Why We Love Roy

In case you forgot why over a sticker and two and half hours basketball game.

Via Adam Lucas at Tar Heel Blue:

Williams will, in fact, be on a plane in a few days. But it won’t be bound for Barcelona, where he was supposed to meet Scott and Katie and then move on to the Canary Islands. It’ll be bound for one of several recruiting events that span the nation over the remainder of April.

“Telling my wife I had to cancel our trip to Europe is probably the second-closest I’ve ever been to divorce,” the head coach said on Wednesday. “But I missed three days of recruiting last week because our team was preparing to go to the Final Four. I didn’t feel like I could miss three days next week, too. I need to be out recruiting that Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.”

In case you were wondering, Williams says the closest he’s been to divorce also has a recruiting bent; after his third year at Kansas, he and his wife, Wanda, took their first vacation since taking the head coaching job in Lawrence. They went to Maui on his cherished Marriott Rewards points. Remember, this was pre-cell phone era. Every afternoon of their trip, he told Wanda he wanted to go jogging. And every afternoon, he’d put on his jogging shoes and go down to the hotel lobby to make recruiting phone calls on a bank of pay phones.

So in this instance we get a glimpse to what extent Roy is willing to sacrifice, even spending time with his family because he is dedicated to UNC.  Let that sink in for a moment.  He did not feel like he could miss three days of recruiting this week because he missed them last week and this coming from a guy who has top flight players committed from now until 2010.  It would be easy for some to take those three days off but not Roy.

On Saturday, his team suffered an 84-66 defeat to Kansas in the Final Four. It was easily Williams’s largest margin of defeat ever in the NCAA Tournament.

But the score wasn’t the only reason it was so painful.

“When I went back to coach at Owen High School (in Asheville), do you know who I wanted to beat the most?” he says. “My old coach, Buddy Baldwin, and Roberson High School.

“That game against Kansas, I wanted to win that game more than any game I’ve ever coached for obvious reasons. And it’s the only time in my life I can remember one of my teams coming out with that kind of energy level.”

That energy level, of course, eventually resulted in a stunning 40-12 first-half deficit. And although the Tar Heels surged, it still led to a sleepless Saturday night.

“The next morning, the first day that there’s no practice and no game, that’s the worst day of your life that doesn’t have something to do with an illness in your family,” he says. “You feel lost. You’ve gotten close, but you didn’t realize your dream.”

I assume that is a sufficient level of angst and agitation to silence those who thought Roy was not wholly focused on beating Kansas.

Williams remained in San Antonio on Sunday to attend the Naismith Award presentation with Tyler Hansbrough. His son, Scott, and daughter, Kimberly, also remained in town, as neither could find an earlier flight back home. The entire Williams family sat together at Monday night’s championship game.

While walking down the aisle to his seat at that game, Williams spotted nine of his former Jayhawk players. While talking to one of them, Ryan Robertson, a bystander handed Williams a Kansas sticker. After taking his seat, Williams affixed the sticker to his shirt.

It was exactly what you’d expect from a man who is always very candid about his emotions. When he’s sad, he cries. When he’s happy, he beams. When he’s rooting on one of his teams–as he’s done in Omaha for the past two years following the Diamond Heels, for example, or when he made the 30-minute drive to Cary to watch a Carolina-Princeton baseball game on the Tuesday after winning the ACC Tournament title–he is as vocal about his support as any fan in the bleachers.

That’s how he acted in 1993, when his Jayhawks lost to Dean Smith’s Tar Heels in the national semifinals. “Let’s stay in New Orleans and watch Coach Smith win another one,” he told Baldwin.

That’s exactly what the pair did, with Williams feverishly waving a blue-and-white pom-pom from his seat in the Superdome. On the way out of the arena after Carolina’s win over Michigan, he stopped to buy a t-shirt for Scott and Kimberly–neither of whom had yet attended UNC–that read, “I was there in New Orleans,” along with the victorious Tar Heel score.

“I’m pretty consistent,” he says. “My team lost to Carolina in 1993 and I stayed and supported Carolina. My team lost to Kansas in 2008 and I stayed and supported Kansas. I am who I am. I’m thankful that I am surrounded by people who understand how I am and support me no matter what, because I realize not everyone in the world falls into that category.”

So is what Roy did this time any different than what he did at Kansas in 1993?  The only difference is CBS did not find him with their cameras and plaster an image of him cheering for the team that just knock his team out of the tournament.  We also did not have message boards and the prevelant nature of sports talk to fan the flames by focusing on 2+ hours of wearing a sticker amid the tireless hours of work he gives UNC in efforting to make them the best college basketball program in the nation.

Since returning to Chapel Hill, he’s had a chance to have an initial meeting with Wayne Ellington, Ty Lawson, and Tyler Hansbrough about their upcoming decisions. He’s filled out paperwork for the NBA Undergraduate Advisory Committee, and will also contact five other NBA teams not involved with the committee about the future of his talented trio. They’ll meet again once the information-gathering process is complete.

Wednesday was the first day he had the opportunity to resume his ritual lunchtime walk (his spring plans also include next week’s awards ceremony and this year’s Reece Holbrook Golf Classic, which this year also features a concert by Vince Gill)), a circuit that takes him around most of the heart of Chapel Hill.

“It’s an unbelievable feeling to be able to walk around campus and get that feeling when you walk down Franklin Street,” he says. “Walking down Gimghoul Road and seeing how pretty it can be in the spring is great. And the students that I see always say hello. Being a part of that is neat for me. I love that. It’s never been about just coaching a basketball team for me. It’s about the University and the love I have for Carolina.”

It’s coaching, of course, that creates the opportunity for those midday walks. Which reminds us–what happened in that first meeting with Baldwin and Roberson High?

Williams winces.

“He beat me by 55 points,” he says. But then he raises an eyebrow.

“But I got him back later.

The bottom line is yes wearing the sticker hurt some folks, mainly because the wound from Saturday was still open.  However, the great mistake many among us have made is judging a man based on one sticker and what he did in the stands of the game on Monday night.  That is the nature of the fast paced, instant reaction society in which we live but such responses fail to consider the whole man.  Roy’s love for UNC is undeniable, if it was not he would still be at Kansas.  His desire to win is not quenchable in any way as evidenced by his demeanor in the postgame press conference.  And ultimately his dedication to the Tar Heel basketball program is why UNC went from the struggles of 8-20 under Matt Doherty to three 30 win seasons and two Final Fours including one title.

On Monday night, Roy did something that could be construed as a bad idea.  At the same time Roy did something that was wholly consistent with the man who has shown great passion over the years whether it be Kansas or UNC.    If I am picking coaches I am taking Roy six days a week and twice on Sunday because that passion is what I want fueling my basketball program for as long as he is willing.

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21 Responses to Why We Love Roy

  1. Kat says:

    Personally I think it’s a bit ridiculous that so much time and energy has been spent on the fact that he wore a “sticker” supporting his former team. We support the Panthers, but hey I’ll be a Cowboys fan till the day I die. Where is it written that a person is not allowed to have multiple levels of loyalty?

  2. Brooks from Baltimore says:

    We as Tarheel fans are blessed to have Roy

  3. C. Michael says:

    They say there is a fine line between genius and insanity. Working as hard as Roy does, by most American standards (and ALL European standards!), is insane, and probably unhealthy; but my goodness, the results sure are genius!!

    Also, in 1993, CBS did televise Roy and Wanda cheering for UNC, remember it clear as day… there was just no internet!! 😉

  4. Triadboy says:

    Roy’s the best! That sticker didn’t bother me – one iota.

  5. Tar Heel Fan says:

    I did not remember that but then again the cable was out for the first half and five mins into the 2nd so we had to watch the game with some on screen fuzz until it came back. I was also so wrapped up in the game I guess I did not notice it.

  6. Will says:

    It was interesting to see Lucas’ article this morning, because he was clearly trying to give Roy’s side of the story.

    On Saturday night, the Kansas fans loudly booed Roy. On Monday night, they cheered Roy and his sticker. I think Roy wanted to beat Kansas more than anything, but after we lost he decided to show his support for Kansas in order to get them to like him again and put to rest the debate that preceded the Final Four. In many ways, I think this was a fantastic strategy. UNC fans reacted naturally, and you cannot blame the, but for those who can put 2 and 2 together, you would realize this was a good move.

  7. Josh Bowling says:

    Thanks Roy!!!!!!

  8. Josh Bowling says:

    Some people are glad to see Roy hit the recruiting trail because they want a new breed of players that can finish the job and allow Ty/Ellington/Hansbrough to go on pro since they couldn’t close the deal. I really don’t agree with this logic however. But most UNC fans are optimistic that this will happen, and a new crew will come in and finish up. (Kinda like contracting work)

  9. Josh Bowling says:

    Can I just say again how nice it is to have Roy at the helm. Thanks for choosing UNC!! Although some would say “Thanks for coaching UNC Roy, and pulling for Kansas” I really disagree with these people’s premise for saying this. But it is just the current state of affairs. I hope this doesn’t affect Roy or affect the kids coming into this program not knowing wether the coach is on their side or not. I hope we don’t have any transfers.

  10. Kat says:

    OMG if anyone actually questioned his loyalty over this or transferred??? That is just to laughable to consider.

  11. Larry P says:

    I remember Roy in 1993 at the postgame press conference after the semifinals when he said plainly that he would be pulling for UNC on Monday night, and that he believed everybody understood why. Those words were etched in my memory, and that’s one reason I always pulled for Roy’s Jayhawks except when they played UNC.

  12. Matt in the Mountains says:

    THF… I read Adam’s article this morning and was greatly relieved that someone (even though it was the expected one) stood up to all the overblown drama circulating since Monday night’s “Stickergate.” I appreciate you standing up and doing the same.

    To all of us, I encourage us to remember how hard Roy worked for UNC prior to the KU years…. running basketball calendars weekly from Murphy to Manteo and coaching the JV squad in Chapel Hill. Let’s remember that when at Owen High School in Swannanoa (near Asheville) he also loaded and unloaded bags off planes at Asheville Regional Airport on top of teaching, family, and coaching full time. Let’s remember he went to UNC, loved and adored Dean Smith, and left KU after 15 amazingly storied years to come home again because WE needed him! Roy’s the man! With dearest respect to all the haters, and dare I say “one weekend turn-coats,” get over the stupid sticker and our loss Saturday night. The man is true blue Carolina to the core so stop questioning his loyalty. Loyalty to Carolina is all he’s ever been.

    GO HEELS and don’t worry, they’ll be great next year… reason # 1 because Roy’s at the helm.

  13. Silent Sam says:

    Ol’ Roy is AOK in my book!

  14. DeanForever says:

    We are the luckiest fan base in all of America. Roy Williams is, simply put, a good guy. Thanks to the internet, even passing thoughts are posted and debated, and then re-hashed some more.
    I don’t know who the people are who wish to see the trio of Lawson/Ellington/Hansbrough depart, but I would like to hear why. These are, from all of the iformation I have seen/read, good kids. They have been part of what has become an amazing new era in UNC basketball (starting with the title in 2005). Remember how much criticism the trio of Felton/May/McCants received until they won a title? We deify those kids, while some are wishing to see the likes of the new “Big Three” depart for greener pastures? What!? It is absurd to think that the newest trio of Drew, Davis, and Zeller can come in and plow through the competition like the aforementioned current trio have. Davis will probably get double the playing time as the other two. Drew is quick, but has little to offer (yet) defensively. Zeller is quick for his size, but needs to gain some weight and work on his post moves.
    Again, we love Coach Roy and I should think that we would love a return of at least two of the Lawson/Ellington/Hansbrough trio. Go Heels!

  15. Silent Sam says:

    And, of course, we’ve seen Ol’ Roy in Omaha supporting the Tar Heels baseball team in the College World Series, at Kenan Stadium supporting the football Heels and he’s probably supporting other Carolina athletic teams and the University in general in 1,000 different ways. The guy flat out loves UNC.

  16. tarheler4life says:

    Roy is Great!!!! Psycho T, Lawson, and Ellington better be back next year. They are not ready for the NBA, but then again it’s hard to refuse those benjamins. ha ha ha!!!

  17. w says:

    viva coach roy!

  18. G. Keith says:

    Adam Lucas is the biggest homer. He would stand up for UNC no matter what. I’ve asked him a couple of times about various things — and he was nice enough to respond to them — but he always toes the UNC line. He never questions decisions. With Stickergate, he pointed to Roy’s 1993 cheering for UNC. So what? Does that excuse his cheering for Kansas in 2008? No. Your team just got drubbed by Kansas. Don’t pour salt into an open wound. If I was a Kansas fan in 1993, I’d been just as mad. Then, back several years ago, I pointed out some pretty obvious issues with a particular player’s play in a couple of basketball games. I had those games on tape, and I watched the player’s actions several times, and it appeared darn near certain something was fishy. Adam blew it off. If you happen to have it on tape , go back and watch the two games in the 2004 NCAA tournament. I think, with a fresh look, and based on your knowledge now, you will see some odd stuff.

  19. Tar Heel Fan says:

    The fact he did so in 1993 is relevant to this season because it means he is consistent. You can argue that it was wrong on either account and that is fine but the fact he was consistent in behavior casts the actions this season in a different light.

    And please tell me what what good it does to bring up things that happened in 2004? It is well known the players were still having attitude problems heading into the 2005 season and credit Roy for getting them on the same page to win a title.

    Adam Lucas toes the party line because he works for the official radio network and website for the athletic department. Obvious he is not going to say anything negative about a player or coach at UNC given it is his job to promote the team. And besides that, nothing he said in his article about Roy was untrue. Everyone was questioning Roy’s loyalty for wearing a sticker during one game and all Lucas did was illustrate how idiotic that line of thinking was.

  20. 52BigGameJames says:

    admirable restraint THF!

  21. C. Michael says:

    Agreed, 52. This is why I do not have a blog! 😉

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