Add 'author' to Roy Williams' titles

Staff WriterOctober 17, 2009 

When UNC-Chapel Hill basketball coach Roy Williams was 14, he pulled his drunk and angry father off his mother, shoved a bottle under his chin, and threatened to kill him if he didn't leave.

"My dad never, ever came back to our house again," Williams says in his autobiography "Hard Work: A Life on and Off the Court," which will be on sale Nov. 3. His sister Frances, he wrote, "was more forgiving. I was not. I was mad that he'd torn our family apart."

The 288-page hardcover book, written with former Sports Illustrated reporter Tim Crothers, details Williams' journey from his rough early years in the North Carolina mountains to two-time NCAA-title-winning coach. An early copy was obtained by The News & Observer.

Williams, a native of Asheville and a UNC grad, has coached the Tar Heels since 2003. His UNC teams won national titles in 2005 and in April. Williams was inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame two years ago. An assistant coach under Dean Smith before leaving to coach Kansas, Williams has the highest winning percentage among active college basketball coaches.

In 14 chapters, the book covers everything from Williams' relationship with his alcoholic father and loving mother; to reading "Goodnight Moon" to his children; to how he developed his superstitions and coaching philosophies; to his decisions to stay with Kansas in 2000, then return to Carolina.

There are memories, such as learning of the death of his mother, Lallage, while on a recruiting trip; speaking at his father's funeral; and earning hugs from big men Sean May and Tyler Hansbrough after winning the 2005 and 2009 national titles.

He also says that former UNC coach Bill Guthridge didn't speak to him for three years after he turned down the Carolina job the first time around. UNC tried to hire Williams after Guthridge, Smith's successor, retired in 2000. In the book, Williams calls turning down the job one of the hardest decisions of his life.

Williams, 59, whose team opened practice Friday, was not available to comment about the book. A team spokesman said he had made an agreement with the book's publisher not to do interviews about it until closer to the release date.

The book, published by Algonquin, will sell for $24.95. This is Williams' first book. Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, his cross-Triangle rival, has published several books on leadership and coaching, but never an autobiography.

Laying it all out

Crothers, who interviewed Williams for a total of 64 hours over a two-month span at the coach's home and office, said he was surprised about how much the Williams family revealed.

"One of the reasons he has not written this book before now ... is because he didn't know whether he wanted to explore certain parts of his life in a book," Crothers said. "He came to the decision that if he was going to do a book, he was going to try to lay it out as candidly as he could. He said, 'If I'm going to be in, I'm going to be all in.'

"There were nights we were sitting there talking, and there were a lot of things I was learning that I did not expect to learn. ... He was able to open up and really talk about his background, and his journey into becoming who he is."

That includes the incident when Williams threatened his father, Babe, who Roy Williams says was physically abusive toward his mother.

The summer he turned 14, Williams says, his parents had been separated for several years, and although his father was court-ordered to pay child support, the checks were few and far between.

"My dad came by the house," Williams says in the book. "He was drunk and angry. It was the worst time I can ever remember. He went after my mom. I pulled him off of her, pushed him down, and grabbed a bottle and put it under his chin. 'Get out of here or I'll bust this over your head,' I said. 'I'll kill you.'

"The whole scene was very nasty, but I didn't care."

Other subjects covered

The 2008-09 preseason was so stressful that Williams once took a 4 a.m. walk down the middle of a street to try and clear his mind. "In all my years of coaching I have never felt such pressure. It was all because of what I wanted for one kid. I so wanted Tyler Hansbrough to reach his dream. ... I can never remember wanting something so much for one of my players." UNC defeated Michigan State to win the title in April.

After he turned down the Carolina job in 2000, Guthridge - who coached Williams on the UNC freshman team, then was an assistant with him under Smith - "essentially" didn't speak to him for three years. In 2003, when Williams took the job the second time it was offered, Guthridge was among those at the airport in Chapel Hill welcoming him back. "That was a little uncomfortable for me; we hadn't really talked for three years and I knew he had been very mad at me," Williams says. "... I gave him some leeway because I would always think of him as my coach."

A dozen different NBA teams have contacted Williams over the years, and the Lakers offered him their job in 2004, before they went after Krzyzewski. But the closest he came to truly wanting to make the leap was in 1998, when he felt like "the whole [recruiting] process had just gotten seamy." Then, he started recruiting Nick Collison, Drew Gooden and Kirk Hinrich. "Those three guys really changed everything," he wrote. "They reminded me that I could recruit good kids with good families. If it wasn't for those three guys, I don't know if I'd have stayed in college coaching. They saved me."

Because of his father's alcoholism, the only alcoholic drink he has ever ingested was a sip of beer in high school. "I think I never acquired the taste because I never wanted to acquire the taste. The idea that drinking too much could be hereditary scared me away. I used to tell my college buddies, 'You have to get drunk to act a fool. I can act a fool without drinking a drop.'"

robbi.pickeral@newsobserver.com or 919-829-8944

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