North Carolina coach Roy Williams went to watch signee Harrison Barnes win a high school state championship in Iowa over the weekend, and constantly had to avert his eyes from the television showing college teams qualifying for the NCAA tournament.
“I’ve been like a spoiled little brat, I’ve taken my ball and gone home,’” Williams said Monday. “I haven’t watched one play. And it’s the most unusual feeling I’ve ever had; it’s a feeling I never want to experience again. It’s painful, it’s frustrating my first year, we were not eligible to go. And since then, in our mind, there was ever any doubt we were in.”
This year, however, the Tar Heels were relegated to the NIT after a 16-16 finish; they will play William & Mary on Tuesday night. Hosting a game came as a surprise to Williams, and the fact that his team is still playing pleases him. But it doesn’t take much of the string out of failing to make the NCAA tournament, especially after winning the national title last year.
“It was a fantastic 20-year run, and I’m ticked off that it was over with,’’ he said. “So I haven’t been a very good basketball fan. My wife even left, said she wasn’t hanging around; she went to see the grandbaby. She got tired of me going around and kicking the furniture and everything.”
PLAYING FOR NOW: After such a disappointing season, it might be tempting for Williams to use the NIT to start preparing solely for next season.
However, “I’m playing for this year,’’ Williams said. “I don’t think I can cheat Deon [Thompson] and Marcus [Ginyard, who are seniors], that’s not fair. When you run a program instead of just coaching a team, you’re always thinking about the future and how your decisions affect that, I’m not throwing that out the window.
"But I’m coaching for this year, and trying to get this team to win one more game. And if I can to that, I’ll try to get them to win one more game. And that’s the best way I can do it.”
DAVIS STILL OUT: Sophomore Ed Davis, who broke his left wrist mid-way through the season, was scheduled to meet with doctors again this week. But even if UNC makes a deep NIT run, Williams doesn’t expect the forward to play again this season.
“He’s beeen in a cast for six weeks, and it happens to be his left hand,'' Williams said. "So I don’t think there’s any way but am I going to say it’s 100 percent? No. But in my mind, it is.”
WEAR’S SURGERY A SUCCESS: Freshman forward David Wear had successful surgery on his left hip last week. Right now, Williams said, the player is on crutches and is wearing a protective brace around his hip, so not to put too much weight on it. “Everybody feels great about the surgery, and for sure, he’s not going to play for three months,” Williams said.
TICKET SALE: Williams said he’s excited about playing at Carmichael Arena, where the Tar Heels played before the Smith Center (which is currently undergoing renovations to its offices) was built.
“I’m going to enjoy it,’’ he said. “I hope we sell the tickets. I hope we fill it up. I think that would really help a great deal to have a great atmosphere in there, because I used to think it was the best, it was so loud. I know it’s 9:30 on Thursday night, I know it’s the NIT, but I hope our people will come and help fill it up.”
UNC dropped the price of NIT tickets from $40 to $20 because of the late tip.