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What Roy Williams means to me

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Roy and Carolina are more than just basketball. They’re about family.

NCAA Basketball: North Carolina at Gonzaga James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Back when I was an undergrad at UNC, I was having lunch with a group of friends at Granville Towers and we were talking about what our future weddings would be like. Small, huge, outdoor, ballroom, mountains, beaches, etc, etc. When it was my turn, I said, “I don’t care about any of the particulars, but whoever my future wife is, she had better be down with one thing. I’m inviting Roy Williams, and if he accepts my invitation, he sits at the head table.”

Unbeknownst to me, my future wife was actually sitting at that table. Katie, who at the time was just a friend, surely took a mental note in 2005. Fast forward eight years. We get engaged. We build our guest list. And she remembered my condition, adding Roy to the guest list (with a plus one!). The only problem was, our wedding was scheduled for Veterans Day weekend in November, which meant the season was already underway.

No matter. The invitations go out.

At the time, Katie was back Stateside finishing grad school, and I was stationed in England. Coca-Cola began their “Share a Coke with a Friend” campaign in Europe before it came to America, and I remember standing in line at a Tesco supermarket for an hour to get a custom-made “Roy” bottle.

I kept a UNC flag that I folded up in the bottom of my flight bag that I took with me on deployment. I flew 30 missions over Afghanistan with it. The flag and the custom “Share a Coke with Roy” bottle were enticements to get Coach to my wedding. I wrote a nice letter explaining these gifts and gave Coach an elegant out, explaining “I know that you’ll be in the middle of the basketball season and busy recruiting, but if you are able to make it to Charlotte, we’d love to have you.”

The wedding went off without a hitch, but no Roy and Wanda Williams. When we left our wedding hotel and went to my in-laws’ house the next day, there was a UPS package waiting for me. It was from the UNC Basketball office. I opened it up, and my flag was in it, signed by Roy, as well as the RSVP marked “regretfully must decline,” signed as well. There was also a nice letter on what I assume is the same letterhead that recruits receive in the mail.

I point to the passer for this fantastic marriage advice from Roy Williams

My love for Carolina is intertwined with UNC basketball and Roy Williams. It connects me to an important period of my life and thanks to a small token by a head basketball coach in the middle of the season, makes me feel closer to my wife. It absolutely affected how I viewed the team and the program. Roy felt like an uncle to me. He was family.

And now he’ll be gone.

I’ll continue watching Carolina basketball. I’ll cheer for the Tar Heels and root for whoever’s playing Duke. But something will change with Roy’s departure, something that I can never get back. Today, that makes me terribly sad.