It was UNC's first exhibition game of the nascent basketball season. The crowd of media in the press room just off the home team's tunnel would have made you think an ACC rival had just been on the floor with the Tar Heels. The release of the Wainstein Report detailing academic malfeasance at the University of North Carolina on Wednesday meant Roy Williams' first media availability since then would bring a few extra journalists to a game that would otherwise not draw much attention. Williams, whose basketball program had seen some players avail themselves of the AFAM paper classes, found himself once again answering questions about anything but the game. Williams held court in the press room for roughly 19 minutes with 15 of those devoted to a statement on Wainstein and questions from the media.
Here are a few of the key items he covered.
-Clearly and not unexpectedly, Williams was emotional. He is an emotional person anyway but in this case he noted the turmoil surrounding the report made this a "sad time" for him. He also expressed pride in how UNC would bounce back,
-Williams offered a little timetable of events leading up to his decision to move players away from AFAM classes and his motivations behind it. He notes that when he returned to Chapel Hill they worked very hard to get the players on board with the program and said after they won the title he and assistant coach Joe Holliday began discussing the clustering of players in the AFAM classes.
I'm corny as all get out but some of you are old enough to remember watching college football games on TV and they'd introduce the players. And the players would say "Roy Williams, drama." Next guy would say "Steve Kirschner, drama." Next guy would say "Steve Robinson, drama." Next guy would say, "Bubba Cunningham, drama." And I thought that must be the easiest thing they could possibly major in because everyone is in the same thing. At the end of my second year I went to Coach Holliday and talked about, "Let's make sure we don't push anybody in any direction. Let's make sure we allow kids to choose their own major. I didn't like the fact we had so many guys in the same major. I didn't think it made sense if people had different things that they liked. We go in a [recruit's] home at that time even more strongly and say "what would you like to major in" and we allowed kids to choose any major. After our second year I think the rest of that time kids we recruited had one guy who majored in African-American studies. I didn't like clustering and yes, they made very good grade but I wanted out guys to be able to choose what they wanted to choose. Our guys did a great job.
-Williams said he felt his players, even if they took an AFAM paper class, did the work. Even then, Williams says he insisted on more lecture classes because he preferred those.
-On the possibility of NCAA sanctions, Williams says he doesn't know what is going to happen but "feels strongly" they were doing things the right way. He noted that at Kansas academic support was part of the athletic department but he preferred UNC's model of keeping it separate. He says he isn't going to worry about the NCAA because he has other issues that are more immediate for him including two surgeries in the past five weeks for his wife Wanda.
-When asked if he wishes he had done more about the clustering besides getting his players out of it. He said it wasn't his job.
I did notice it and we changed it. I think I would have been run off if I had gone into a department of the university and tell them how to run it, that's not my job. I took care of my guys. If there is something a coach doesn't like he should try to do the right thing and I think I tried to do the right thing. I've never known a coach to try to say what should happen...Again, we can all look back and say "I wish I had done this." I didn't even know of anything that's been shown until three or four years ago. I wanted the guys out of there because everyone was clustering in the same thing.
-Williams defended former academic adviser Wayne Walden calling him a very ethical person.
-Regarding coaching staff involvement with academics Williams prefers encouraging players and emphasizing academics. He also believe in facilitating players educational needs as much as possible by adjusting schedules and making sure the players have all the resources they need such as tutors.
-Williams again dismissed Mary Willingham's assertion he told her she was there to keep players eligible and also said he doesn't feel vindicated by Wainstein dismissing Rashad McCants' claims because he knows the truth.
Given how emotional Roy Williams can get and his infamous lack of a filter at times, it was unclear what kind of approach he would take in this portion of the press conference. Last year, after the loss to Miami at home which occurred the same day as Willingham asserting a basketball player couldn't read, Williams gave an emotional statement. It was the culmination of months of bad news from the P.J. Hairston saga to fresh wounds over the academic scandal that touched on men's basketball. This press conference wasn't like that one. The Roy Williams of January 2014 was a beaten man feeling the weight of off court turmoil plus struggles on the court.
Obviously the circumstances are different and Williams struck the appropriate tone in his remarks. Overall he was very thoughtful in his answers. He took a couple of jabs at Willingham and Dan Kane for questioning past statements by Williams to Kenneth Wainstein on Wednesday. Outside of those, Williams did a great job providing reasonable answers to the questions asked and at no time was dismissive, curt or upset with them being posed.
Unfortunately for Roy Williams this isn't the last time he will answer questions about Wainstein's report. ACC Media Day is next Wednesday and that will be another round of reporters, radio and TV interviews which will also include additional queries about the report and the role of men's basketball in it.