Williams rules Tar Heel nation
DETROIT – In 36 years Dean Smith won two national titles as head coach of the University of North Carolina.
Roy Williams has duplicated that in just six seasons.
“Roy Williams and Dean Smith don’t fit in the same sentence,” Williams said.
OK, fine, Williams is driving the juggernaut that Smith built (and Frank McGuire before him). But there isn’t a more perfect union in college basketball than Roy and Carolina; the ideal combination of style and substance, recruiting might and coaching acumen, of championships won and won and, most certainly, won again.
Williams is a youthful 58, nowhere near retirement, and poised with the possibility of winning the most NCAA championships of anyone not named John Wooden. Williams won’t just break his tie with Smith (and five other men), he’ll make a run at the few coaches with more titles – Adolph Rupp (four), Bob Knight (three), Mike Krzyzewski (three) and, of course, the incomparable Wooden (10).
If he coaches another decade how isn’t three more possible?
“My goal since my second year [at Kansas], I wanted to have my program where we would be in position at the end of the year [to] have a chance to win the whole thing,” said Williams, who’s been to five of the last eight Final Fours.
His second title came thanks to a complete annihilation of this year’s tournament field. The Heels won every game by double digits, never experienced a single late-game pressure moment and punctuated it all with an 89-72 blow out of Michigan State on Monday.
This wasn’t one shining moment; it was a three-week blaze of destruction.
Teams like this may not come along every day, but in Chapel Hill they may come along every few years.
The core of this team will move on, but freshman Ed Davis may have seen so little playing time he’ll return to campus and then become the No. 1 pick in the 2010 NBA draft. Of course Carolina also welcomes the No. 1-ranked recruiting class to campus next year.
Why wouldn’t they? The question for recruits now isn’t why Carolina, but why not?
Perhaps even more than the parade of talent that Smith brought in his tenure, Williams has made Carolina the ultimate stop for stars and, as a result, impossible to stop on the court.
Williams’ style of play, the go-go secondary break, is more enticing than anything Smith rolled out. The facilities, campus life, academics, exposure and location are tough to beat. And Williams is a relentless recruiter, a man who seems to enjoy the talent procurement process even at an age when so many peers find kissing up to teenagers, not to mention their handlers, distasteful.
Williams recalled back to 2005, when he won his first title at Carolina. The team celebrated Monday night, returned to Chapel Hill for another party Tuesday and then at 6 a.m. Wednesday Williams was on the road recruiting.
“My rear end is going to be somewhere either Wednesday or Thursday because I love this feeling,” he said smiling on Monday.
One of the refreshing parts of Williams is that he understands his role. He doesn’t lack for ego – he routinely speaks in the third person multiple times in the same sentence. He isn’t going to pretend that he is drawing these championships up in the huddle though.
You can’t just coach anyone into being Ty Lawson or Wayne Ellington. You get that level of skill and try to maximize it.
“Roy Williams is not that good,” he said. “But Ole Roy has got some big-time players and that’s what it takes.”
After a post-Dean lull in Chapel Hill, which included brief stints by longtime assistant Bill Guthridge and young coach Matt Doherty, the program returned to steady hands and hasn’t looked back.
It’s a tour of force right now, and Williams looks unwilling to take his foot off the pedal. It just put together the best three year stretch (101-14) in the program’s history. It’s even controlling the rivalry with Duke, winning six of the last seven meetings.
In the national championship game, Carolina had at least eight, maybe nine of the top-10 players. The Heels managed to destroy the Spartans for the second time this season. About the only negative thing you can say about Monday’s effort is it wasn’t as convincing as December’s 35-point crushing.
Not even a crowd featuring 55,000 State fans mattered. They had virtually nothing to cheer after the opening introductions. After 10 minutes of play, Carolina led by 21.
“It was a blur,” said the Spartans’ Travis Walton.
The Tar Heels won their NCAA tournament games by an average of 20.2 points. They held a double-digit lead in 64.2 percent of the minutes of this tourney.
They finished 34-4, yet Williams is still talking about the adversity the team overcame during the season. “We had a couple bumps in the road,” Williams said.
Not going undefeated is tough on the guys’ psyche.
That’s where we’re at with Carolina.
And with Williams at the helm and a disproportionate number of America’s best talents looking to play for him, that’s where we’ll return with them soon enough. Maybe a few times before he’s done.