“Sense of urgency is not just diving on the floor. It’s everything. It’s being into it mentally. It’s nothing else is important. I’m always talking about losing yourself in the game.”
                                                                       -Coach Williams

We’ve heard Coach Williams go on and on like a broken record over the last few weeks. So much so, Vegas odds are down to even money on “sense of urgency” being the postgame press conference answer to the habitual question: what has been the difference for the Tar Heels in turning things around on the court?

But folks, you should still get down on that wager. It’s not a great payout on your money, I know. But it’s an easy withdrawal. And a small winner is always better than tearing up a long-shot loser ticket.

Still, the question remained: what exactly does Roy mean when he talks about playing with a “sense of urgency?”

After all, we’ve heard countless coaches use those same three words in press conferences addressing the media across the country. Placed out of context and with little supporting background, “sense of urgency” could well be considered empty words, a canned response.

At least, that’s what I was beginning to interpret it as. I’ll be honest: I was growing tired of hearing the same old, same old from Roy during this five-game winning streak. And I know a lot of my reporting colleagues were feeling much the same way. We wanted more to work with. We wanted a magic formula prescribed by Dr. Williams, an antidote for Carolina’s ails.

You could see the rolled journalist’s eyes as those three little buzz words rolled off his tongue for the ump-teenth time last Friday during his weekly presser in the Smith Center. But this time, something refreshingly, unpredictably awesome and enlightening happened.

A reporter threw this question Roy’s way: what does playing with a “sense of urgency” mean to you?

His response was brilliantly revealing. At one point he talked about how you have to be so absorbed in the game that you aren’t thinking about how bad it may hurt when you hit the hardwood after a loose ball. You just do it, without any fear. You’re programmed, like a machine (with some emotion, of course).

Why do you do it? Because nothing else matters in that moment. All the other external noise has been blocked out.

I would equate it to some sort of tunnel vision. Any athletes out there that have achieved some level of success in their respective sports can relate to this. You remember those moments when you felt connected to your game. You weren’t thinking. You were reacting. It was natural.

I was a tennis player. Still am, I suppose. But I remember a couple matches in my junior days where I can honestly say I lost myself in the moment. Everything slowed down. I couldn’t miss if I tried. I was locked in. I even found myself forgetting the score a few times in those matches. And I never forgot a score!

I was so in tune with the basics of the game. I could see the individual hairs on the tennis ball as I was lining up a forehand. I could tell you down to the exact string where the ball was popping off my racket. I was already in position for the next ball before my opponent even finished their swing. It was animal-like instincts.

It’s difficult to put into words unless you’ve felt it yourself. It’s like you’re high, but with this high, you aren’t shoving Doritos down your throat and glued to your couch with some subpar comedy on the TV. No, in this high, you’re functioning at a superior level. If only I could have ever figured out how to tap into that “zone” more often. I could have been out on the ATP Tour!

But alas, that’s the very challenge and gauntlet that Coach Williams has thrown down to the Tar Heels. And lately, Carolina has seemed to respond. They appear to be tapping into their “zones” and playing with Roy’s “sense of urgency.”

But now we know what they’re all talking about with those three words.

And what better week than Duke Week for this definition to become crystallized? We can appreciate it all the more. A measure of efficacy has been revealed.

We know rivalry games usually come down to which team can invest more in the moment. Who’s willing to fight for every inch? (Coach Fedora, anyone?)

And Wednesday night in the Smith Center, with the eyes of the college basketball world – heck, the entire sporting world – on them, Roy will be preaching one simple message to his boys: lose yourself in the game.