On Sunday when Georgetown had cut the lead down to 75-70, UNC brought the ball up and [UNNAMED ANALYST] said, “Probably should think about getting a timeout here” and I responded, “He’s not going to call a timeout, so quit saying it.” And he did not because that is what Dean Smith did and that is what Roy Williams does.
The question is how crucial was that decision in the way the game unfolded?
The answer for anyone who is being totally honest is we have no way of knowing. For myself, I probably would have called the timeout and seen if I could have settled the troops down, maybe given Lawson another break, and reinterated the offensive game plan which seems to have been abandoned. And it is possible it would have made a difference. It is possible they come out of the timeout and hit a key basket to put the lead back to seven.. Then again the shots were not falling so to some extent it might not have mattered one iota anyhow. Sometimes the ball just will not go in the hoop no matter how hard you try and timeouts or plaintive pleas from the bench are not going to change that reality.
Of course my point of view since Sunday is that Roy was less to blame for this loss than the hit job media was willing to assign him. I still hold to that view for the most part except for the minor exception related to the extent the players needed a steadying influence during the last six minutes when the sky was indeed falling. If there was a mistake made by Roy it was not the last play call which ended up being a missed Wayne Ellington three pointer, it was not recognizing that in the absence of a David Noel on the court it falls upon the coach to say the things that needed to be said. That was the irony of the whole weekend in that Roy discussed, in-depth, on Saturday how discouraged the Tar Heels looked coming to the bench with 32 seconds left and down by one against the Hoyas in 1982 until Dean Smith sold them on the idea that everything was going to be fine. If you read that account you understand what happened in 1982 on the final play was more about the players executing, not Dean drawing up a play. The crucial part of that timeout came in the reassurance from the coach that they could go out and win the game over the next 32 seconds. On Sunday it was not the play call that got Roy in trouble. Ellington could have hit the shot but he didn’t because sometimes the shots are not falling. The one move Roy could have made was to steady the storm of emotions these young players were feeling. And while it may not have worked, in hindsight it seems to have been the right move.
In the final analysis this is not a debate of whether you should use a timeout when the other team has seized momentum. Roy has won 524 games doing it Dean’s way and Dean won 879 and I imagine there have been far fewer lost over this than we all realize. Roy is a fallible human just like the rest of us who is stubborn in some of his ways and flexible in others. Our fault as fans is we lose sight of that fallibility sometimes assuming that any coach will have all of the right answers for every situation. The reality is that I would surmise that Roy is prone to a mistake about as often as his teams lose games which is in the neighborhood of 20%.
Sunday just happened to be in that 20%.