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UNC Basketball: Roy Williams Coaches Clinic

The North Carolina Basketball staff invited area coaches in for some valuable information.

NCAA Basketball: Final Four Championship Game-Gonzaga vs North Carolina Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Over the weekend, the North Carolina Men’s Basketball staff welcomed hundreds of middle and high school basketball coaches into the Smith Center. Coach Williams and his staff opened themselves to share the wealth of knowledge they have gained that has made them the best in the business.

Even though I am a middle school coach at a school where basketball plays second-fiddle to sports like wrestling and baseball, the insight I received into how a program should be run was immeasurable. Every coach had something that I could take back to my team, hoping that some of their winning ways could rub off onto my group.

This is my experience at the 2017 Roy Williams Coaches Clinic. Sorry, random Duke or NC State fan, you won’t be able to glean anything secretive from this column.

Friday Night

Part of the package for the clinic is a ticket to the exhibition game the night before. They include this because the coaching staff uses much of what happens during the game as focal point of the clinic the following morning. This year, we were treated to the contest against Barton College. This saw the Tar Heels in their first action since Late Night With Roy and that “super-secret scrimmage” with Memphis. This also gave a first glimpse into life with Joel Berry for the next four weeks. Tanya Bondurant recapped the game on Friday night.

Barton Exhibition
Kyle Britt
Kyle Britt

Saturday Morning

Normally, the clinic doesn’t begin until around 9:00. However, with Miami coming into town, the clinic was pushed up a few hours. Leaving the Smith Center at 9:30 on Friday night and being back there again on Saturday morning at first-light around 6:30 was no easy task. (But, hey, I was sitting courtside listening to the best basketball staff in the world telling me how to make my program better.)

When I arrived and completed the check-in process, I was greeted with a sweet Jumpman North Carolina Basketball notebook (complete with Nike pen!) so that we could take notes. (My notes were about half of a page because I was so engrossed with what the coaches were saying, I couldn’t look away long enough to write!) We were also given a schedule and a copy of Coach Williams’ practice plan for that day.

After grabbing a much-needed coffee and bagel, I headed down to my seat. I went as close to the floor as possible. Even though this is my fourth clinic in seven years, I still get goosebumps when I am that close to the hallowed court of the Dean E. Smith Center. The shine on the court made my heart skip a few beats...

Anyways...where was I?

Assistant Coach Brad Frederick (who slid into the spot left open by former UNC assistant and current UNCW Head Coach C. B. McGrath) snapped me out of my daydreaming stupor. He spent the first twenty minutes of the session going over their system for on-ball screening defenses. He brought out a few of the team managers to show exactly how they play against a ball screen and how it changes during certain scenarios.

Next, Assistant Coach Hubert Davis brought out K. J. “Baby Jet” Smith to show some of the drills they use to teach and build better shooting and ball-handling skills. Coach Davis had Smith doing all sorts of running at 8:30 in the morning. One of the best moments of the day was when Coach Davis had Smith do a dribbling technique called “The Reggie.” This is named after former UNC player, Reggie Bullock. Coach Davis jokes that this was Bullock’s one-and-only move that he would go to multiple times per game.

The Reggie
Kyle Britt

Once Coach Davis was finished making Smith run the floor, Assistant Coach Steve Robinson took the floor. Coach Robinson was here to speak to us about building a defense. North Carolina under Roy Williams is known for their man-to-man defensive style. Coach Robinson broke down some of the nuances of their defensive schemes. The basis of the defense is pretty simple and practically universal. North Carolina has three main objectives when on defense: steal the ball, force one bad shot, and don’t allow the offense to get into their half-court set. Basic stuff, but hearing it from Coach Robinson somehow makes it sink in. Crazy how that works.

Finally, Coach Williams came onto the court to a smattering of claps and gasps. He talked a little about the game the night before; what he liked, what he didn’t like. He opened the floor to any questions that we had. He spent the better part of an hour answering questions on everything from the vaunted Carolina Secondary Break, to the roles of each assistant coach, and even about his use (or lack thereof) of timeouts. The one topic that surprisingly did not come up was the ending of the NCAA cloud. You could tell, though, that he had a pep in his step. (Or was he just going to chase down Theo for not letting Joel win that video game?)


Practice Huddle
Kyle Britt

Normally, this is where we would break for lunch, but the football game dictated something different. Around 9:00, the entire North Carolina Basketball team came on the floor. Now, Coach Williams plans out his practices to the minute and sticks to it. If a drill was planned for seven minutes, he’s switching to the next drill at six minutes and 58 seconds.

A Coach Williams practice is like nothing I’ve ever witnessed before. If you wanted to know why guys like Kennedy Meeks and Joel James could run up and down the court as quickly as they could, this is it. These guys are running from the time the shoot-around ends until the final windsprint at the conclusion of practice.

The focus of the practice was continuing to implement the secondary break, focusing on making cleaner passes and getting good inside looks. They also began to install a new defensive set.

Once all of that was over, they have what Coach Williams calls “fun” by playing a game called “Stop-Score-Stop.” The premise of this is exactly what it sounds like. Two teams are playing live basketball. To win, your team must get a stop on the defensive end, a score on the offensive end, and another stop on the defensive end. This was only slated to last ten minutes. However, neither team wanted to lose and the game lasted over twenty minutes. At the conclusion of practice, Strength and Conditioning Coach Jonas Sahratian answered a ton of questions; mainly on getting guys stronger in their lower bodies.

When it was completely over, we were allowed to walk onto the floor to take pictures. I happened to bump into former players Kendall Marshall and Nate Britt who were there to watch practice (and maybe play a little one-on-one when it was over).

Kendall Marshall
Kyle Britt
Nate Britt
Kyle Britt

After our time on the court came to a close, we shuffled over to Kenan Stadium to watch the Tar Heel football program try to sneak one past the Miami Hurricanes.

UNC vs Miami
Kyle Britt

So close...but, wow, what a weekend in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.