Archive for Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Commentary: Lack of title still wears on Williams

North Carolina coach says he ‘desperately’ wants to win, but he’s no longer consumed by it

March 30, 2005


— North Carolina's Roy Williams has won 468 games in 17 seasons of coaching. He has won 80.1 percent of his games and is taking a team to the Final Four for the third time in four years. It's his fifth overall trip to the Final Four.

With those credentials, Williams clearly is the best coach in college basketball ... without a national title.

This asterisk on Williams' resume bugs him. But it no longer consumes him.

"There's no question I would love to win a national championship," Williams recently told the Herald-Sun in Durham, N.C. "At one point in my life, it was my number-one goal and number-one dream. But I'm a lot smarter now, or mature, either way you want to put it. But I desperately want to win."

Williams' fifth attempt at hoisting a trophy begins Saturday night when his Tar Heels take on Michigan State in a national semifinal in St. Louis. And as was the case with his four previous trips to college basketball's biggest weekend, Williams said he would enjoy the ride.

"My favorite day in coaching is Friday," Williams said during a news conference Tuesday. "It's the best day to be a college coach ever because you are practicing in front of the public, the coaches' convention is going on and there's a lot of guys sitting up in the stands. And I've been up in the stands looking down at those ... guys and saying, 'Boy, I wish I was you.'"

Williams said his first Final Four in 1991 "was a little unique because I'd never gone through it before. We've been very fortunate three of the last four years, and they've all been marvelous, wonderful, fantastic, whatever you want to call it."

Before returning to Chapel Hill last season to coach his alma mater, Williams spent 15 seasons as head coach at Kansas University and led the Jayhawks to four Final Fours. He has a 39-15 record in the NCAA Tournament, but he has experienced more than a few upsets.

Although Carolina is favored to beat Michigan State, the Spartans' all-around talent worries Williams. He noted 6-foot-6 Alan Anderson's ability to play point guard and small forward.

"Their team is what scares me," Williams said. "It's not about individuals. Knowing some of those players as well as I do, they're extremely talented. Every one of them is tough. The versatility of their whole lineup is something that's difficult for us."

Williams said he recruited Anderson and MSU guard Shannon Brown, and he wanted to recruit center Paul Davis, but didn't because Davis committed early to MSU.

If the Tar Heels' superior talent beats MSU, Williams will be one step closer to the title that has eluded him. Williams' life doesn't depend on it, but there's no denying the pride and respect that would come with a national championship.

"It's what we play for," Williams said. "It's what we coach for, it's what we work for. It's why you make all those recruiting trips, all those calls, all those letters. It's the reason you get mad and scream, and rant and rave at halftime.

"It's the reason you stay out and run extra sprints. It's the reason you do two-a-days during the semester break and Christmas time."

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