During Roy Williams' call-in show on Monday night, one of the two hot questions coming off the loss to Kentucky was why UNC opted to play the final 21 seconds without calling a timeout trailing by one. Roy explains:
"Our rule is, and for every team I’ve ever coached, is if it’s less than seven seconds, we’ll call a timeout. If it’s more than seven seconds, we’re going to run,’’ he explained. "Why give the other team a chance to call timeout, and set their defense?"
That was Dean Smith’s philosophy when Williams was an assistant at UNC, he said, and he took that strategy to Kansas, where he coached for 15 years before returning to Chapel Hill.
"Why would you call a timeout?" Williams asked. "To get a play set, that’s one answer. We knew what we were going to run. Why else would you call a timeout? To get somebody else in the game. I had the guys I wanted in the game.
" … So when you call a timeout, at that stage in the game with 20 seconds left, you just allow the other team to full-court pressure you, or to change to a zone. You don’t know what they’re going to do. So I have no problem with anyone second-guessing me … I knew what we were going to do, the team knew what we were going to do, that’s why we go to practice every day.
"I am disappointed that we did not foul [after Davis’ block] … but I’ll go to the grave and argue with the Pope or everybody else [about my timeout philosophy]."
The decision to take a timeout in the situation UNC was in on Saturday has pros and cons to it and it ultimately subject to the preference of the head coach. If you polled the other 344 Division I head coaches out there about what they may have done, I am sure you would get a myriad of responses. Roy has a set rule on when the timeout would be taken but beyond that the main point is they had the personnel they wanted on the floor and got the play they needed. The lack of execution on Tyler Zeller's part is why the play fell apart not the lack of a timeout. Besides taking the timeout does a variety of things that could benefit Kentucky. Remember, they are a young team and just missed a free throw to extend the lead. The last thing you want is the Wildcats sitting in front of their head coach being settled down and refocused, giving them a chance to change defense or full court press.
In short, the benefits of a timeout is not a one way street. Besides, the way the play unfolded right up to the point where Zeller lost the ball should be a point of encouragement. UNC was able to get into their offense and run the play they wanted without the use of a timeout. That speaks volumes of Kendall Marshall and the rest of the team that they don't need a hand holding session with their head coach to handle an end of game situation. To some extent that was probably another reason to not call a timeout there because a game in December versus the #1 team in the country on their floor is a perfect situation to see what your team can do when handed an offensive set to try and win the game.