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Amid COVID-19, UNC basketball's Roy Williams admires dedication of healthcare workers

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UNC's men's basketball coach Roy Williams cheers from the sidelines during a game against Boston College in the Smith Center on Saturday, Feb. 1, 2020. UNC fell to Boston College by just one point in the last minutes of the game, making the final score 71-70.

The North Carolina men’s basketball team held one of its weekly Zoom meetings on Sunday, putting an emphasis on the group's aspects outside of the game of basketball.

Head coach Roy Williams concluded his instruction to the players regarding the team’s academic expectations with three simple things: How’s your family? Are you being smart and staying away from people? Give me something positive that you’ve done this week. 

The 69-year-old says he is in good health himself, staying isolated in his home and sporting a beard. But his safety is not his only concern. He's doing everything in his power to make sure his team and the community around him gets through a difficult time.

The spread of COVID-19 has resulted in a lot of fear for a lot of people, and Williams and his team are no exception. He remembered trying to come up with a plan of action as campuses across the country were beginning to shut down. 

“It was a plan of doubt, because nobody knew what was going on,” he said. “But we didn’t talk about what happened during the season or anything at all.”

Sports suddenly moved to the back of everyone’s minds, especially Williams'. He's prioritized monitoring the virus over worrying about the future of the UNC basketball program. 

“What’s going on in our world has definitely dominated my thoughts,” Williams said, adding, "I haven't watched ESPN in the last three weeks hardly at all because I've been tuned to CNN and what's going on in our country."

The well-being of his team has remained a top priority for Williams. He was pleased to announce that his players and their families were all currently healthy, saying he was “blessed” and that he wishes for that trend to continue. 

His care extends to the newcomers who have yet to enroll at UNC, and he said he's had weekly conversations with each first-year. Their delayed arrival has caused confusion for the entire coaching staff, but that was secondary for Williams. 

“We’re talking to them right now and trying to see how their own family situation is more than anything,” he said. 

That being said, it's by no means easy for him to communicate with so many people remotely. Williams admits he's not the most tech-savvy individual, so these virtual meetings are unfamiliar to him. Luckily he has the assistance of his wife, Wanda, who provides guidance as well as her profile name to get him through Zoom calls.

Away from his team, though, Williams has also utilized online communication to make an impact in the Chapel Hill community. He's voluntarily participated in many PSAs, including to the healthcare personnel at UNC's hospital, a group of people he says he has immense respect for. 

“I just can’t imagine those doctors and nurses going to work every day and worrying about their own health and how it’s going to affect their families, and yet they still keep going,” he said. 

As COVID-19 continues to spread, it's all bigger than basketball to Williams.

“As I was growing up and even up until the last several months," he said, "my biggest heroes were my teachers that I’ve had all the way through high school and college and the mentors that I’ve had.

“Now my heroes are all the healthcare people and the providers.”

@ryanheller23

@DTHSports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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