“Don't wait that long, guys,” Williams joked. “I'll be out of here. I'll show you speed and quickness.”
For the first coach to ever win 400 games with two different Division I schools — he won 418 at Kansas — the last thing he wanted to talk about was his own accomplishments. Instead, he spent the next ten or so minutes talking about just about every player on his team as if he was talking about his children. He didn’t say a word about his historic win.
“He didn't make a big deal about it,” senior guard Joel Berry II said. “He thanked us. Coach is always like that. He never takes the credit.”
After the game, Williams’ players glowed about their coach’s humility. They also shared stories of the support he has given them over the years.
“I never take it for granted that he's my head coach,” Berry said. “He's the reason why I came here, because I believed in him and I believed that he could make me into the player that I wanted to be… he just takes guys and, no matter where they come from or what caliber player they are, he just has that niche to make them into a great player.”
Kenny Williams, who has started both games this season after missing the second half of last season with a knee injury, reminisced on his first year under Coach Williams. At the time, he was a first-year player struggling to live up to his recruiting reputation as a consistent shooter. Rather than get lost on the end of the bench, Williams says that his coach called him into the office to encourage him nearly every day.
“I think the biggest thing for me was to see him when I made my first three of my career,” the junior guard said. “To see him jump up the way that he did was huge for me. It shows how much I mean to him, and to see me succeed, how much it means to him. That's just how he is.”
Williams said his coach’s support goes beyond making him a better basketball player.
“He just wants to see all of us succeed in the long run. And I think that's the biggest thing. He's instilled so many life lessons in us, everyday. It's not just basketball.”
But on the court, picking up the milestone win was a feat the players were proud to contribute to. Junior Luke Maye, who has won two regular-season ACC titles, an ACC Tournament and a national championship at UNC, said Wednesday’s win was among his career highlights.
“It's one of the best accomplishments I've been here for,” Maye said. “National championship is one, his 800th win is two and this is probably the third most important.”
Williams won his 800th game as a head coach in January, an 85-68 victory over Syracuse in Chapel Hill. The Naismith Hall of Fame coach has been named national coach of the year eight times, won eight ACC regular season titles and, of course, led the Tar Heels to three national titles in his 14 years as head coach.
His accomplishments certainly earn him the status as one of college basketball’s greatest coaches. His players reminded him as much on the court after Gilliam’s announcement.
“That's what we were saying in the middle,” Kenny Williams said. “We were just calling him the G.O.A.T. Because that's incredible.”