North Carolina

UNC's Roy Williams is fired up and getting mean - like he used to be

North Carolina head coach Roy Williams shouts at his team during the second half of the team’s 79-56 win over UNC Greensboro Tuesday.
North Carolina head coach Roy Williams shouts at his team during the second half of the team’s 79-56 win over UNC Greensboro Tuesday. AP

The time for being nice, North Carolina coach Roy Williams said Thursday, is over.

Days after Williams promised that his practices would be tougher and longer than usual – “long, long, long,” he said after the Tar Heels’ victory against UNC Greensboro earlier this week – he on Thursday spoke of being mean. Like he used to be, Williams said, in the old days.

“C.B. (McGrath) was happy yesterday because he thinks I got a little bit closer to the way I used to coach,” said Williams, who coached McGrath, the UNC assistant, at Kansas. “I used to coach out of fear. Scott Pollard when he introduced me at the 60th birthday party at Allen Field House, he said I was the only guy in his life that he’d ever been afraid of.

“And they better be afraid of me again today.”

Williams has been meaner in hopes that some of it might rub off on his team. The Tar Heels’ toughness, their grit, has been questioned this season – most notably in defeats against Butler and Iowa.

A year ago, Williams spent about half the season urging his team to play with more urgency. This season, toughness has been the characteristic Williams has most often criticized.

Asked on Thursday if his team is becoming tougher, Williams said, “I’ll learn a lot today by seeing how many show up for practice.”

His players took note. Sophomore forward Kennedy Meeks said Williams “has been a lot more serious” in recent days.

“He still smiles and all of that, but you can just tell that he’s taking it a lot more serious right now,” Meeks said. “I think he thinks that we’re playing around too much, which I think we are.”

Williams’ attitude adjustment has come before another important non-conference game on Saturday, when the Tar Heels play No. 12 Ohio State in Chicago. The Buckeyes have been one of the best shooting teams in the nation, and they rank among the top 30 teams nationally, too, in offensive rebounding percentage.

It's likely to take a tough, gritty effort for UNC to be successful – and the Tar Heels, for Williams’ taste, has too often lacked those qualities. Williams said people have told him over the years that he had “mellowed.”

“I want to see how they react,” Williams said. “Being a nice guy is not working. ... The question about our effort and our toughness is something that I am concerned about, I really am. Am I concerned about the quality of our kids? Not at all. You cannot have better kids then what I have.

“I have two grandsons, I’d let every one of my players be babysitters for my grandsons, and it can’t get any better than that. But we have to get tougher on the basketball court, mentally probably more so than physically.

UNC Jordan shoes sell for $33K

A pair of Converse sneakers from Michael Jordan's days at North Carolina sold for more than $33,000, ESPN reported Thursday.

According to the report, the auction house that sold the shoes – Grey Flannel Auctions – said Jordan wore the blue Converses in games while he played for the Tar Heels.

UNC has long had an apparel agreement with Nike but when Jordan played at UNC the men's basketball team wore Converse shoes. The company, according to the ESPN report, paid coach Dean Smith about $10,000 per year to have his players wear Converse shoes.