UNC coach Roy Williams addressed his health issues and UNC’s starting point guard situation at Thursday’s media day:
Roy Williams reiterated the desire to coach 6-10 more seasons.
Q: What was it like to tell your players?
It was a heck of a lot easier than telling them the first meeting when I didn’t know. Because all of the statistics pointed that it was something much more difficult than what it came out in the end.
You know, you have people that are close to you, not just your family, who you want to hear things before they hear it on the radio or TV or read it in the paper or Internet. For me, I got with them at 10 o’clock on Tuesday night, September 18, and told them. Said this is a new world and I understand that, but I can’t have this showing up on Twitter or Youtube or Facebook, and they were fantastic with it.
The second time, it was emotional. But it was a lot better emotion than the first one was.
We just didn’t want it to hit them either time from somebody else telling them.
Q: How has this whole ordeal impacted you?
I’m going to smell the roses a heck of a lot more every day. I really am. It does change you. Anybody who says it doesn’t, they’re a lot stronger or more wacko than I am.
I really want to coach this team. And you know what’s going to happen next year? I’m really going to want to coach that team, too.
Marcus Paige is expected to get the nod at point.
It was funny … you’ve heard me say before when I croak, I want to play 18, birdie the last hole and walk over and then fall.
So before surgery, the last 18 I played, I hit the best drive on the day (on 18) right down the middle and have 127 yards in. And I look up, and (wife) Wanda is over there standing behind the green. Hmm, what is she doing over here? You have all sorts of weird thoughts, and you have to fight them off.
But I said, ‘This might be the last full shot I ever hit.’ I don’t know. So I knock the sucker like that (within feet). And I’m thinking, you know, I’ve always said I want to birdie the last hole. And God Almighty, what am I going to do now?
I tried to make the sucker and I missed it, and it was almost the happiest time I’ve ever missed a 3-foot putt. You know, it does play with your mind.
I really do feel good. I’ve really never had pain. I had discomfort the first couple of nights and I slept in the recliner. Just because I can’t sleep on my stomach – I was in a fight with a knife, and they didn’t give me a knife. I was just uncomfortable.
My plan is what I’ve said before: I hope to coach 6-10 more years, I really do. As long as my health allows me to do that.
Q: Think people have used this against you in recruiting?
That’s being pretty harsh against other people. I’ve had more prospects this fall ask me how much longer I’m going to coach, but maybe that comes from their own deal.
Recruiting is just another world at times. But this is the first year I can remember that being one of the first questions that’s asked.
Q: This hit home given how cancer has impacted you otherwise recently?
Yes, it has. You guys know this story. I lost my mother to cancer, and it was one of the contributing factors to my dad. I’ve had some close friends, (one) who lived right across the street from me, when we lost to Kansas in the Elite Eight, have surgery for pancreatic cancer. He’s one of my foxhole buddies. That’s something I really have struggled with.
Cancer itself and Coaches vs. Cancer has always been important to me. And it’s taken on a new life right now.
This has helped me. My family, Wanda – for about 17 days, we were together for 24 hours, seven days a week. And all of a sudden, she doesn’t think this retirement is as a good as she thought it might be.
Every coach in our league was just off the charts, sending messages and the whole bit. It’s not a life-changing thing, but it definitely makes you think.
Mike Montgomery, for example, he got hit with something right before practice started. So he’s called three times and we’ve talked. Mike Krzyzewski has called three times. Jeff Bzdelik called three times, and he sent me Graeter’s ice cream from Cincinnati. And I’ve eaten the sucker, too. Lon Kruger has called three times. It really has been a wonderful reception.
It gives you hope. Because it’s shattering when at first they say they’re 95 percent sure it’s cancer. You’d rather not go through it.
Q: At this time last year, UNC was crowned with preseason expectations. Talk about the shift to this year’s team, which isn’t viewed as favorably.
We lost four guys who were drafted in the top 17 picks. So the talent level has taken a pretty significant hit. I don’t think we would have four out of the top 17 picks here in practice on Saturday morning.
In college basketball, the sad thing is it changes over about every two years now instead of four.
We have several keys. Guys who were, quote, complimentary or role players like James Michael (McAdoo) and Reggie (Bullock), who could score 7-9 points a game because the defense was aimed at others, they have to be able to do it with the defense aimed at them. Then you have guys like Dexter (Strickland) and Leslie (McDonald) who, coming off ACLs, they need to be able to play and be successful. Then you have four freshmen who need to be able to come in and play for us.
It’s more similar to ’06 than ’10 because there, we only had David Noel and Reyshawn (Terry) who had averaged more than two points a game. We had a freshman class we really liked, with one exception. I thought Tyler (Hansbrough) was going to be the biggest dog in the neighborhood when he stepped on the court and as long as he stayed. We don’t have anyone who has me feeling like that right now.
In 2010, we had more losses, but we had more injuries than anybody I’d ever been around.
The easiest way to say it is this team has to play as close to their potential as they possibly can to be successful. We’re not going to be like last year.
Q: Will Dexter be the point guard early, or will Marcus Paige be the guy?
You know, you shouldn’t ever do this, but I did with Tyler Hansbrough and it worked. I expect Marcus Paige to be there.
Part of it is, Dexter is somewhat limited with what we’re going to do with him in practice. And Dexter’s never been a point guard.
Marcus Paige has the chance to be really good. He’s a little rascal, but he does know how to play, and he has savvy and toughness. I’m really counting on him to be good. And I tell you, Luke Davis is going to surprise some people, too.