In the mountains of western North Carolina, small towns are plentiful. Most are insular, quiet, and religious. The home of people who do not have much, making money from tobacco and other cash crops, western North Carolina is where Roy Williams was born and raised in the 1950s.
Most of these towns had their own soda fountains, where you could get a green river for a dime and eat a decent meal for a dollar or two, moonshine and fast cars. Many of the very best drivers known to man were able to wheel huge well-tuned American cars around twisted two-lane roads in the hills of the Carolinas as if they were Formula One racers.
If there was a sport in western North Carolina, it was motor racing, not basketball.
While basketball was played in these small towns, few turned out to be very good. Brad Daugherty from Black Mountain is an exception, the number one draft pick from UNC in 1986. And even he ended up announcing NASCAR.
Roy Williams was another exception, but not as a basketball player. He never got past freshman basketball at UNC.
Where he made his mark was as a basketball coach.
After learning under Dean Smith, arguably the best college basketball coach in history. Self-effacing and hard-working, like so many with his roots, Roy became a college basketball head coach at 38, fairly late in life.
Williams has now coached at two of the most storied programs in college basketball. At the University of Kansas, Williams racked up the most wins of any coach other than Phog Allen who coached there for forty years. And at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, he has won two NCAA championships. During his tenures, Williams has proven himself to be one of the most accomplished coaches in NCAA basketball history.
Williams reached 500 wins faster than anyone else in NCAA basketball coaching history. He had the highest active winning percentage and the third highest of all time when he was elected into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007.
His two NCAA basketball championships and numerous NCAA tournament successes rank him among the greatest coaches ever. According to Mike DeCourcy, , no slouch when it comes to basketball knowledge, his winning percentage is only behind Clair Bee, Adolph Rupp and John Wooden, and his seven Final Four appearances are only behind Wooden, Smith and Mike Krzyzewski. He ranks third in tournament victories, behind Krzyzewski and Smith. And his winning percentage in the ACC is better than Mike Krzyzewski’s.
Yet, guaranteed with anonymity and with obvious animosity, 100 coaches voted this summer and named Roy Williams the worst coach in college basketball by a very large margin.
There has been some bad blood and disrespect between UNC’s head coaches and others in the ACC. Terry Holland, the coach at the University of Virginia, called his dog Dean after Dean Smith. Holland claimed he did so because his dog “whines so much.”
But I can remember nothing as bad as this vote in the history of any college sport. Not by a long shot. Why would these coaches vote on something like this anyway?
Coaches might benefit from calling other coaches names. Call Williams the worst and perhaps fewer players will want to play for him. Maybe that was the motivation.
Both of the basketball recruits in the Tar Heels 2013 Class signed in 2011. This year, in quick succession, Williams lost two big-time recruits to Indiana University. Both Troy Williams and Noah Vonleh were offered by Roy Williams. Neither accepted.
Did these recruits consider the “worst coach” poll?
Maybe we should remind everyone of Williams’ outstanding college coaching career and all his great statistics. Certainly, UNC needs to do a better PR job. Williams will never do so himself.
The poll citing Williams as a bad coach said that he should have done more with his talent. DeCourcy says that Dean Smith had far better talent than Williams has had but that Williams is a better coach.
“Of all the people who are going to really dislike this column, the one who might surprise you the most is Roy Williams. Because when I say Roy Williams is the greatest basketball coach who’s ever been in charge of the North Carolina basketball program, Roy Williams is going to be daggum angry.”
John Wooden also won with far better talent than Williams, and is considered by many the best coach ever in any sport. Perhaps all we need to tell them is that Wooden named Williams first when asked “Who are the coaches you most admire or respect.”
“I like the team play in recent years of Roy Williams’ teams at Kansas. I think Mike Montgomery at Stanford is doing an outstanding job and, of course, I highly respect Mike Krzyzewski at Duke. Now they’re getting very bright youngsters and good players, and no one wins without outstanding talent, but not everyone wins with it, either.”