UNC's Williams on the rivalry with NC State
Roy Williams prefers his trash talk to be understated with a hint of subtlety.
When the North Carolina coach wants to talk trash to his friends, who are N.C. State fans, he calls them.
(Yes, people still actually use the phone to make calls).
But he doesn’t brag about his incredible record or a specific win (although last year’s 107-56 epic beatdown of the Wolfpack might come up in casual conversation).
“Oh, I leave them a message,” Williams said.
“How you doin’ today? Alright, just thought I’d check in.”
Short, sweet and to the point, just to let them know he’s thinking about them and the rivalry that shaped his formative years as a college basketball fan.
“That’s all it is because I’ve gotten it back from them a few times, too,” Williams said.
It hasn’t been often since Williams returned to Chapel Hill in 2003. Williams once famously said he’d rather “beat State than eat.” That’s not a choice he has to worry about. Williams has a 27-3 record against the Wolfpack with the Tar Heels (he also went 5-0 against them with Kansas).
Williams has a 13-1 mark against the Wolfpack in Chapel Hill, where the two teams will meet again on Saturday (noon, CBS).
The 67-year-old coach has had a hand in at least hastening the exit of two of N.C. State’s past three coaches with lopsided wins over Herb Sendek (95-71 in Raleigh in 2006) and Mark Gottfried (both games last season) in their final years with the Wolfpack.
Even the success that Dean Smith had (60-30, 66.7 percent) against the Wolfpack, pales in comparison to Williams’ winning percentage (90.0), albeit in significantly fewer games.
Put it this way: UNC has the same number of national title wins under Williams as it has losses to N.C. State.
Last year’s 51-point win in Chapel Hill — the largest margin of victory in any ACC game (ever) for the Tar Heels — gave Williams his mic-drop moment for any future arguments with his old buddies.
Williams didn’t name names on Thursday (which was probably best for all parties involved) but his “buddies” from Asheville, or from his college days at Carolina, are the ones who stoked his intense dislike for the Wolfpack.
“I had a couple of buddies that would just make fun of coach Smith and say some things and I just didn’t take that well,” Williams said.
“That’s the way it started, it was just my buddies, because I didn’t think they were fair to coach Smith. I was ready to fight (them). I haven’t lost a lot of that anyway.”
Williams didn’t like N.C. State before he got to Chapel Hill. His mentor, and high school coach, Buddy Baldwin was a big Carolina fan. Williams learned the game and a distaste for Wolfpack red from Baldwin and then played for the UNC freshmen team in 1968-69 season.
“It was my freshman year here that I thought this rivalry is unbelievable,” Williams said. “To me, they were the biggest rival, it wasn’t Duke. But it was because my buddies would agitate me all the time.”
Williams’ N.C. State buddies now probably wish they had never said anything.
“What I try to do is, every game is important, but there are some games that you get more fired up for,” Williams said. “I get pretty fired up for this one.”
While the rivalry with Duke has surpassed the one with State, Williams still enjoys the passion between the fans on both sides.
The current crop players, who view Duke as their rival, understand what the games with State mean to Williams.
“I think they know how I feel because it’s an important game to me,” Williams said. “I mean, my father-in-law is a State graduate, come on, guys.”
Which means it’s not all bad blood with State fans. Williams said he has been able to convert his father-in-law, Fred Jones, to root for the Tar Heels.
He’s left the rest of the State fan base little choice but to respect his record or at least his value of the rivalry.
Joe Giglio: 919-829-8938, @jwgiglio
NC State at No. 10 UNC
When: Saturday, noon
Where: Smith Center, Chapel Hill
TV/radio: CBS, 106.1-WTKK