North Carolina’s Roy Williams is criticized more than any other elite basketball coach in the country. Maybe it’s the checked sweaters and checked sweater vests and checked sports jackets perhaps purchased for him by an aging aunt. Maybe it’s the good golly, gee whiz, freaking words and terms that populate his vocabulary. Sometimes it’s as if he’s channeling Aunt Bee.
For whatever reason, Williams is criticized. A North Carolina graduate I know, a man who knows basketball, criticized the work Williams did late in his team’s Final Four victory against Oregon.
Some coaches are immune to criticism. The only reason Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski is criticized is because he wins. There’s strength in the words he uses and the statements he makes. He played at Army, he coached at Army and he’s never channeled Aunt Bee. Also, he’s the best in his sport.
Williams isn’t far behind. Critics often rip his bench work and praise him only as a recruiter. Kentucky’s John Calipari receives the same criticism.
But the Tar Heels won four games in this tournament – against Arkansas, Kentucky, Oregon and Gonzaga – they could have lost. Four times Williams told his veteran players what they needed to hear, and four times they responded.
To make the final game of the tournament in successive seasons is, what, impressive, great, spectacular?
Says Williams: “At the end, when you’re watching your kids jump around, and the excitement and thrill they have, there’s no better feeling in the world as a coach.”
They earned it. So did he.