UNC’s Roy Williams is retiring after 33 years of coaching.
It’ll be official this afternoon as UNC has scheduled a 4:00 press conference.
Williams, who was an eager, wide-eyed Dean Smith assistant, was hired by Kansas on Smith’s recommendation, making the Chapel Hill-Lawrence axis that much tighter (Smith was a Kansas grad). He took that job after Larry Brown left and Kansas was on probation.
Not much was expected but he led Kansas to a surprising 19-12 record in his first season and had the Jayhawks in the NCAA tournament the next. By 1991, he faced Duke for the national title, losing as Duke’s program kicked into high gear.
He passed up the chance to follow Smith initially in 1997, to the consternation of UNC fans but the delight of people in Kansas before taking the job in 2002-03, cleaning up the mess that his former assistant Matt Doherty left behind.
In 2004-05 he won his first title and followed that with another in 2008-09 and a third in 2016-17.
His tenure was marred by a massive academic scandal that tainted all of UNC athletics and saw the university itself have serious concerns about losing accreditation. It brings his first two titles into question but not the third, which was the most remarkable. Recruiting was deeply affected by the scandal and Williams won with less than stellar talent that year.
Now the question will be who takes over one of the great jobs in college basketball. If UNC doesn’t start the search with UNC-G’s Wes Miller, we’ll be very surprised. Miller has done a brilliant job and he’s in the family. But it’s hard to imagine anyone who coaches college not being interested right now. It’s a job with amazing history and tradition.
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