North Carolina coach Roy Williams met with reporters on Tuesday in advance of his team’s game on Wednesday night at Indiana. Five things that stood out from Williams’ press conference:
1. Some reflection on 1,000 games.
Williams 1,000th game as a Division I college basketball head coach comes on Wednesday night at Indiana. One-thousand games. He thought about that on Tuesday, working the number around in his mind.
“That’s a lot of games,” he said.
As he said on Monday night during his weekly radio show, though, Williams has actually been a head coach for more than 1,000 games. He was a high school head coach for five years. And then led the UNC junior varsity team for eight years during his time as an assistant coach under Dean Smith.
“So I had eight years there where I had no record that meant anything, except to me,” Williams said. “But 1,000 games as a head coach at the Division I level is a lot of games, and it’s something I am proud of. But I don’t spend any time thinking about it. Sunday’s game is going to be 1,001. And I’ll be happy to get to 1,001 and 1,002 and on like that.
“But I’ve been very fortunate that for the most part I’ve had good health, because I didn’t start until 38. And it’s fairly late for a lot of coaches, really. But I loved what I was doing with coach (Dean) Smith and coach (Bill) Guthridge and coach (Eddie) Fogler, so I was in no hurry. And I turned down some opportunities, or it would have happened before. But I made pretty good choices, too.”
2. Over 1,000 games, Williams has collected a lot of old practice plans.
Williams keeps all of his old practice plans. Even ones, he said, dating back to when he was the head coach Of UNC’s JV team in the early 19080s. He’ll often reference those plans, the ones from more recent years, when practice begins every season, just to make sure he’s staying on track.
He keeps these old notes, and plans, in the office but also has some at home, too. Does Wanda, his wife, mind the collection?
“She’s the pack rat,” Williams said with a laugh. “She leaves the house, comes back, I’ve thrown away 100 things. I wait for her to see the kids so I can clean up. That kind of thing.”
3. There’s something different about UNC’s offense.
And more on this in a bit, because it’s the subject of a larger story that’s coming. But Williams acknowledged that the Tar Heels’ offense has been a bit more free-flowing during the first seven games. And yet, he said, “it depends.”
“If you watched the Hawaii game, at Hawaii, and you thought that was free-flowing, then I need to sell you something, because that was the worst frickin’ offense I’d ever seen,” Williams said. “And then Wisconsin took us out of a lot of stuff.”
“So I think it depends on game to game, but we’ll tweak everything a little bit and change some things. I’m not running the same things for Luke Maye that I tried to run for Brice Johnson. But the veterans are all way ahead.”
4. Thirty-five years later ...
Indiana on Wednesday night will honor its 1981 national championship team. The team the Hoosiers defeated to win that title? UNC. Williams was an assistant coach then for the Tar Heels, who endured a 63-50 defeat in the 1981 national title game.
“A couple of officials calls is what really ticks me off,” Williams said on Tuesday, all these years after.
The officiating isn’t the only thing he remembers. That national championship game is most remembered, perhaps, for being played hours after the assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan. Williams shared his memories:
“We go to the game, and we knew what had gone on. But I remember standing out in the hallway, and somebody coming. … somebody getting coach Smith, and coach (Bob) Knight, and then going down the hall and going into a room in there, and discussing. And everybody knew that they were discussing whether we were going to play the game or not.
“And then they came back out and said, and we’re going to play. But there was a lot of uncertainty. … I know that we got word that the president was going to be OK, and I think that had something to do with the decision, as well, but I was not listening in on anything, they came out and said, ‘We’re going to play,’ and that was it. It was an unusual time, and it was an eerie feeling.”
5. “A different animal” coming on Wednesday.
Williams on Tuesday received a question about how “battle-tested” the Tar Heels are, a few weeks into a season in which UNC has won all seven of its games by at least 15 points.
“We’ve had two true road games, at Tulane and at Hawaii, and that’s not what we’re going to face tomorrow night, to say the least,” Williams said.
Still, he likes that UNC has only played two home games, “that we’ve been tested not with out crowd getting us going.”
But Indiana at Assembly Hall will be unlike anything the Tar Heels have experienced.
And as a bonus …
6. The downside of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
Williams had an interesting take – though not necessarily a new one – about the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. The good is obvious enough: these are high-profile games that generate a good amount of interest and exposure.
The not-so good? The decrease in non-conference scheduling flexibility. Williams doesn’t look at ACC/Big Ten Challenge games as non-conference games. He looks at them, essentially, as additional ACC games.
And so UNC isn’t playing 18 conference games this year. In Williams’ mind, it’s playing 19 – including the game at Indiana on Wednesday. No, it’s not a true ACC game. But in terms of the caliber of competition, the challenge of the game, it might as well be.
Said Williams: “I’d like to play 16 conference games and keep playing three or four national opponents and all those kinds of things. But you keep adding all the conference games in, there’s no way in Hades I’m going to keep playing Kentucky and Connecticut, Arizona, UCLA, any of those kind of people, because it’s just silly.”
He went on:
“It’s great for TV,” he said of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, “but you add it all together, I think in the long term I think it’s taken away some of the great match-ups. We’ve played Connecticut in this building, we’ve played Arizona in this building, we’ve played Kentucky in this building. Texas in this building. I’m not going to keep playing people like that. It’d be silly.”
UNC at Indiana
ACC/Big Ten Challenge
When: 9 p.m. Wednesday
Where: Assembly Hall, Bloomington, Ind.