Roy Williams is so serious about raising money for cancer research, he’s willing to let a North Carolina fan call a timeout.
There’s an item in the silent auction before the Coaches vs. Cancer Golf Invitational in Pinehurst on Sunday for the “UNC Basketball Courtside Experience.”
Technically, the auction winner will get a one seat on UNC’s bench, and one behind it, for a home game next season. They will also get to go into the locker room before the game and during halftime to listen to Williams prepare and motive the Tar Heels.
Not listed is the availability of a timeout, which Williams is loathe to use (admittedly often stubbornly so). But that can be negotiated, Williams said in an interview this week.
“They might as well, I’m not going to use them,” Williams joked about the timeouts.
There is one bench decorum rule rule.
“They better not get a technical foul,” Williams said.
Williams’ goal is to raise more than $1 million at the auction and two-day tournament in Pinehurst to benefit the American Cancer Society and the St. Baldrick’s Foundation.
Raising money for cancer research has been a passion project for Williams since his mother, Lallage, died from complications from myeloma in 1992.
“She was my hero, to say the least,” Williams said.
Williams also lost his best friend, Ted Seagroves, to pancreatic cancer in 2014. Williams’ annual Fastbreak vs. Cancer Breakfast at UNC has raised more than $3 million for the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center.
But the genesis of this particular effort to help pediatric cancer research, goes back to the tragic loss of Luke Morin last April.
Hunter Morin, a 75-year-old investment banker who lives in Fredericksburg, Va., is one of Williams’ best friends. His grandson, Luke, was diagnosed with a rare brain tumor (diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma) last April. He died, at a Colorado hospital, 17 days after was diagnosed. He was 5.
Williams was crushed by the news. He still has a difficult time telling the details of Luke’s story without getting emotional.
“I just cannot imagine losing a 5-year-old,” Williams said.
So when Natalie Morrison, who works with the American Cancer Society and Coaches vs. Cancer, approached Williams last summer about setting up this tournament in Pinehurst, he didn’t hesitate to help.
“He just looked at me and his eyes filled up,” Morrison said. “He was so passionate. He just wants to help in any possible way he can to make sure another family doesn’t have to go through what the Morins have.”
The preparation for the tournament has sent Williams back to his roots of hustling team calendars out of the trunk of his car when he was an entry-level assistant for Dean Smith. He has worked the phones and his network of friends and former players to line up sponsors and put the golf pairings together.
Williams has 34 groups scheduled to play at Pinehurst Nos. 2, 4, 6 and 8 on Sunday and Monday. Williams plans on playing.
Morin, who is one of Williams’ regular golf partners, knows how competitive the Carolina coach can be, even in a charity golf tournament.
“He’s not the most fun person to play golf with,” Morin said. “He grinds everything. Every shot is the most important shot in the world.”
But Morin also knows, and appreciates, Williams’ capacity for compassion.
“When it comes to family, and things that really matter, he’s a softie,” Morin said.
For more information about the Coaches vs. Cancer tournament in Pinehurst, or to help, go to https://acscorp.ejoinme.org/cvcinvitational.