Yesterday was Coach Roy Williams’s 70th birthday.
He’s 70 now! Time has flown by during his tenure at Chapel Hill. Roy has coached the Tar Heels for 17 seasons, won three national championships, and could easily have had a fourth if not for the terrorists at Creighton.
If you surveyed 100 Carolina fans and asked who their top rival was, 100 fans would respond, “Dook.” Roy takes this rivalry as seriously as his rabid fanbase does, but he has a level of respect for Duke that rubs some of Tar Heel nation the wrong way. The truest disdain in his heart is not directed at Duke, but at NC State.
Roy does not care for NC State, this much is known. His record against the Wolfpack stands at 32-4 (37-4, if you count his 5-0 record while head coach at Kansas), a stunning 89% winning percentage! Like Rita Repulsa, NC State keeps throwing head coaches at Roy with no success.
Since Coach Williams is celebrating his 70th birthday, Tar Heel Blog will join the celebration by reflecting on his 70th victory as Carolina’s head basketball coach, against NC State.
The Wolfpack entered the contest ranked No. 14, with a 21-5 record. Carolina had an overhauled roster, gutted by post-championship defections to the NBA. UNC was ranked at a modest No. 21, with a 17-6 record. In the first clash of the season, Carolina slapped NC State, winning 82-69 in the Dean Dome. The return match at
the ESA PNC Arena RBC Center promised to be a nail biter.
The game turned out to be anything but. With 20/20 hindsight, it may have been unfair to expect an NC State team that leaned on its post play, powered by the immortal Andrew Brackman and Cedric Simmons, to overcome freshman sensation Tyler Hansbrough. Hansbrough had a modest 17 points for the Heels, but it was the two standout seniors that elevated the Tar Heels play. Forwards Reyshawn Terry (20 points, 9-14 shooting) and David Noel (career-high 25 points, 10-14 shooting, 3-6 from 3-point range) powered Carolina past an overmatched Wolfpack.
Despite balanced scoring from its starting lineup, (NC State had three starters score in double digits, with a fourth [Cameron Bennerman] stuck at nine points), the Wolfpack were run off their floor yet again, humiliated by a 24-point margin. After losing to Carolina in Chapel Hill by 13 points in January, NC State somehow performed worse at home. Carolina played fearlessly, 53.6% from the field with only six turnovers. That efficiency at Roy’s pace is almost always a recipe for NC State sorrow.
NC State would go on to lose their next three games, including a loss to NIT-bound Wake Forest in the first round of the ACC Tournament. The Wolfpack would then flame out in the NCAA Tournament in the second round, losing to 9th-seeded Texas by 21 points. It’s perfectly reasonably to assess that Carolina destroyed NC State’s spirit that night, a sad truth for a team that was ranked 14th in the nation at the time!
NC State’s coach that day, Herb Sendek, never beat Roy Williams. Sidney Lowe (1-10 against UNC) didn’t fare much better. Mark Gottfried doubled Lowe’s win total, but unfortunately, matched his losses (2-10). Gottfried does get some passing respect for getting K’s goose that one time.
Current NC State coach Kevin Keatts is off to a good start with a 1-5 record against Roy Williams, currently on pace to match Mark Gottfried for best winning percentage against Roy Williams among NC State coaches. Last season’s two losses to a historically poor Carolina team does give pause to any inclination to praise Keatts at this early juncture in his NC State career.
So Happy Birthday Coach Williams! If there’s anything that can make Roy smile, surely it’s the memory of beating a team he hates, especially with a rare underdog team that still managed to win both of the season’s meetings by double digits. NC State continues to be the gift that keeps on giving to Roy Williams, and will likely continue to be for at least another 70 years.