Jason King, who was with ESPN until making a switch to The Bleacher Report a few weeks back, offers up a very in-depth account of the past six months in the world of Roy Williams. It hasn't been pretty and there is more than enough here to raise the collective eyebrow of the Tar Heel fan base.
Most of it reads about as you would expect it. Williams expresses disappointment about the troubles with P.J. Hairston and Leslie McDonald. The ordeal has been upsetting to him because Williams strives to run his program the right way. The recent player troubles and even the academic scandal has case doubts that.
However, the more disturbing aspect of the piece is the clear tension between Williams and how the athletic administration, headed by Bubba Cunningham handled Hairston and McDonald's case.
Williams expressed optimism in October that both players would return at some point. But eventually it became obvious that he would have little influence on the decision.
“Ultimately,” Seagroves said, “the decisions that were made were out of his hands. He hates it for P.J. He would’ve loved to have coached him this year.”
Scott Williams said his father has always operated under the belief that a player’s best interest should be the primary factor when making a decision. The university should be considered second and the coach third.
"This situation was different,” Scott Williams said. “The University of North Carolina hasn’t come out looking great in a lot of things recently. Everyone is hypersensitive to that, so now it’s, ‘University first, players second, coach third.’
“Him not being as involved and informed through all of this has been difficult. There was a time when the basketball coach would’ve been on the front line dealing with this, but that wasn’t the case with the P.J. situation.
“Dad felt helpless.”
The red flag here is not that Williams felt marginalized in the decision making process concerning an NCAA issue. That sort of thing is not wholly unexpected. This isn't 1997 anymore. Roy Williams, while still exerting a great deal of influence in the athletic department power structure, probably doesn't enjoy the same leeway his mentor did. And Scott Williams is correct. The previous NCAA issues changes the way these matters get handled. Not only is there a greater focus on protecting the athletic department as a whole over a single player or team. There is a great need to run the process without a hint of impropriety. That means cutting the head basketball coach out of the process when it involves a member of his team.
It should also be noted that the athletic department at UNC is being run about individuals without previous connections to the school. Gone are the days of the parade of administrators rising up through the school's ranks to assume higher positions. Cunningham's view is more "outsider" as is any of the other people he has brought in during his tenure. College athletics is a business and to no one's surprise Cunningham makes business decisions that are not always pretty to look at.
For someone like Williams who has long operated with a fair amount of autonomy both at Kansas then at North Carolina, the notion of being in the dark is disorienting. For him to feel powerless is even more disconcerting for someone who watched Dean Smith enjoy wide latitude in decisions regarding the basketball program. These bumps in the road lead to some considerations about just how long Williams will be at UNC. The question, in light of this piece noting the stress and strain of recent months. is would it be enough to prod him to take his wife Wanda's advice and hang it up? Probably not any time soon unless his health were to take a sudden downward turn. Williams is too competitive to just walk way not to mention the worst of the storm looks to be past. Providing the rest of the season is focused on basketball, no other off the court issues rear their ugly heads and the team continues to grow the ride should get smoother. With a nice class coming in next season in addition to an already solid core of personnel it looks like the program could be set for another nice run of success.
They say winning cures everything and in this case it certainly would be for what's bothering Roy Williams right now.