Roy Williams has established a legacy beyond wins and trophies.
He has developed a coaching tree that has spread across the NCAA. Men that once sported Carolina Blue on the sidelines now head their own respective programs.
While on opposing sides on Tuesday, what UNC's 67-63 win over Stanford showed was how the bond between these men has remained strong.
Wes Miller, C.B. McGrath and Rex Walters have all tried to take him down to no avail. The only former assistant coach to get the elusive victory against their former boss was Jerod Haase and his 2013 UAB Blazers.
In 2016, Haase took over a Stanford team that struggled against UNC — one that had lost all 10 of its matchups against the Tar Heels. Despite Haase at the helm, the Cardinal still floundered in its following matchups with UNC in 2017 and 2018, losing each time by at least 18 points.
But on Tuesday, the Cardinal gave Williams’s Tar Heels all they could handle until the final whistle.
The No. 14 team in the nation squeaked by in a game featuring 41 fouls, several hard falls and plenty of players limping on and off the court. But after the 40-minute battle ceased, there was nothing but adoration between the two head coaches.
“We win the game and before I can even feel good about it, I look down and I’m walking down to see Jerod Haase,” Williams said. “He’s one of the best competitors I’ve ever been around in my life. I love him. He’s like a son.”
Haase played under Williams at Kansas before serving as a coach for his UNC teams from 2003-2012. The time they had together helped the two develop a bond that cannot be broken.
Although Williams has dominated his former assistant coaches, going 11-1 in matchups against them, he has never fully enjoyed those victories. He feels a small tingling of pain in his heart knowing he defeated not only a colleague, but a great friend.
“I wanted to feel good because we had muddled around and won a game, and there I see somebody that I care about immensely,” he said.
The feelings are mutual with Haase, who has only admiration and appreciation for everything the 70-year-old head coach has done for him.
“He means a great deal to me,” Haase said. “He’s somebody that without him, I wouldn’t be where I am now and have the opportunities I’ve had in my life.”
The two were able to share moments together before and after tipoff, but during the game, there was nothing but a desire to win. The scrappiness of the entire matchup was enough to show how much both of these men wanted to come out on top.
"I feel like we got some guys that's willing to learn and to fight when the going gets tough and that's all you can ask for," junior Leaky Black said.
The win could signify so much for Williams. Along with the bragging rights, it’s further proof that his system can hold up against the people that know it the best. His team had also clinched a spot in the Maui Invitational championship game.
All the satisfaction taken out of Tuesday's victory cannot hide the sense of disappointment he feels to have bested a true friend — something that means more to Williams than many expect.
While Haase is still searching for a second win against his mentor, the relationship between Haase and Williams will stay strong no matter the result.
“Before and after the game, there’s a great deal of care there," Haase said. “He means the world to me and I can’t thank him enough for everything he’s ever done for me.”
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