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Over the weekend Roy Williams won his 880th game as a college basketball coach. That win moved him past his mentor, Dean Smith on the all times wins list. As you'd would expect Williams didn't want to make a big deal about, but let's not forget how big of a accomplishment this is for the Asheville native. Ol' Roy is now 4th on the all times list, behind other coaching legends like Coach K, Jim Boeheim and Bob Knight. Among all those coaches, Williams has the highest winning percentage among them. Roy often gets a lack of respect because he's coached at Kansas and North Carolina, two blue bloods in the sport of college basketball. I think people often forget that as easy at may seem to win at those 2 schools, you're also under a enormous amount of pressure to win games, knowing that every time you walk on the floor the opponent wants to beat you any way possible.
Roy Williams is my coach. He's a big reason I have the passion for North Carolina Basketball. When it started becoming a reality that he would pass Dean Smith on the all time wins, I wanted that for him as a selfish fan. It means no disrespect to Dean Smith, because there's no Roy Williams without Dean Smith. But this was personal in a lot of ways. Every year I have to defend a Hall of Fame head coach, who's taken the program to 5 Final Fours and won the national championship 3 times. The defense may come after a bad loss on the road to a unranked team, where Roy didn't call a timeout or didn't adjust his defense in that particular game. It may happen after we lose a game to Duke, where as hurt as I maybe I realize that for the rivalry to be so special, the enemy has to win too. Needless to say I've become exhausted defending a coach who shouldn't have to be defended anymore. Here's what the milestone means to me:
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The win certainly validates Roy Williams' as the best college basketball coaches of all time. Not that I didn't already believe that, but once you pass a legendary figure who happened to mentor you, there's no denying it. Dick Vitale has often said he's on his Mount Rushmore of college coaches, and deservedly so. It's also hard to argue once you factor in the 9 Final Four appearances, and 3 national titles.
His name is now synonymous with Carolina Basketball, if it already wasn't. He often says after winning national titles that's Carolina Basketball is Dean Smith, Michael Jordan, Sean May, Tyler Hansbrough, Joel Berry, etc. Now Carolina Basketball is Roy Williams. He's achieved a lot of milestones while in Chapel Hill. He's won his 500th, 600th, 700th, and 800th game while in Chapel Hill. He also has won all three of his national championships, as head coach of Carolina Basketball. There was a time that we wondered if when we thought of Roy Williams if we thought of him as Carolina coach, or a coach that spent time at both Kansas and Carolina. I think we've reached the point that he's Carolina's coach. He's our coach.
He fulfilled his destiny that Dean Smith envisioned. Ever since Roy Williams went to work for Dean Smith as a part time assistant coach, making $2,700 he was being groomed to one day lead the program. His dedication to the University and the game stood out Smith, who wanted someone he trusted to continue to excellence he started. Even after Williams told Carolina "no" in 2000, he couldn't turn the job down again in 2003, coming home to resurrect a program in disarray.
Lastly, and most importantly he's made Coach Smith proud. Williams got choked up in the postgame after beating Yale, saying that he thinks he's made his former coach proud. He has. It's not just because of the wins on the court, but more so to the relationships off the floor. The Carolina Basketball family is as big as it's ever been, and it's as tight as ever. We see all the time former players back in Chapel Hill for games, summer sessions, etc. It's not rare to see Williams and the staff on the road for NBA games to see former players, even after a long road trip. As important as winning basketball games is, the relationships are what make this program as special as it is.
Roy Williams was tasked when he took the job to repair a broken program, and restore a winning pedigree. He did that instantly by winning a national championship in his second season. Everything he was asked to do he's done, with the same grace and wit of Dean Smith which has allowed him to become not only one of the best coaches in basketball, but one the better people in the world.
Roy's Boys Podcast: