It was a case of crowd envy, North Carolina coach Roy Williams saying after his team’s loss at Indiana on Nov. 30 that he wished the crowds at the Smith Center could be as energetic, as enthusiastic, as what the Tar Heels encountered at Indiana’s Assembly Hall.
On Sunday, though, after his team’s dramatic 73-71 victory against Tennessee, Williams praised the home crowd while he criticized his coaching in a victory that was significantly more difficult than the Tar Heels could have anticipated.
“I’ve been complaining about our crowds,” Williams said, “but today the Smith Center crowd was one hundred times better than the head coach and I appreciate that.”
Williams’ comments came in a statement UNC released after his postgame press conference ended. Which means Williams was so compelled to praise the crowd that he asked UNC sports information director Steve Kirschner to send out a press release.
Less than two weeks ago, Williams after that loss at Indiana vented about the crowds he regularly sees at the Smith Center. Assembly Hall rocked during the Hoosiers’ 76-67 victory. Williams brought up the crowd in his opening statement that night.
“It was a wonderful crowd,” he said. “Gosh. I’d like to play in front of a crowd like that in the Smith Center every night other than the frickin’ Duke game. And that was just – congratulations to them, their fans, their students. It was a big-time crowd.”
There were about 3,000 empty seats Sunday at the Smith Center, where the announced attendance was 18,745. The student section on the floor was full about 90 minutes before tip-off, though, and UNC’s home fans were especially energized during the Tar Heels’ rally from a 15-point deficit.