UNC coach Roy Williams on rivalry with N.C. State: It probably means more to me than typical UNC fan

North Carolina is 20-2 against N.C. State since Roy Williams became the Tar Heels’ coach in 2003.
North Carolina is 20-2 against N.C. State since Roy Williams became the Tar Heels’ coach in 2003. Robert Willett - rwillett@newsobserver.com

North Carolina fans might not view N.C. State as much of a basketball rival, but Roy Williams does. It’s always been that way for Williams, who briefly reflected on Friday about how and why games against N.C. State game to be more important to him.

The Tar Heels and Wolfpack resume their rivalry – as one-sided as it has been for, oh, the past 25 years or so – on Saturday at the Smith Center.

“I always have appreciated the rivalry,” Williams said. “I’ve enjoyed it. But I think it is a big rivalry. It probably means more to me than the typical North Carolina fan. It’s just because of the closeness and some buddies that were North Carolina State students when I was in school here. It was a personal thing.”

Williams has told the story often before, but it goes something like this: When he went off to school at UNC in the late 1960s, some of his friends from back home in Asheville gave him grief about it. Those friends of Williams went to N.C. State. Williams took the ribbing personally, and his disdain for the Wolfpack was born.

And it has grown. It has to be satisfying for Williams, then, that he’s experienced virtually nothing but success against N.C. State. Since returning to Chapel Hill in 2003 to become the Tar Heels’ head coach, N.C. State hasn’t won in the Smith Center. Overall, Williams is 20-2 against N.C. State as UNC’s head coach.

Neither team will be ranked when they play on Saturday. This early in the season, there’s nothing more on the line than positioning in the standings. Even so, a victory against the Wolfpack would probably mean more than it normally might for the Tar Heels.

With a win, they would even their ACC record at 4-4, after starting 0-3 in the ACC. They’d also extend their long home winning streak against the Wolfpack – a streak that is now 10 years long.

“It’s just one game,” Williams said. “Even though some people wanted to push me, nobody held me off the top of the building when we were 0-3, and if we win tomorrow, they’re not going to anoint me either. So I think it’s just one game. But it’s an important game. It’s an important game because it’s the game we’re getting ready to play but it’s North Carolina-North Carolina State. I mean, it’s an important game.”