Few people in athletics deserve to go out on top, fresh off of a championship win. Even fewer actually do — the images of John Wooden, John Elway and Jerome Bettis, riding off into the sunset after that last win come to mind. Unfortunately, one of the most deserving in college athletics, our beloved men’s basketball coach Roy Williams, will not.
Most students at UNC grew up with Williams as the men’s basketball coach, the lead in the dynamic coaching duo of the UNC-Duke rivalry, and don’t know what life is without that fact. Even though he will not leave UNC with a fourth championship, Williams made a huge impact on the campus through his positive energy, generosity and success on the court.
His infectious positive energy percolated through campus throughout his time at UNC. Williams often seemed to speak the mind of the campus, but in his own fun way. From his dancing to his shoes, Williams always found a way to make the students buzz over his effervescent personality. Even those who did not follow basketball will miss what he brought to UNC.
Overwhelming generosity was another tenant of Williams' tenure at UNC. Just earlier this month, Williams and his wife donated $3 million to support Carolina Covenant scholars and Chancellor’s Science Scholars in addition to athletic scholarships. Last year, Williams donated $600,000 to support athletic scholarships for seniors whose season was canceled by COVID-19. And in 2018, Williams and the basketball team donated $23,400 to Hurricane Florence relief. His compassion for the community and his willingness to help make it plainly obvious that Williams clearly embodies the Carolina spirit.
While we know a more personal side of Williams, what everyone knows is that he also had immense success on the court. He led the Tar Heels to three national championships in 2005, 2009 and 2017, as well as five Final Fours. At UNC, Williams frequently coached star-studded rosters that included players like Tyler Hansbrough, Sean May, Ty Lawson, Joel Berry and Harrison Barnes.
Despite winning three championships for UNC, it felt like he deserved one more. A coach that pushed many players to greatness, Williams propelled many teams beyond what they could have accomplished with another coach. Even then, the next championship felt just out of reach for Williams and the Tar Heels.
Williams deserved to go out on top of it all. A great man and a great coach, he will be sorely missed by the Carolina community, who will struggle to replace everything Williams brought. We thank Williams from the bottom of our hearts.
It is a tall order for the next coach to fill the shoes of Dean Smith and Roy Williams, who have done so much for us all.
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