The University of North Carolina announced today that the floor of the Smith Center would be named for coach Roy Williams later this month. The court will officially become Roy Williams Court at a men’s basketball reunion on August 24th, according to the press release.
It is a very well-deserved honor for Williams, who has led the Tar Heels to three national championships since returning as head coach at UNC 15 years ago. His third ring in 2017 put him into elite company among coaches, becoming just the sixth to lead his team to three NCAA titles.
The eight-time Coach of the Year has 424 wins at UNC (and 842 as a head coach overall) with an astounding 210-30 record inside the Smith Center. Williams, who turned 68 yesterday, has had a huge influence on keeping the Carolina basketball program among the best in college basketball for so long. Honoring him in some way always seemed inevitable, and this seems like a very fitting way to make sure that the Hall of Famer is properly recognized within the Dean Dome for all of his accomplishments.
Here’s what Coach had to say about the honor:
“It’s very hard to believe; it’s just so flattering,” Williams says about the court being named for him. “I have to figure out a way to thank all my current and former players, because it may be my name on the court, but it really honors all of them because they made the plays.
“I also want to thank my family for all the support and love they’ve given me over the years. I’ve missed many family things over the years and they were so understanding. Naming the court will be a thrill for my family. I’ll try to say the right things to the former players, to my family and to the Carolina administration, but I don’t know if I will be able to adequately state how grateful I am.
“I love this place. For 15 years as the head coach and 10 as an assistant, I’ve tried every day to give everything I could to make the Carolina basketball program better. Fortunately, when I started I had Coach (Dean) Smith, Coach (Bill) Guthridge and Eddie Fogler, who taught me everything about running a program.
“I think about my high school coach, Buddy Baldwin, the person responsible for getting me into the game and into coaching. I also think of Coach Smith. I turned 68 yesterday and every day I think about doing things that would make Coach proud. It worries me to this day because I never want to let the program down.”
“It’s overwhelming to think about it,” Williams says about the court being named for him in the Dean E. Smith Center. “Coach Smith did so much, he was so good for people. He would be proud of what we’ve done on the court, but Coach was always able to do so much more for the players off the court. I’m glad his name is on the building. It’s going to be hard to think of my name on the floor in his building.
“I would have been perfectly content to be Coach Smith’s assistant for 30 years, but then he thought it was a good idea for me to go Kansas. From that moment on, I’ve tried to do things that he would have approved of. We’ve won some games and some tournaments and we’ve even won a few championships. Even with the Hall of Fame (induction) in 2007, I’ve never allowed myself to look back on all that. This is probably the first time I can say I think we’ve done okay.”
While not definitive, this seems to at least cast a lot of doubt about any imminent replacement of the Smith Center. It’s a rumor that gets brought up every once in a while because of the age of the building and demand for tickets remaining very high despite the large seating capacity. This at least makes it sound more likely that the school will choose to renovate rather than replace any time soon.