Carolina is lucky to have Roy Williams in more ways than one.
I was in the state of Maine when I read Steve Kirchner’s email that the Smith Center court was going to be named for Roy Williams. Very nice, I thought, a great tribute to a great coach — and not for just winning 424 games and three national championships since returning to UNC in 2003.
When Ol’ Roy first turned down the job in 2000, I thought he would stay at Kansas for the rest of his coaching career. Heck, Dean Smith was a Kansan who never went home. Williams could be a North Carolinian who settled in Kansas.
Think about how things might have gone if he had done just that. Would the Tar Heels have recovered from what happened after the Smith-Guthridge era ended? Sure, Carolina would have kept winning to some measure, but not the way Williams has in 15 seasons here under some serious scrutiny.
Not only righting the program and catching Duke for NCAA tournament supremacy in the ACC, if not the nation, but also representing the university so well in good and bad times.
Williams had no idea he was inheriting an academic scandal that touched the basketball program. He didn’t run out on it, took more than one bullet for his players and somehow fielded top teams without many five-star recruits who, for a while, wouldn’t even visit.
How to honor Williams was a question that bounced around among alumni and fans. They weren’t taking Smith’s name off the building or adding Williams to it. Naming the court is not new, but it has special meaning at Carolina.
Had the university done it earlier, it would not have looked right while the scandal was running its course. After Williams and UNC were not found guilty of violating any NCAA bylaws, the time had come.
We are lucky that Kansas made some bonehead moves in its athletic department that soured Williams toward what he had decided was his job for life, and we are lucky that he answered Smith’s call a second time. Now, he will get to coach on the floor with his name.
The Roy Williams Court in the Dean Smith Center – 50 years of greatness personified.