In the midst of March Madness, Roy Williams decided he had enough of the college basketball rat race and decided to retire as coach at North Carolina, one of the sport’s plum jobs.
Williams, a member of the college basketball Hall of Fame, takes with him three national championships, 903 victories and a reputation as one of the straight shooters in an often nasty business. Where others were expert at four-letter expletives, he preferred the folksy “Dadgummitt!’’
And yet, there are a few blemishes on his otherwise spiffy resume.
There is, for example, the episode during his tenure at Kansas when he called the sports editor of the student newspaper and demanded that he fire one of his reporters. The young journalist’s crime was quoting one of Williams’ players when the coach had barred players from being interviewed. The sports editor’s reaction was maybe the coach should fire the player instead.
Williams was a North Carolina native and a longtime assistant on coach Dean Smith’s staff who recruited a promising player named Michael Jordan. By the time Smith retired, Williams was entrenched as head coach at Kansas, where he stayed as first Bill Guthridge and then Matt Doherty failed to return the Tar Heels to prominence. Williams was always on UNC’s radar and rumors were everywhere that he would return to Chapel Hill.
When Kansas lost the 2003 national championship game to Syracuse, Williams was crestfallen and, in a national television interview, was asked about the North Carolina job. “I could give a (bleep) about North Carolina right now,’’ he blurted. That was out of fashion for the coach whose vocabulary’s strongest exclamation had always been “Dadgummit.’’
Shortly after that unpleasantness, however, Williams was sporting Carolina blue in Chapel Hill and began a turnaround for the Tar Heels, who won national championships in 2005, 2009 and 2017.
The last title came under a cloud when NCAA investigators uncovered a nasty case of academic fraud on the campus with athletes directed to phony courses for credits. Williams swore up and down that he knew nothing about the scheme. If he didn’t, he should have because college coaches function like chief executive officers and nothing happens around their programs that they don’t know about.
He leaves the game with several records including being the only coach to lead two different NCAA Division I programs to 400 or more victories each and the only coach to take two programs to four Final Fours each.
There’s no denying that’s a pretty impressive resume, Dadgummit!!