How do we as a society judge greatness? Some of us focus on one’s level of consistency over an extended period of time while others will simply look at the amount of personal achievement and the relevance of those achievements. This question has proven to be a topic of great interest and appeal throughout the sporting world and although there are a seemingly infinite number of factors which go into answering said question, one talking point is always brought to the conversation: how many championships have they won?
The 2016-2017 NCAA Men’s Basketball season ended with the North Carolina Tar Heels cutting down the nets and hoisting the championship trophy high above their heads for the sixth time in the program’s history. The end of this past season also marked a milestone in head coach Roy Williams’ career as he won his third National Championship, his second as head coach of the Tar Heels. Although the spotlight should be kept shining brightly on the team’s achievement, it is impossible not to allow Coach Williams to share the stage as well. With that being said, what does Williams winning his third National Championship do for his legacy?
By winning a third National Championship, Williams has pulled up a chair and sat down next to coaching legends Bob Knight and Jim Calhoun while leaving an over-crowded table of coaches with just two titles to their names. A total of eight other coaches have won two National Champions throughout their careers. This is not a small achievement by any means of the imagination, however, there is something to be said for being in even smaller company. Williams has now also joined a group of only five other coaches to have led their program to three or more titles.
Williams’ third National Championship also gives fans of the Carolina legend a realistic chance of surpassing head coach of rival Duke Blue Devils, Mike Krzyzewski, for total National Championships. As both coaches are beginning to test Father Time (Williams age 66 and Krzyzewski age 70), it seems that Tar Heel Nation has reached the point of “now or never” in this attempt. Although Coach K’s admiration extends across the nation as head coach of Team USA, it would be nice for die-hard Tar Heel fans to have another round of ammunition when sucked into a Duke vs. UNC debate.
Now for the portion of this topic which will be sure to cause a split between Tar Heel fans. As mentioned before, as Williams’ brings home his third National Championship he effectively surpasses a group of coaches with only two. One of these coaches is none other than beloved North Carolina head coach Dean Smith.
The man who brought the UNC basketball program back from utter irrelevance. The coach who alongside the great Michael Jordan defeated the mighty Georgetown Hoyas to bring the University their first men’s basketball championship since 1957. The legend who thwarted the University of Michigan’s Fab Five and instilled the “Carolina Way” into the program’s culture.
Yes, that man, that coach, and that legend. Opinions throughout Tar Heel Nation are sure to be split, but Williams’ supporters can now at least bring forward a sound argument with substantial evidence to support their claims when faced with the question of who is the greatest coach in Tar Heel history.
Now as one of the most successful coaches in men’s college basketball history, Coach Roy Williams will be looking ahead as we inch closer and closer to the start of the 2017-2018 college basketball season. For fans and critics, however, we can’t help ourselves but to look back and ponder the question posed at the beginning of this article. Judging greatness is subjective. It is difficult for everyone to possess the same definition of the word, but we can all agree on at least a few variables that factor into the equation. In any estimation of the word “greatness,” Roy Williams as achieved it and then some. He has done so much in his relatively short amount of time at the University of North Carolina and it seems as though he has yet to reach the ceiling on his success.
As far as his legacy is concerned, Williams’ cement is still wet. With point guard Joel Berry returning for his senior season and a new crop of promising freshman, who knows what is beyond the horizon for the 66-year-old head coach. To Tar Heel Nation, however, his legacy stacks up with even the greatest coaches of all time. Will Williams one day leave his current table and pull up a chair next to the great John Wooden? Well, probably not, but he finds himself surrounded by pretty good company at this moment in time, anyway.