We break into ongoing football coverage to give you this from the world of college basketball: Roy Williams has announced, on April 1 of all days, he is retiring as North Carolina’s basketball coach. For real.
Williams will hold a farewell press conference, on Roy Williams Court at the Dean Smith Center, on Thursday afternoon.
Every coach, regardless of sport, dreams of having Williams’s career: 48 years, four jobs. After playing on North Carolina’s freshman basketball team, the Marion, N.C., native realized his future in basketball was on the bench, not the floor, and began observing the legendary Smith’s practices, taking notes. He eventually joined the staff as an undergraduate assistant, then took a job coaching basketball and golf at a North Carolina high school.
Smith brought him back as an assistant in 1978, where in his 10 years he helped the Tar Heels win the 1982 national championship with a freshman you may have heard of.
When Larry Brown left Kansas to coach the San Antonio Spurs, fresh off leading the Jayhawks to the 1988 national title, KU made the 38-year-old Williams a first-time head coach.
His first Kansas team missed the NCAA tournament, but the Jayhawks were a mainstay after that. Kansas returned to the Final Four in 1993 — they lost to Smith and the Tar Heels, who then beat the Fab Five Michigan team in the title game — and again in 2002 and ’03. Williams won 13 Big 8/Big 12 regular season or tournament championships.
When Bill Guthridge retired as UNC’s head coach in 2000, the Tar Heels offered Williams the job. The possibility of his departure was such a big deal in Lawrence that KU darn near filled the football stadium to air the simulcast of the press conference where Williams would announce if he took the job or not.
Mama called once more in 2003, and that time Williams took the job.
He remained in Chapel Hill for the duration of his career, winning three national titles, 12 ACC regular season/tournament titles and reaching five Final Fours. He became the third college basketball coach to reach the 900-win mark this season, and needed fewer games to get there (1,161) than anyone in the history of the sport. The only coach in NCAA history with 400 wins at two schools, Williams’ .774 winning percentage is the sixth highest in NCAA history.
In 33 seasons, Williams reached the NCAA tournament 30 times (one of those misses being 2020, when there was no tournament) and advanced to the second round in 29 of those trips.
Attend the in-state flagship school? Check.
Work under a living legend at your alma mater? Check.
Move directly into a top-5 job as a first-time head coach? Check.
Return to your alma mater for an 18-year, three-time national title run? Check.
Roy did it all in his near half century in coaching, and he did it with class, with an up-tempo style that was fun to watch and even more fun to play.
And he never freakin’ turned it off.