On the eve of a home matchup against rival N.C. State, North Carolina men’s basketball coach Roy Williams is relying on perspective to maintain the team's energy in the midst of a tumultuous 10-17 campaign.
With UNC currently on a seven-game losing streak, Tuesday’s game will provide an opportunity for the Tar Heels to face one of only three ACC teams the Tar Heels have beaten so far this season. Williams said the current losing streak will do nothing to change his on-court energy level.
“If I don’t try to give them the best that I absolutely have, I would walk off,” Williams said. “For me, what I’ve learned is that I’m stubborn.”
Although it may be hard to remember when thinking of the last decade of UNC basketball — one in which the team won a national championship, five regular season ACC Championships and made the NCAA tournament nine times — the 2009-10 team saw similar struggles to this year’s group. Williams noted that his drive to keep playing was the same a decade ago when the team was struggling.
“The players didn’t want to go, my wife didn’t want me to go, but I said we’re going to go,” Williams said when asked about the team's 2010 NIT appearance.
While 2009-10 was difficult for the Tar Heels, missing the NCAA tournament a year after winning a national title, this year’s campaign has seen even greater struggles. In 32 years as a head coach, Williams has never posted a record below .500. With a 10-17 record and only four regular season games remaining, this season could be a first for Williams and for a North Carolina program that has won more games than it's lost each year since 2001-02.
“It’s a passion, it's a passion with me,” Williams said. “It's, 'If I get to compete today, I’m going to beat your tail.' And hopefully the guys will continue trying to do that.”
As the end of the season approaches, UNC finds itself in last place in the ACC and in need of an unlikely ACC Tournament title in order to make the NCAA Tournament come March. This being the case, Williams is keeping the end of his senior’s careers at North Carolina in mind with only one home game remaining before a senior night against Wake Forest.
“I’ve always been really sad when I knew I wasn’t going to coach a young man in this building again,” Williams said. “The sadness that I feel knowing I’m not going to coach these guys in this building again really makes it a very difficult day for me.”
With four of the losses during the current skid coming in last-second fashion, Williams admitted that the season has worn on him, but he looks to keep perspective despite these difficulties.
“I’m struggling a little bit right now, because basketball consumes me,” Williams said. “It ruins me, it ruins me in a lot of ways. But we’re playing a game.”
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