Long after Roy Williams no longer paces the sidelines of the Smith Center, his legacy at UNC will still be there.
The career of the UNC head coach was already memorable, but now a physical reminder, written in his own handwriting on the floor diagonal to the Tar Heel bench, bears witness to his accomplished resume.
Unveiled by his two grandchildren, Roy Williams Court was dedicated during a private UNC basketball reunion ceremony on Aug. 24, honoring the college basketball hall of fame coach in the same arena named after his mentor, Dean Smith.
"The magic of basketball is written playing on that beautiful hardwood floor,” Chancellor Carol Folt said during the dedication ceremony, according to a release from GoHeels.com. “That is where the stories are written, and today we are honoring one of the chief authors of those stories whose signature will grace those beautiful hardwood floors."
The naming of a court is an honor few basketball coaches have been graced with — and even fewer have received while still an active coach — but after spending 19 of his 40 years coaching from its sideline, Williams' career is worthy of such recognition.
In 30 years as a head coach, he has captured three national championships, won the seventh most games (842) and has the sixth best winning percentage all-time (.788) among Division I coaches — carrying on the coaching philosophy and legacy of Smith.
Williams, who has two degrees from the University, worked under Smith for 10 years as an assistant before becoming the head coach at Kansas. Williams often notes how much of an impact Smith had on his life and considered him to be a friend, mentor and father figure in his life before his death in 2015.
“When I think about respect, Coach Williams has incredible respect for this University, for his mentor, Coach Dean Smith, this program and everything about Carolina,” Athletic Director Bubba Cunningham said during the dedication. “He speaks with passion, enthusiasm and a heartfelt commitment that this place means something to him every single day.”
Seven years after Smith retired from coaching the Tar Heels, in 2004, Williams was hired to follow in his footsteps. Since then, he has coached the team to five Final Fours and eight ACC regular season titles. During that run, only one of his teams has missed the NCAA tournament, while he amassed a 424-126 record as the coach in Chapel Hill.
A 1972 graduate of UNC, Williams is also the only coach to lead his alma mater to three national championships. He is also the only person to win 400 games at two different schools, a mark that sets him apart from other college basketball royalty, like Mike Krzyzewski, Bob Knight and Jim Boeheim.
The athletic department announced the head coach would receive the honor earlier this summer.
"It's very hard to believe; it's just so flattering," Williams said at the time of the announcement. "I have to figure out a way to thank all my current and former players, because it may be my name on the court, but it really honors all of them because they made the plays.
The weekend of events was closed to the public, and included a golf tournament with members of the program on Friday morning, in addition to the dedication ceremony.
On Saturday, the newly named court was broken in by Williams’ players — current and former — with a pickup basketball tournament that included Rasheed Wallace, Harrison Barnes, Danny Green and Marvin Williams.
It all went exactly how Williams wanted it to. The coach said he wanted it to be a weekend about having fun, not all about him.
But even as current and former players battled it out on the court Saturday, laughing and having a great time, the undercurrent was still there. This wasn't just another gathering, or another pickup game with Tar Heel basketball players of various eras. There was a reason they were there.
It was the first game on the Roy Williams Court — the first of many to follow.
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