JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — North Carolina men's basketball coach Roy Williams is known for telling his players stories whenever he sees fit, and huddles provide the best stage for the Hall of Fame coach to do so.
With about four minutes left in No. 4 seed UNC's 67-65 win against 13th-seeded Harvard on Thursday night, Williams broke out another one of his famous anecdotes similar to how he did during his team's second round NCAA Tournament game against Providence in 2014.
That time, it was a golf story. This time, it was a basketball story. And it was one that was a little more relevant to the situation.
In the brief moments allowed for an official timeout, Williams recounted his memory of UNC's first game of the NCAA Tournament in 1982. Williams was then an assistant coach under Dean Smith, and the Tar Heels ultimately went on to beat Georgetown, 63-62, in the championship game to win Smith's first national title.
"'Guys, first (game) in the 1982 when we won the national championship, we blew out James Madison, 52-50,'" senior forward Jackson Simmons says Williams told them.
In the 1982 tournament, UNC was a No. 1 seed and James Madison a No. 9 seed in the East Region.
"He was just basically saying that this time of year there's gonna be games like this," Simmons added. "Every game, it's not gonna be pretty. You have to survive and advance and you have to win ugly games.
"You know, you just have to put it all in perspective and realize that half the teams that played last night went home feeling bad and we're still standing."
Williams felt, at that moment, his players needed a little pick-me-up. So he did what he always does when that's the case.
"I'm sure it's a personality trait because I talk too much, but I also want guys to understand things are OK," he said on Friday, leading up to UNC's Round of 32 game against fifth-seeded Arkansas. "I didn't like the look on our guys' faces (Thursday) night when they sat down in front of me at that timeout like they were about to panic like, 'Oh, my gosh.' I explained to them this is NCAA Tournament play."
Freshman guard Theo Pinson has been on the receiving end of a lot of fresh tales from Williams this season, unlike junior forward Joel James who's heard most of them already.
"I think Coach has a story related to everything that happens in his life," James said. "I wasn't surprised to hear him bring that up in the huddle last night."
So far, the reminder of UNC's early test on its way to winning the 1982 national championship is Pinson's favorite.
"People don't think about stuff like that," Pinson said. "It was 52-50 against James Madison. They could've gotten knocked out in the first game. So that was pretty cool."
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story incorrectly named the team that North Carolina beat in the 1982 NCAA Tournament championship game. The Tar Heels beat Georgetown, 63-62, to the win the national title. The story has been updated to reflect this change. The Daily Tar Heel apologizes for the error.
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