winning by 20.’ And I said, ‘I’m concerned about how we’re playing. We’re not trying to prepare to win one game in the regular season. I’m trying to get us to be the best team.’
"But usually I say a couple of quick things, get them together, I say a little prayer, they don’t have to pray, they just have to put their hands in with me, whatever they want to do. And then we go on and I go to the press conference. Coach Smith would always come in and not even do that. We would just get up, put our hands together and say a quick little prayer. I’d say, ‘Coach, I’ve got to blast them sometimes.’ This is when I became a head coach and he always said, ‘You should wait until you see the tape and you know exactly what you’re saying and know if you’re exactly right or wrong because sometimes coaches can mess it up, too, something that they thought they saw.’
"So I basically have adhered to that, but I say a few things. Well, after the game Saturday, our players got in the locker room and I walked in and said one sentence: ‘Everybody up.’ We came together and we put our hands together. I said a little prayer and I walked out, because I did not want to talk to my team at that point.
"We got on the bus, went to the airport, got on the airplane, came home, the bus pulled up down into the ramp at the Smith Center. Everybody that we call AYOs – all you others – get off the bus and I walked to the back of the bus and this time I gave them the schedule. I said, ‘We have Special Olympics [on Sunday], everybody be there at 12:45.” And I got off the bus. I still didn’t say one thing about the game, because I still wasn’t mature enough to say anything… Today we met. We had a film session. They did weights. We had another little film session. We went out on the court, went back into the locker room [and] finished watching the tape.
"And I apologized to five guys because I did not even know until I watched the game tape that my five walk-ons stayed out there on the court. Did not know that. Regardless of how, in my opinion, unfairly people have treated Steve Kirschner when he tried to give them a response, that’s the exact truth. There’s nothing else. That’s the exact truth, because if you watch the tape, Joe Holladay and I at first are talking. Joe said, ‘We’re going to have problems getting off this court again, because they’re already in the aisles. We’re going to have problems.’ I think Jamie Luckie was in front of our bench. And I’m whispering or talking into his ear while the game is going, I said, ‘Jamie, we’re going to have a problem getting off the court. Do you have any suggestions?’ He said, ‘I don’t know what to tell you.’
"And then all of a sudden there’s a dead ball and a timeout and I start walking and I motion for Leonard Hamilton to come. Leonard comes up there and I said, ‘Leonard, I’m worried about getting our guys off the court. Would it offend you if we were to leave?’ He said, ‘No, I think that’s what you should do.’ Which I thought was great on Leonard’s [part]. I’ve known him for 100 years and he’s always sensible on things like that. He said that and I told him, ‘Leonard, I appreciate that. Please understand this is not intended to be an indictment on your security.’ …
"I turned to Joe Holladay and I motioned. I said, ‘Come on,’ and I took about three steps. You could see it on TV, regardless of what those people are saying to Steve Kirschner. Leonard said something, ‘Roy – your players.’ And I turned around and said, ‘Come on!’ And you could see me motion my arm again. I take off but I stop and try to congratulate as many players as I can… I go to the locker room and it is a long way down the side of the court, it’s all of the way back there. And I get back there and I’m standing outside of our locker room waiting for every player to get in. And I said, ‘Is that everybody?’ And they said, ‘No.’ And I’m standing there and all of a sudden here comes Joe Holladay and Patty Crouch. I said, ‘What took Patty so long?’ He said, ‘He got caught up in the crowd.’ And I didn’t know what the crap he was talking about. I went in and I did exactly what I told you earlier…
"I am watching the tape of the game and it’s the first time that I realize that the five Blue Steel guys stayed out there on the court. Every prospect, every walk-on that I’ve ever had, I say one thing: ‘If I ask the biggest star on our team to run a sprint, you’re going to have to run a sprint. If I eat steak, you’re going to eat steak. Whatever happens to every scholarship player, you have to do.’ I would never leave five kids out there. If I’m going to do that, why wouldn’t I stay out there? …
“Steve comes to see me [on Monday] and I said, ‘Are we getting drilled?’ Because I hadn’t read Sunday’s paper until [Monday]. And he said, ‘You’re just getting drilled because of leaving those five guys out there. I said, ‘It’s funny you say that because I just apologized to my team 20 minutes ago.’ I said, ‘Guys, there was miscommunication between me and Coach Holladay. I did not even know that you guys stayed out to play the game.’ Stilman [White] comes up and said, ‘Coach, I came up to you but you were talking to Coach Hamilton. I didn’t know if you just wanted me to stand there and dribble the ball or not.’ I said, ‘Stilman, I would have sacrificed you, but I would not have sacrificed five of you.’ …
"So Steve Kirschner calls some people on the radio and tells them that and basically – I’m not going to speak for Steve – but they get on the radio and say it’s not true. You’ve got to handle a lot of things in life, but you’re not going to call me a liar. That’s exactly what happened. Every player on our team will tell you that, every coach. I even told the coaches -- today was the first time that I told them I didn’t know our guys stayed out there. I didn’t want to talk to any coach. I was going to kill some-frickin-body. We just got beat by 33… It was a mistake. It was confusion. It was miscommunication. But the fact of the matter is Florida State kicked our rear ends.”
On Monday afternoon, UNC associate AD for communications Steve Kirschner contacted members of the media to get the official story of what happened out there because there was plenty of criticism for Roy having left Blue Steel behind. The story, which Kirschner relayed to Adam Gold & Joe Ovies on 99.9 The Fan has been met with a fair amount of skepticism. In fact Adam Gold even asked Kirschner if he thought it would be unfair if people didn't "buy" this story. That type of reaction is some of what Roy is responding to here.
I went back a looked at the end of the game on DVR. A couple of things stick out. The first is ESPN announcer Dan Shulman saying it was happening at Leonard Hamilton's request and that the Blue Steel players were unsure of whether they were staying on the court or not. Secondly, as the final seconds are ticking off you can see C.B. McGrath on the sideline walk towards midcourt and motion for the reserves to exit the court. Aside from that, if I can borrow instant replay terminology here, there is no video evidence to dispute Roy's side of the story. You can see him talk to referee Jamie Luckie with 30 seconds left, you see the conversation with Leonard Hamilton, the motioning to the players to follow him, Stillman White walking up to ask a question but never getting to and then the exit shaking FSU players' hands.
The skepticism is not surprising because it is an odd story. In fact Kirschner even admitted he was in between that PR "rock and hard place" of letting the story die or doing something to give it another news cycle to run(not to mention having every local reporter camped out at The Top of the Hill for the radio show.) The problem was leaving the players behind is a legitimate criticism and Roy would asked about it on his call-in show. That meant preemptively presenting the new story to the media in the afternoon in an effort to at least contain the damage.
I don't know how well that worked and I am pretty sure it doesn't make Roy look any better. That being the case, that is almost evidence itself that Roy's story is true. Either that or UNC is attempting to spin it from "Roy doesn't care" to "Roy is clueless" which in my opinion is worse. As noted above, I can't find anything in the video that contradicts what Roy is saying. I also know, Roy would consider leaving even walk-ons on the court in this manner a cardinal sin against Dean Smith and the Carolina Way. So unless you want to believe at some point today Roy sat down with Kirschner, concocted this whole presentation based on the video as spin to explain why five players were left behind so Roy could be stupid instead of uncaring be my guest. Otherwise, I think Roy is telling the truth. Roy can be criticized for many things but his loyalty to his players and the respect he affords everyone, opponents included are not usually among them. On that basis I can't see where Roy would intentionally leave his guys out there.
It was a perfectly logical thing to do handled poorly. Add to the long list of things that didn't get executed particularly well that day in Tallahassee