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An Ode to the North Carolina Icon that is Roy Williams

In what seemed like a wonderful Thursday morning, I received a devastating text from one of my buddies. “The Badgers really ended this man’s career.” I took to Twitter to take a look myself, and that’s when I saw it — Roy Williams retired.

One of the greatest basketball coaches in NCAA history has retired. Since receiving his first head coaching job at the University of Kansas, Williams has been arguably the best coach in college basketball. Since joining North Carolina, no team has reached as many Final Fours as the Tar Heels. As a die-hard Tar Heels fan, hearing this news put a damper on my day.

In this article, I will break down Williams’ career and the impact he made on the basketball community.

Roy Williams’ Career

It seemed like a cruel April Fool’s joke, but in such a crazy time, it only makes sense that this retirement occurred.

Williams did not have a farewell tour, he did not let the media know what his plans were, but on the morning of April 1, 2021, Williams announced his retirement. The college basketball world was shocked to hear this news. Williams had a career that spanned 33 years, including 903 wins and three NCAA Tournament championships. He is undoubtedly in the upper echelon of college basketball coaches. Williams has two hall of fame careers in one lifetime. He is on the Mount Rushmore of college hoops coaches, right next to his mentor Dean Smith.

With a brief six year hiatus, Williams took over one of the most storied programs in history. He had the pressure on him to bring UNC back to relevance.

Roy Williams North Carolina
Credit: Gerry Broome/AP Photo

Not only did Williams succeed at North Carolina, but he thrived. Williams coached the team to six Final Fours since 2003, with three of them ending in a championship. In his second season as the head coach of North Carolina, he won his first championship with a team filled with talent like Raymond Felton, Rashad McCants and Sean May. His second championship came in 2008, when he led one of the greatest teams in college basketball history to glory. This team contained Tyler Hansbrough, Ty Lawson, Danny Green and Wayne Ellington. In 2016, Williams was seconds away from adding another championship to his resume, as Villanova’s Kris Jenkins hit a buzzer beater to take the title home. What did Williams do the next year? He coached Joel Berry, Justin Jackson and Luke Maye to a second Final Four, culminating in his third National Championship.

Roy Williams’ Impact on the Game

What Williams excelled at in basketball knowledge, he equally excelled at in being a role model for his team and community. Williams and his wife Wanda recently donated $3 million to the University of North Carolina in an effort to support various scholarships. Michael Jordan, who Williams recruited to UNC, spoke on what Williams meant to not only him, but his family.

Joseph Rodriguez/News & Record

“I’m sad that he’s leaving because he has meant so much to basketball,” Jordan said. “He and my father formed an unbelievable bond that meant so much to me.”

Even Williams’ career rival, Mike Krzyzewski, spoke one what Williams meant to the sport.

“College basketball is losing one of its greatest coaches and a man who genuinely cares about the game of basketball, and more importantly, the people who play it,” said Krzyzewski. “I have the utmost respect for Roy and his family, who represented themselves and their institutions with class, grace and humility. While were on opposite sides of college basketball’s greatest rivalry, we both understood how lucky we were to be part of it and always tried to represent it in the way it deserved. Personally, I will miss competing against him, seeing him at coaches meetings and having an opportunity to discuss how to make our game even better. Roy is a great friend, and our sport was very fortunate to have him as long as it did.”

Go back to UNC’s 2016-17 run to the championship and watch how the players reacted to Williams joining them in the locker room after every win. Obviously, teams are going to be happy to win in the tournament, but this was different. Williams was not only looked upon as a basketball coach, but as a genuine, caring man.

Thank You, Roy Williams

As one of the greatest coaches in sports history begins his life outside of basketball, we applaud Williams’ incredible career. Coaching players such as Paul Pierce, Tyler Hansbrough, Coby White, Kirk Hinrich and Harrison Barnes, many of college and professional greats owe homage to Williams.

Speaking for all of UNC’s fans, we thank you, Roy. College basketball won’t be the same without the legendary, Jordan wearing, rebounding mastermind walking the sidelines of the Dean Smith Center. Is there anything as iconic in sports than seeing the North Carolina native sporting Carolina Blue on the Roy Williams Court?

In typical Roy Williams fashion, his last regular season game in Chapel Hill was a 91-73 win over Krzyzewski and the Duke Blue Devils.


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