Roy Williams has been a head coach for 32 years, which means he's been answering reporters' questions for 32 years.
"What changed after halftime, Coach?" we ask. "Tell us about the lift Garrison Brooks gave you guys tonight," we cry. He's heard it all — except these. Daily Tar Heel senior writer Ryan Wilcox talked to Williams to ask 15 questions he has (hopefully) never been asked before. This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
The Daily Tar Heel: Have you ever mentioned to Michael Jordan that you helped coach the only team that ever beat the Dream Team (a college all-star team that won a scrimmage against the pros)?
Roy Williams: *laughs* we had that discussion many years ago, yes. He just told me what the score was the next day, when they beat us by 58 in a 30-minute scrimmage.
DTH: What happened to the wood stove that James Jordan built you? I imagine it’s not very common for a parent to do something like that.
Williams: Well, in fact, his dad built us two stoves. When we left (our first house in Chapel Hill), we left a stove there, and when we left (our second house) and moved to Kansas, we left a stove there. The funny part was in the second one, the realtor said “Is that a Fisher stove?” And I said, “No, that’s a Jordan.” But Mr. Jordan and the whole Jordan family was just sensational to me.
DTH: Dean Smith let you come in and watch practices when you were a student. Would you let someone come in and watch practices like he did for you?
Williams: It would depend. I played freshman basketball, and freshman basketball was a pretty big thing at that time. We used to fill up Carmichael (Arena) just for the freshman games, and we were the number one freshman team in the country, according to Basketball Times. I was certainly not the star of that team, to say the least. But Coach (Bill) Guthridge knew that I wanted to be a coach, and I think he talked to Coach Smith about it one of those first times I came in and sat in the stands. After that, the managers always made sure security knew who I was, because in those days practices were closed.
Having all that background (with the team) made it a heck of a lot easier for Coach Smith to do it. Nowadays, I’d be so concerned because everybody would have their phone and I’d be wondering if they were putting it out on social media, or if they were a Duke fan. So it’d be a lot more difficult.
DTH: So you’re saying I can’t just show up and start taking videos?
Williams: Nope. That’s not gonna work.
DTH: What do you think a Coach Smith program would look like in the era of one and done? How do you think it would’ve been different than, say, 1990?
Williams: It’s interesting, because he was one of the first coaches to really encourage guys to leave early, as early as Bob McAdoo in 1972. But I think it would be different. Coach Smith, with all of his beliefs — the game today would be almost 180 degrees away from what he believed in. But also, he was very intelligent, and would change with the times. It would still be North Carolina basketball, and they would still have a chance to beat everybody, because Coach would make sure that would happen.
DTH: Who are your biggest coaching influences outside of people you’ve worked with? When you’re watching film, who do you steal from the most?
Williams: I’ve always said that probably 80 percent of the things we do, I got directly from Coach Smith. But during my more formative years, the other three big influences were Bob Knight, John Thompson and Jerry Tarkanian. I talked to those guys and went to watch all of them at practice during my first two or three years at Kansas. They treated me great and are all guys that I considered mentors.
DTH: Here’s a random one: if you had to endorse one of your players running for political office, who would it be?
Williams: Oh man, one player. I can split it up into two eras. During my time at Kansas, it would’ve been Jacque Vaughn. During my time at North Carolina … Marcus Paige is a guy that comes to mind. Marvin Williams was the most appreciative, most sincere player I’ve ever coached. But he’s also the most honest, and he would never be a politician *laughs*. I’d probably stick with Marcus as the choice.
DTH: You and Coach K get stuck in an elevator for five hours. What are you guys talking about?
Williams: Well it wouldn’t take five hours, because I’d get us out of the elevator. I worked elevator construction one summer when I was in college, so I think I can get out of about every elevator. But if that didn’t work — we can’t talk about golf, because Mike doesn’t play golf. We’d talk a while, and we’re both old enough that I’d have one corner and he’d have the other corner and we’d take a nap for a while. So after talking about basketball and changing the world and those kind of things, we’re both old enough that we could get comfortable.
DTH: What’s the best round of golf you’ve ever played, and what’s your dream golf foursome?
Williams: I shot 69 five different times, but the best round I ever played was when I shot 70 at Pine Valley. My foursome — I would pick my buddies, because I enjoy playing golf with them more than I would any celebrities. It wouldn’t be Michael Jordan and Beyoncé and somebody else, it would be my buddies.
DTH: How many pairs of Air Jordans do you own?
Williams: I have no idea. I don’t know a lot about the shoes. I think I just get them because Michael told them to do it. But I have a lot of them. My players always ask me, “Do you know what you’re wearing?” And I say, “Yeah, shoes.” They say, no, no, you’re wearing this number. But I don’t know what that means.
DTH: What’s something that you can regularly beat Michael Jordan in?
Williams: I used to beat him in golf when we first started playing, and now that’s much more difficult to do. He’s gotten better; I’ve gotten worse. Fishing, he’s a lot better at fishing than I am. I used to play a lot of baseball, but he almost made the major leagues, so I’m not gonna pick that … I can’t think of anything. I can’t think of anything that I would beat him at that takes physical ability. And if I did beat him, it’d just be because I out-talked him.
DTH: Favorite random North Carolina city to visit on a recruiting trip?
Williams: Favorite North Carolina city to visit on a recruiting trip … wherever that great player is is my favorite place.
DTH: You’re about to be stuck on a desert island, but you can bring three movies. What are you bringing?
Williams: Oh gosh. Three movies. “Big Jake” starring John Wayne. Probably one of Clint Eastwood’s movies. “Hoosiers” comes to mind, and I love the ending to that movie, but I would probably need something to laugh at, too. I’m not sure what I’d pick.
DTH: If you weren’t a basketball coach, what would you be doing?
Williams: I’ve thought of that one a lot. I really don’t know. I’ve always said that if I weren’t a basketball coach, I would probably be mowing greens on a golf course, or working as a ranger on a golf course, so I can get free golf.
DTH: Last one: What’s a question you’ve always wanted a reporter to ask you that you’ve never been asked?
Williams: *laughs* That’s the first time I’ve ever been asked that question, so it must be a good one. I always laugh when they say, “Coach, have you ever thought of…” because I always say, “Yes I have” before they even tell me what it is. It’s our life 365 days a year to do this, you think somebody else in another profession is gonna think of something we haven’t thought about? But I’d have to say to answer to your question is, there isn’t one.
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