This week, Roy Williams confirmed suspicions that he will leave Kansas to coach at the University of North Carolina. Quite frankly, I think this decision is a big mistake and not just because Williams announced on CBS that he didn’t “give a *#*! about North Carolina,” at the conclusion of Syracuse’s 81-78 win over Kansas in the national championship game.
The decision isn’t just wrong because it leaves players recruited by Williams out to dry, not to mention members of this year’s Kansas team. Williams really does owe it to the players he brought in to Kansas to stick around.
This is the wrong move because Williams was on the perfect career track. Even if he didn’t win a national title for Kansas, Williams would have finished his career as a legend.
He would have been the greatest coach in Kansas’s history, topping Phog Allen and James Naismith (who is the only Kansas coach with an all-time losing record). Allen is Kansas’s all-time win leader with 590. Williams already had 418 in only 15 seasons. He breaks that record in six or seven seasons, at worst. Meanwhile, his winning percentage is an astronomical .805, higher than all active Division I coaches. He would have been the best, now he will just be a traitor.
Williams could have defined a program, like John Wooden defines UCLA, Adolph Rupp defines Kentucky, or Mike Krzyzewski defines Duke. Or maybe, like Dean Smith defines North Carolina. Oops. That’s exactly where Williams is going. Problem? Yes.
You see, no matter what Williams does, he will never approach Dean Smith’s status at UNC. Smith is first on the all-time NCAA coaches’ wins list with 879. He led the Tar Heels to 10 Final Fours, winning national titles in 1982 and 1993. Williams will not come close to that legacy because he doesn’t have the time, and more importantly, because he is not that great of a coach.
I know that I just mentioned that Williams is the active leader in winning percentage. I also am aware that he brought Kansas to four Final Fours and two national championship games. Good for him.
But, as I said last week, Williams has had some incredibly talented teams and just not produced with them. In the last decade, Williams has coached seven first-round NBA selections. After Nick Collison and Nick Hinrich you can probably rock chalk up two more, but still no national title for Williams. Four of his NBAers: Jacque Vaughn, Scot Pollard, Raef LaFrentz and Paul Pierce, played on the same team in 1997. That team, a No. 1 seed in the tournament, lost in the Sweet Sixteen to Arizona. At least that Arizona team had Miles Simon and Mike Bibby and went on to win the title. In the following season, how ’bout No.1 Kansas’s second round loss to Rhode Island?
Well, I guess time will tell on this one. The one good thing is that the ACC will now have three high-profile coaches in Coach K, Gary Williams, and Roy Williams. Roy Williams should be able to help spark the Duke-UNC rivalry that slowly began to reinvigorate itself this season.
The pull of the head-coaching job at his alma mater was clearly too much for Williams. He left a sure bet, where he would have been a legend with or without a championship. Now, he throws himself into a pressure-packed uncertain situation, with a UNC team that is talented, but has also missed the tournament for two straight years and didn’t get along with their last head coach. Meanwhile, the best Williams can do is end up somewhere on a list behind Dean Smith in the ranking of UNC coaches.
Instead of cursing at Bonnie Bernstein last Monday, Williams should have observed the example of Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim, a man whose name was on the Orange’s home floor before he even won a title. Boeheim has been at Syracuse for 27 years and has been rewarded for his loyalty. In the long run, I think Williams will wish he stayed at one school too.