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Tuesday January 25th

Roy Williams talks NCAA, 2017 title and more at press conference

<p>UNC men’s basketball coach Roy Williams answers questions during press conference at Dean Smith Center on Oct. 17.</p>
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UNC men’s basketball coach Roy Williams answers questions during press conference at Dean Smith Center on Oct. 17.

Roy Williams has watched the 2017 national championship game twice.

The first time was on the night of Wednesday, April 5. It was two days after North Carolina returned home from Glendale, Ariz., with a 71-65 win over Gonzaga and its sixth national title. The second time was last week, in preparation of UNC’s media day Tuesday.

“Everyone was asking so many questions on it, I wanted to remember the game a little bit better,” Williams said, adding that he still hasn’t watched a replay of the 2016 championship loss to Villanova.

In one of his first media availabilities since winning his third title with his alma mater, Williams was noticeably relaxed. Some of that could be attributed to Friday’s decision from the NCAA Committee on Infractions, which said that UNC violated no NCAA bylaws and brought an end to a years-long athletic-academic scandal.

“I wouldn't say I was confident,” he said of the decision. “I don't think you'd be confident — you'd be scared to death. That's what I felt like when I was in the infractions hearing. I felt innocent, but, at the same time, it's not a court of law. It's what those people think.”

The COI’s decision concluded that student-athletes likely received fraudulent credits, but the panel could not conclude that North Carolina was in violation of any NCAA bylaws regarding academic misconduct. The decision drew its fair share of praise and criticism.

“There's not going to be a perfect model because you can't legislate honesty and you can't legislate morality,” Williams said. “I think what we have to find is a better model and do a better job of following the rules. I think we've got a million rules and some of them, we waste too much time on.”

He detailed the noticeable impact the looming decision had on UNC’s recruiting. In Williams’ first 10 years, North Carolina signed 26 McDonald’s All-Americans. Among those were household names like Raymond Felton, Tyler Hansbrough, Harrison Barnes and Justin Jackson.

“And then we've signed one after that for the next four years,” he said. “I think we didn't get that dumb. So something affected it.”

The head coach weaved humor into almost every topic he touched on. When his podium microphone started to tip over, he watched it for a few seconds before looking under the table and yelling, “Theo? Theo?” referencing Theo Pinson’s now-famous press conference crashing in 2016.

As questions shifted more to basketball, Williams highlighted how different the 2017 championship team was from his other two. He highlighted Jackson, Pinson and Joel Berry II, all of whom committed to UNC during the height of the scandal.

“They hung with us the whole time,” Williams said. “They had people tell them, 'You'll never play in an NCAA tournament game.' The feeling of pride and satisfaction that those guys had faith and trust in us worked out all right … It's just euphoria.”

While comparing his three championship teams, Williams shared an anecdote from the 2005 title game against Illinois.

“I was really mad at myself because (head coach) Bruce (Weber) got all the way off the court before I got to shake his hand,” he recalled. “I chased him down, and he said, ‘Don’t worry about that.’ I said, ‘No, I shouldn’t have done that.”

He put an emphasis on finding Michigan State’s Tom Izzo right after the 2009 championship ended and shaking his hand. And Williams did the same thing this year with Gonzaga’s Mark Few this year.

As for his personal life, he admitted this summer was his worst in history in terms of golfing. His grandsons pushed for him to get a mohawk, but he had to pass on that one. He welcomed a third grandson to the world just over two weeks ago.

“On the 13th day he was alive, he came to Late Night,” Williams said. “So we’ve got him started the right way.”

@chapelfowler

sports@dailytarheel.com

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