Let's see: UNC won a big home game Tuesday night, defeating a game Clemson squad, making key lineup changes, extending a NCAA-record winning streak, and probably most important putting Sunday night's debacle at Georgia Tech behind them and keeping Carolina near the top of the ACC standings. So what's the big story still two days later? Roy Williams' post-game comments.
Williams blew off a little steam in the presser in this now-famous quip that has made the rounds in local media around the ACC:
"I'm really proud of those kids," Williams said after Tuesday's win over the Tigers. "Everybody talked about how poorly they played at Georgia Tech. My radio call [show] last night stunk; everybody was talking about how they were Carolina fans for 9 million years and how bad we are. I don't give a damn how long you're a Carolina fan; those are kids in the locker room, and they played their buns off tonight.
"I can remember working for Coach [Dean] Smith, and we go down to Clemson, and we got beat 93-76, and I thought the world was going to end. ... But I didn't have everybody calling up the TV show, talking about my team. Don't call me next week and say how good we are; keep your damn phone calls to yourself."
Predictably, the talking heads have jumped all over the irascible Hall of Fame coach. Today's News & Observer headline says "Williams blasts callers", and Charlotte Observer columnist Tom Sorenson called Williams "prickly" and suggested he devalued the fans. Joe Ovies of 99.9 The Fan opined that Williams believes only the coach can criticize the team and the fans "can shut the hell up."
The pundits have also pointed out that Williams's disdain for his radio show is well-known but that he is well-compensated - to the tune of a reported $200,000 - to allow Larry from Lillington to call in and offer coaching advice and substitution tips to a coach with over 600 wins and two national titles.
As THF tweeted, this is pretty low-hanging fruit for Sorenson and the others who have piled on Williams. Say what you want, but Ol' Roy makes good copy. Whether it's dropping s-bombs or f-bombs, or making ill-timed references to Haiti, something interesting is usually going to come out of Williams' mouth. This is the raw Roy feed, live and unfiltered, and it makes it easy to criticize someone like Williams who has no concern in being politic.
But as is often the case with Roy's verbal foibles, the media types are focusing less on the meaning of what he said and more on the words in which his message was couched. Having been a coach for 14 years, maybe I read a different message between the lines, but I took away something different from Roy's rant. After Sunday's dreadful performance against GT, people started talking about how terrible the Tar Heels were, and now after a win people will jump back on the bandwagon. I interpreted Roy's message as something to the tune of "don't say how great we are after a win when you were just ripping us after a loss."
And as usual, Roy is right, even if he said it poorly. Just look at the comment section on the game threads on this site from Sunday and compare them to Tuesday. So what I took Roy to mean was, if you're going to call and tell me how bad we are when we lose and then turn right around and call to say how great we are when we win, then don't bother - stick with us through thick and thin. Of course, with Roy being Roy, he instead blurted out "keep your damn phone calls to yourself" and local media gets 2 or 3 days' worth of column material.
For what it's worth, Williams was also right in his famous s-bomb incident when Bonnie Bernstein asked an ill-timed question about his interest in the UNC job five minutes after Kansas lost in the national title game. What Roy meant to say was, "Bonnie, I can't believe you would ask such an insensitive question at this point in time when my focus is on those guys in the locker room who just played their hearts out and lost a chance at a national title." Instead, we got the famous "I could give a **** about North Carolina right now" line. Same for the Haiti comment, in that what Roy meant to say was "I know this is so important because this is the center of my life, but this is a game, not a crisis. Seeing what people are going through in Haiti right now puts my little problems in perspective." Instead, Roy spins a yarn about his massage therapist and the vein above Steve Kirschner's right eye starts twitching as he has to go into Roy damage control mode.
But this is simply Roy being Roy. I don't think Williams has disdain for Carolina fans, and I don't think he believes he or his team are above criticism. I think he was defending his team from what has been revealed as an ugly undercurrent of Carolina's struggles from last year (and which sometimes rears its head on this site). If there's one thing we have learned over the years, it's that Roy is nothing if not entertaining. The alternative is to take the style of the other Hall of Fame coach in the Triangle and only talk to the media in carefully controlled environments like the ACC weekly teleconference and only issue boilerplate platitudes after a game. Oh, and never talking to sideline reporters or fans on the call-in shows, instead letting your assistants do it (but having a national satellite radio show for yourself).
Yes, the story of Roy's comments still has legs two days later, but as Ovies points out, in just a little while this too shall pass and will just go into the vault of Roy-isms.