The Evolving Legacy of Roy Williams

roy williams

With an ugly win over Gonzaga to win the 2017 national championship, North Carolina won its sixth title and Roy Williams won his third. He passed Dean Smith for the most national championships in school history and avenged the heartbreaking loss to Villanova in last year’s title game in the process.

No conversation about North Carolina athletics can be entirely free from controversy, however.

That’s at least partly the NCAA’s fault for dragging out its investigation into academic wrongdoing for so very long. It was no surprise to see Mark Emmert have to shout into a microphone over lusty boos from a packed house while giving out the hardware in Phoenix. There’s no telling how many supporters of each school joined in, but you can bet there were plenty dressed in light blue.

While at this point, it’s unreasonable to expect any Earth-shattering revelations from the investigation, Roy’s insistence on denying any involvement in wrongdoing by the basketball program is frustrating.

The basketball program most certainly was involved in phony classes. While that doesn’t mean Roy knew about it when it was happening, his complete denials in the face of evidence come across as hollow and disingenuous.

Our own Jeff Greenberg —who full disclosure is a UNC guy— has posted some interesting stuff throughout this haphazard NCAA investigation. Recently, he brought to our attention some goings on at other schools that put UNC’s wrongdoing in perspective.

This is apparently a fairly common practice at many schools, including right down the road at N.C. State.

Now to be clear, this fact isn’t meant to absolve the Tar Heels of any wrongdoing. It’s simply pointing out the hypocrisy of many including the NCAA which allows one form of sham classes, but clamps down on others.

None of it should be allowed, but it does illuminate one of the many inconsistencies in the policies of the governing body of college sports.

Setting all of that aside for a moment, even Roy Williams’ legacy on the court is a bit murky for some.

Everyone knows what Tar Heel basketball is about. They’ve done the same thing for decades and largely relied on superior athletes to outshine the majority of opponents.

Roy played under Dean Smith and later worked on his staff. The coaching influence has always been there both at Kansas and North Carolina. Williams recruits the best and then lets them run up and down the court with more or less total freedom to improvise or “freelance” as they say on Tobacco Road.

Some folks act like that’s an easy thing to accomplish simply because it’s North Carolina, which is demonstrably false. Just ask Matt Doherty.

Roy very rarely has the one-and-done players that have become the norm at Duke or Kentucky. Despite that, he rarely gets credit for developing players from very good high school talent into NBA lottery picks.

He’s taken teams to nine final fours, which is fourth all-time. He’s been to six national championship games and won half of them. Roy has also won 17 regular season conference titles including eight of the last 13 in the ACC.

His resume reads like stats from career mode in a video game.

Unfortunately, the academic scandal and Roy’s insistence at denying its impact on his program is a bad look. It clouds his impressive credentials and coaching acumen for many observers.

There’s no denying he’s an excellent coach by any reasonable metric, including using one’s eyes.

How history will treat him is slightly less clear.

Follow me on Twitter @BestCates and follow @InsideTheACC for more Atlantic Coast Conference coverage.

Leave a Reply