The last time Roy Williams and Mark Few coached against each other in the NCAA tournament, they met up at a casino days before the game, gambled into the wee hours of the morning and then shared an encounter with the police. Well, a least Williams shared an encounter with the police.
They're coaching against each other again on Monday night. Williams will attempt to lead North Carolina to its sixth NCAA tournament championship. Few will attempt to lead Gonzaga to its first. There's a good chance they didn't do any gambling earlier this week, but you never know with these two.
After all, it took eight years for their escapades in 2009 to become public. Williams shared the story early last week, the Final Four field set. He spoke of the 2009 South Regional in Memphis, Tenn. He spoke of playing craps with Few days before UNC and Gonzaga were to play each other in the Sweet 16.
Naturally, the questions have come up again here at the Final Four. Few told the story on Sunday, the day before the national championship game. Williams told the story, too. And so here it is, a brief oral history of the time Williams and Few gambled the night away outside of Memphis:
ROY WILLIAMS, UNC coach: This is a good story.
MARK FEW, Gonzaga coach: We probably would have got crucified at the time.
WILLIAMS: I'm not embarrassed. I loved it, to be honest with you.
FEW: The best kept secret forever.
WILLIAMS: We're in the Sweet 16, 2009, we're going to play Gonzaga in Memphis. And we won two to get there. They win two. So I call him Monday. I said, ‘When are you going in?’ He said Wednesday. I said, me too. I said, ‘What time do you put your guys to bed?’ He said midnight. I said me too. I said, ‘Where are you staying?’ He said Holiday Inn. I said we're at the Peabody right across the street.
FEW: Staffs talked and we said, hey, we got nothing going, let's have meetings and films and let the kids go to bed or whatever, and let's all rally down to -- I think it's Tunica. Is that the name of the place, down there just about 35 minutes outside of Memphis?
WILLIAMS: I called him the next day and he answered the phone and said, 'Gamblers Anonymous.' And it's probably not something you want to be saying, but he said, all right, we're in. NCAA had those courtesy cars.
FEW: To your question about how much the NCAA's improved, we all piled into, I think I had six, seven guys in a Ford Fiesta.
WILLIAMS: We had these little small little vehicles. So I got, I think I had five guys in my little car. One is sitting on the console.
FEW: We rallied down there.
WILLIAMS: We met in the parking lot. We drove to Tunica.
FEW: We got our table all to ourselves played craps. It was awesome.
WILLIAMS: We both lost.
FEW: We all got our butts kicked and handed to us and lost some money but we had fun.
WILLIAMS: We get back in the car and heading back to Memphis. It's about 3:00 in the morning. I get pulled over. And I wasn't really -- I was speeding, but it was like two or three miles, and I was really surprised. And I realized I had the NCAA logo thing on the side of the car.
FEW: He got pulled over and told the cop to, ‘Hey, you're going to see another’ -- first of all, the cop recognized him and it was, like, ‘What are you doing?’ And he explained to him.
WILLIAMS: The guy comes up and he said, Coach, and he said, I wondered if somebody had stolen a car or something like that. So we talked a couple of seconds. I said if I could bribe you I'll give you $100 if you'll stop Mark Few. He's about 15 minutes behind me.
FEW: He said, there's another, like, little Ford Fiesta coming. Make sure you pull them over because they're illegal, they don't have seat belts, because we had more guys in the car.
WILLIAMS: The next day I came running into their shootaround and got the equipment manager, called him over. I said, ‘Did you guys get stopped last night?’ He said no.
FEW: They missed us.
WILLIAMS: And just ruined my day.
FEW: So we skated through there, luckily. Great story, though, and just shows you what a good guy he is. And Steve Robinson is on his staff. I've known him forever. He's a dear friend.
WILLIAMS: But that's the story. But I think coaches should be able to have fun with each other.
So there you have it: the time that Williams and Few stayed out until 3 a.m. shooting craps – and the time Williams was pulled over on the way back to Memphis. No word on whether Williams returned to Tunica, a small town in Mississippi, when the Tar Heels were in Memphis last week.
There are some casinos in and around Phoenix. None with craps, however. And so Williams and Few will have to get their thrills during this trip from coaching against each other on Monday night, the national championship at stake. Perhaps it’s more compelling than some dice-rolling.