I’m going to let you all in on a little secret: Roy Williams is one of the most disrespected Hall of Fame coaches of all time. It’s something that I personally don’t like discussing because as a UNC fan, it just sounds like I’m being a “homer” or that I’ve somehow whitewashed the reality that is Williams’ career. However, an ESPN analyst yesterday provided a perfect example of just how silly and petty the college basketball universe is when it comes to good ol’ Roy, and if I’m being honest, it’s almost too perfect.
ESPN college basketball analyst Fran Fraschilla took to Twitter yesterday morning to discuss Roy Williams’ struggles as of late. Here’s what he had to say:
I like & respect Hall of Famer Roy Williams but after watching these post-game press conferences, I say, “Welcome to the club.” Everyone who’s coached has endured a year like this. 99% of us. Kansas & UNC can spoil you. Now it’s time to roll up sleeves, coach, teach, motivate.— Fran Fraschilla (@franfraschilla) February 18, 2020
Before I roll up my sleeves and dive into this, here’s a little background information first: Fran Fraschilla is the former head coach of Manhattan, St. John’s, and New Mexico. He was 176-99 during his head coaching career, only failing to break .500 in his first year with the Red Storm in ‘96-97. His .640 career record was good enough to get invited to the NCAA Tournament three times in his nine years as a head coach. Not bad considering the programs that he coached, but it’s not the resume of a coach like Roy Williams, which is exactly how a tweet like this is born.
Over there years there’s been this perception that Roy Williams has had the college basketball equivalent of a silver spoon stuck in his mouth because he’s only coached at blue blood programs on the college level. It’s completely ignored that he actually started coaching at Charles D. Owen High School and was there for five years before getting his opportunity to move up. Instead, people focus on the fact that he was the understudy for the late great Dean Smith for 10 years before getting the head coaching job at Kansas and eventually making his way back to Chapel Hill to take over the historic program.
Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of how Williams’ coaching career is viewed is the fact that other blue blood coaches get a pass simply because they had to start somewhere else to get where they are now. Coach K, John Calipari, and Bill Self all did their time at non-blue blood programs, and apparently it’s because of this that they are viewed in a different light than someone who had to clean up Matt Doherty’s mess that he left behind when Roy Williams came back to UNC in 2003.
Aside from the bitter “You’ve always had it easy” take, the most inaccurate part of this tweet is that Fran Fraschilla has NEVER been through anything like this. Ever. “Welcome to the club” is something that is said to someone who had a healthy, mediocre-at-best roster for an entire season, and even with a respectable record their tournament hopes relied heavily on winning a conference tournament. Roy’s situation? Having Anthony Harris, Jeremiah Francis, Cole Anthony, Sterling Manley, Leaky Black, Andrew Platek, and Brandon Robinson all miss games throughout the season. In fact, each of them spent multiple games on the sideline in suits while their team tried to keep everything from completely falling apart. It’s also worth noting that Garrison Brooks has had his cornea scratched during games multiple times and Armando Bacot injured his left ankle at the 12:48 mark of the first half against Ohio State and didn’t return. So yeah, that’s completely the same thing as what everyone else goes through.
I’d also be willing to put money down that no other head coach has had such an outrageous amount of buzzer-beaters happen in one season before. Just in the last four games UNC has dealt with four of them: two by Duke, one by Virginia, and one by Notre Dame. These are NCAA Tournament buzzer-beater numbers, which is at least part of the reason why the name March Madness exists. This of course is all without getting into the fact that the UNC has now lost six games in conference play by three points or less.
Opponents minimum win probability— Dadgum Box Scores (@dadgumboxscores) February 18, 2020
Clemson: < 1%
Virginia Tech: 13%
Boston College: 9%
Duke: < 1%
Notre Dame: 4%
Carolina lost all six games by a combined 11 points
If you were told there was less than a 25% chance of rain, would you pack an umbrella?
Looks completely normal, though. Nothing to see here.
Finally, to address perhaps the biggest elephant in the room, Roy Williams has put a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into his profession. He’s been a great head coach that has had a lot of consistent success ever since taking over Kansas in 1988. The idea that he’s only been this good because of the programs themselves is laughable at best, and at worst it’s perhaps the most insulting thing that you could possibly tell a coach that has worked as hard as he has. To revisit a person that I mentioned earlier, for anybody that thinks that Williams just rolls the ball out and wins championships: how does one explain the tragedy that was Matt Doherty? What was his excuse for back-to-back sub-.500 records in ACC play? Don’t worry, I’ll wait.
It’d be ignorant of me to ignore the fact that blue blood programs do indeed carry a good amount of weight when it comes to recruiting and national attention, but with that also comes the expectation of perfection. How many times have fans called for Roy Williams’ job after a loss? How often is the “Championship or Bust” drum beaten from season to season? How loud does national media get whenever a program like North Carolina loses? Also speaking of losses, does Fraschilla understand how much harder the Big 12 and ACC are to win than the MAAC? (He never won the Big East or the Mountain West.) Being the head coach of the North Carolina Tar Heels has never ever been easy, but Roy Williams made it look the part because he is what he is: a Hall of Famer.
So no, Fran Fraschilla, Roy Williams will not join the club. This club that he is in right now is a very unique club that few if any college basketball coaches have ever been in. I’m sorry that many of you still feel as though he was either handed championships or cheated his way to obtaining them, but the fact of the matter is that everything that could go wrong has gone wrong this season. Regardless, Roy’s misfortune doesn’t dilute the fact that he is one of the greatest college basketball coaches of all time and deserves everyone’s respect. The sooner the college basketball universe accepts that, the better off we’ll all be.