Roy Williams calling a timeout? It’s for a good cause

Roy Williams would do just about anything to raise money to fight cancer, even appear in a commercial about calling timeout.

The North Carolina coach is participating in the Infiniti Coaches’ Charity Challenge and is featured in a commercial for the contest which will raise $100,000 for the winning coach’s charity of choice.

There’s a catch to the challenge. The tagline for the contest, run by ESPN and the National Association of Basketball Coaches, is “Timeouts can change games.”

Williams is hoping to raise money to fight cancer. His more appropriately named “Fastbreak Against Cancer” campaign has helped raise more than $2.5 million for the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center.

The unintentional comedy of Williams, famous for hoarding his timeouts, being featured in a commercial about calling timeout, is not lost on Williams.

“Everybody has been telling me that,” Williams said after he had a good-natured laugh at the concept.

Looking for footage

The 30-second commercial features Williams twice. Neither time is he signaling for a timeout, which is how his ACC colleagues are shown in the ad.

They probably couldn’t find footage of Williams calling a timeout. He still has some from his initial season at Kansas in 1989 stockpiled in reserve.

Williams has often been criticized for not using his timeouts but any dissension among Carolina fans was quelled in the NCAA tournament last year.

Williams did not call a timeout with the clock running down in the final seconds of the Elite Eight game with Kentucky. With game tied at 73, Theo Pinson drove the length of the court and found Luke Maye on the left wing for the game-winning shot in the final seconds.

Williams’ philosophy is that he prepares the players in practice. The players are capable of getting out of the situations on their own and, if nothing else, they learn from them.

“Timeouts have never been that big a thing with me,” Williams said in one of the all-time understatements.

Honestly, Williams said, that’s what he does in practice. He goes over different scenarios and prepares his team for each one.

“I really do think that’s what we practice for,” Williams said. “You’ve got to be able to handle things.”

A personal thing

Not calling timeout has become Williams’ calling card. In the first half of UNC’s 96-89 win at N.C. State on Feb. 10, the Wolfpack went on a 19-0 run.

Everybody in the building expected Williams to call a timeout. Even assistant coach Steve Robinson, who has been with Williams for 23 years at Kansas and Carolina, looked over at Williams after the Wolfpack took a 37-28 lead and the roof was about to come off of the PNC Arena.

“I was so mad then, I was not going to call timeout,” Williams said.

He never did and his team responded with the next seven points in the game and trailed by two at the half.

Maybe before he retires, Williams said, he’ll try something crazy.

“I think I’ll call four timeouts in the first 4 minutes just to see what the hell it felt like,” Williams said.

There is a stubbornness at this point to Williams not calling timeout. He knows when people want him, or expect him, to call a timeout.

“Well, now it’s gotten to be a personal thing,” Williams said. “I don’t do it just to tick everybody else off.”

Joe Giglio: 919-829-8938, @jwgiglio

No. 10 UNC at Syracuse

When: Wednesday, 7 p.m.

Where: Carrier Dome, Syracuse, N.Y.

TV/radio: ESPN, 106.1-WTKK

UNC (21-7, 10-5 ACC)

G Joel Berry 17.7 ppg, 3.8 rpg

G Kenny Williams 11.5 ppg, 3.4 rpg

G Cam Johnson 13.1 ppg, 4.6 rpg

G Theo Pinson 9.3 ppg, 4.5 apg

F Luke Maye 18.4 ppg, 10.5 rpg

Syracuse (18-9, 7-7 ACC)

G Frank Howard 15.2 ppg, 5.1 apg

G Tyus Battle 19.9 ppg, 3.0 rpg

G Oshae Brissett 14.7 ppg, 9.0 rpg

F Marek Dolezaj 4.9 ppg, 5.1 rpg

F Pascal Chukwu 5.5 ppg, 6.4 rpg

Storylines: UNC has had great success using a big man in the middle of Syracuse’s 2-3 zone. It will be interesting to see if Roy Williams will put wing Theo Pinson in there, for his passing, or if he’ll station Luke Maye in there to knock down 10-foot jumpers. Williams has won five straight matchups with fellow hall-of-fame coach Jim Boeheim, including a Final Four game in 2016.

Joe Giglio

Related stories from Raleigh News & Observer