Welcome to the Tar Heel Hangover. This is normally our opportunity to review the games of the last week, second-guess all of the key moments, and set the game plan for the week ahead. This week, however, is suddenly very different.
The Elevator Speech: What has happened over the last week.
The college basketball world has undergone a seismic shift. These last couple of years have been difficult for Carolina fans, and yesterday the changing times culminated in a shocking announcement.
Roy Williams sounded more like he was resigning than retiring in the press conference. He should not have. He has had a tremendous career and has certainly earned the right to go out on his own terms and timing. I will miss him.
Water Cooler Discussion: What is your perspective?
I remember where I was when Roy Williams was hired. I’m not sure I remember where I was when I was hired for my job the year before. I distinctly recall being incredibly excited about the future at the time, and I did not even really know who Roy Williams was.
All I knew was that he had tremendous success at Kansas, was a friend and faithful follower of Dean Smith, and was coming to Chapel Hill to save the program. At the time, the Carolina players were frustrated and a full revolt was underway. Roy Williams was the steadying hand.
Looking back over the last 18 season, it is easy to remember the players. Fans had one year with Coby White, two years with Harrison Barnes, three years with Justin Jackson, and four years with Tyler Hansbrough. A lot of the fun of college basketball is watching the players develop over time and building that connection as a fan. It is easy to forget that the constant presence through all of these stories was Roy Williams.
He rebuilt the program to a Championship in 2005. He took a group of freshmen and built another championship four years later in 2009. He survived the academic investigation, and resulting recruiting hit, to build another Championship team in 2017. One could argue that absent Kendall Marshall’s broken wrist and a team case of the flu, then 2012 and 2019 could have also been great outcomes.
Fans frequently and anecdotally recall screaming at Coach Williams from the comfort of our couches when he refused to call a first half timeout, directed defenses that gave up open threes, or gave preference to upper classmen. Looking back, however, he should also get the credit for the fast paced offense that scored so many points and the tremendous rebounding on an annual basis. Most importantly, he should get a lot of the credit for the player development that is the benchmark at Carolina. Coach Williams is inextricably intertwined with every positive memory one has of Carolina Basketball for nearly the last two decades.
And now, he is gone.
Younger fans have no idea what it is like to change coaches every three years. It is a luxury to focus on recruiting players rather than coaches. It was comforting to always have a leader who truly loved his players, his school, and the game. For all the times that My Grumpy Dad asked to start up the “Fire Roy” website, I am sure that he would be as lost today as I am.
Ultimately, I think changes in the game that Coach Williams loved so much led to his unanticipated retirement. An intense need for immediate satisfaction prevents an allowance of time to develop players. Individual statistics challenge team growth. Three point shooting dominates an interior focus. Recruiting a new team every year must be disappointing to a relationship coach. Recruiting your own team to come back is a bridge too far.
There will be a time to be excited about what the future holds for Carolina basketball. Today, however, I am simultaneously so happy and so sad for Roy Williams. For this fan, of both the school and the game, he has always been “the right guy.”