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Thursday February 2nd

Ahead of Virginia, Roy Williams urges his players to 'want it desperately'

UNC men's basketball head coach Roy Williams yells during the game against UVA in the Smith Center on Saturday, Feb. 15, 2020. UNC fell 64-62 against UVA.
Buy Photos UNC men's basketball head coach Roy Williams yells during the game against UVA in the Smith Center on Saturday, Feb. 15, 2020. UNC fell 64-62 against UVA.

Roy Williams joked this season that he should’ve majored in psychology. The Hall of Fame head coach has tried it all to motivate his players.

“The kids want it,” he said. “I want them to want it desperately.” 

Williams said his team, which sits dead last in the ACC with a 3-10 record in conference play, has spent more time dwelling on wins and losses instead of fixating on the process. It’s a habit he’s trying to get his players to break as Virginia comes to the Smith Center on Saturday night. 

To inspire his current group, he even had a movie night a few weeks ago, where the team gathered to watch an inspirational sports film — a strategy Williams said he tried in his first year at Kansas amidst an eight-game losing streak. 

He admits, though, that neither “Rocky III” nor “Hoosiers” did the trick then. And so far, nothing’s worked in 2019-20. 

Last week versus Duke, UNC’s 17 missed free throws were costly in an overtime loss. And Tuesday against Wake Forest, they shot a dismal 1-16 from three en route to getting blown out on the road. 

Both are examples of a problem Williams thinks has more to do with a lack of confidence than a lack of talent. 

“They think about result instead of playing the game,” Williams said. “I guarantee you some of our players that went to the free throw line in the Duke game were worried about result.”

And while he’s still searching for a player with a Tyler Hansbrough-esque competitiveness in this year’s group, he said it’s been a challenge to inspire his team as the losses continue to pile up. 

“I haven’t seen any signs of giving up,” Williams said. “And if they’re going to, just don’t even come to practice. If you’re not going to come out there and do the best you can, don’t even come.”

With only seven regular season games remaining, the Tar Heels’ season is winding to a close. But Williams said he’s not done trying everything he can to push the right buttons with his players. 

“We’re trying to coach every possession, every pass, every dribble more than I ever have in my entire life,” he said. “But I’m not gonna sit back and say, ‘Well, let’s just let it ride.’”  

Many consider this UNC team dead in the water, and they’re not wrong. The Tar Heels will need a miracle ACC Tournament-winning run to avoid missing the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2010. 

So the obvious question becomes: What’s left to play for? For Williams, the answer is simple. 

“The motivation to me is to get better,” he said. “And who knows what might happen at the end. You’ve just gotta try to keep getting better every single day.”

“Everybody’s talking about the tournament. I’m just trying to get better every single day.”


@DTHSports |

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