When the Tar Heels cut down the nets in Detroit after winning the 2009 NCAA championship, they put an exclamation point on the most successful five-year stretch in the history of North Carolina Basketball -- two national titles ... three Final Fours ... four Final Eights ... four NCAA Tournament No. 1 seeds ... five Top 10 Associated Press final rankings (four in the Top 4) ... four Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season titles ... two ACC Tournament crowns ... four 30-win seasons ... eight NBA first-round draft picks.
The man at the center of it all is Roy Williams, a 1972 UNC graduate and member of the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.
The Tar Heels beat Michigan State, 89-72, to capture UNC's fifth NCAA Tournament title and second in the last five years. In 2005, Carolina beat Illinois to win Williams' first national title. He is one of 13 coaches to win multiple national championships, joining an illustrious list that includes only two other ACC coaches - Dean Smith and Mike Krzyzewski.
Over the last eight years, Williams has won 239 games, including 30 in the NCAA Tournament, and led Kansas and UNC to the Final Four five times. That's more wins, more NCAA Tournament victories and more Final Fours than any coach in the nation. He also coached National Players of the Year in four of the eight seasons.
The Sporting News and Lindy's named the Asheville, N.C., native the Coach of the Decade for 2000-2009. Williams led the Jayhawks and Tar Heels to 33 NCAA Tournament wins in the 2000s, eight more than any other coach (Tom Izzo was second with 25).
His teams' winning percentage in the NCAA Tournament in the last 10 years was .805. No other coach whose teams played in at least 10 NCAA Tournament games won at least 80 percent of them.
"For him to bring Carolina back to what it was and take it even beyond that, it just shows you what type of coach and person and mentor he is," says NBA All-Star Antawn Jamison. "It's that same philosophy Coach Smith has. It's not about basketball - it's about life and doing what's expected of you. Live life to the fullest."
He has led Carolina to a 176-37 mark in six seasons, a win percentage of .826. His teams have set UNC records for most wins for one year (36 in 2007-08), two years (70 in 2008-09), three years (101 from 2007-09), four years (124 from 2006-09), five years (157 from 2005-09) and six years (176 from 2004-09).
"Williams is building a new monument to Carolina, which now sets the standard for every other program in the country," wrote New York Daily News columnist Dick Weiss after the Tar Heels set NCAA records by scoring 55 points and building a 21-point halftime lead in the 2009 national championship game.
In his tenure at Carolina, Williams has already coached two National Players of the Year (Sean May in 2005 and Tyler Hansbrough in 2008), two Bob Cousy Award recipients as the best point guard in the country (Raymond Felton in 2005 and Ty Lawson in 2009), two ACC Players of the Year (Hansbrough in 2008 and Lawson in 2009), an ACC Athlete of the Year (May in 2005), three ACC Rookies of the Year (Marvin Williams in 2005, Hansbrough in 2006 and Brandan Wright in 2007), two Final Four MOPs (May in 2005 and Wayne Ellington in 2009) and 11 NBA Draft picks.
Hansbrough set the all-time ACC scoring record and became the first player in league history to earn first-team All-America and first-team All-ACC honors in each of his four seasons. He also became Carolina's all-time leading rebounder and set the NCAA record for made free throws.
"Coach's philosophy every day in practice is that you get a little bit better every time you walk on the court," says Hansbrough, who was named the National Player of the Decade by The Sporting News and Lindy's. "That's the same kind of mentality I have. He helped me so much in becoming better every day."
Williams has a 594-138 record in 21 seasons as a college head coach. His winning percentage of 81.1 is the highest among active coaches and the third-best in history behind only Clair Bee and Adolph Rupp. He also has the third-highest winning percentage in NCAA Tournament history (75.3) among coaches whose teams have played at least 30 games.
Williams is one of the most accomplished coaches in college basketball. His ledger includes:
Dan Wetzel, national columnist for Yahoo! Sports, wrote in April 2009: "There isn't a more perfect union in college basketball than Roy and Carolina; the ideal combination of style and substance, recruiting might and coaching acumen, of championships won and won and, most certainly, won again."
In February 2009, Forbes named Williams the best basketball coach in the country, choosing him by analyzing win-loss percentages, NCAA Tournament appearances, Final Fours, national championships and recruiting.
Forbes wrote: "A top-notch recruiter and motivator, Williams coaches with an unflappable cool, a trait reflected in his players' calm on the court."
"We had Dean Smith - now we have Roy Williams," says John Kuester, the 1977 ACC Tournament MVP and the head coach of the Detroit Pistons. "Roy has done a phenomenal job of sustaining this program to the highest level. He has a commitment to excellence, attention to detail and the ability to recruit some outstanding student-athletes."
Williams' ability to relate to players and their families, both in the recruiting process and throughout their careers, is something his players speak of when they account for his success.
"The amazing thing about Coach Williams is the person everyone sees on TV all the time is really the same guy we see every day," says fifth-year senior Marcus Ginyard. "There's nothing fake about him. He's the embodiment of hard work, a guy who never quits, is humble yet confident, is willing to give back to the game, and who teaches us every day the values of education and his players growing as people and players. He's the best there is."
On March 8, 2009, Senior Day at Carolina, an emotional Hansbrough thanked Williams for living up to a promise Williams made during his recruitment that the coach would always be honest with him.
"He always tells you the straight up truth about what you need to hear, not just what you want to hear," says Hansbrough. "That helped me not only as a player but also as a person."
Senior forward Deon Thompson says Coach Williams is like a second father to him. "I love honesty and Coach Williams is going to give you that every time you talk to him about any subject," says Thompson, a starter on the 2009 national championship team. "He is absolutely what he was when he came in my house to recruit me. I got lucky for someone to come into my house who is a great person, a great man and is still the same person today."
Williams prides himself on a work ethic that helped lead a small-town boy to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. He is one of nine Tar Heels to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame, joining an elite group that includes Dean Smith, Michael Jordan, Larry Brown, Billy Cunningham, James Worthy and Bob McAdoo.
Twenty-three of his former players from Carolina and Kansas joined him in Springfield, Mass., for the induction ceremony in 2007.
"Coach Williams helped me become a man," said Marvin Williams, who was the second player selected in the 2005 NBA Draft. "He always held me accountable for my actions on the court. He's a father figure and he's my coach. He'll always be my coach."
Wayne Simien, who played two seasons for Williams at Kansas and was on the team that Williams left for Chapel Hill, echoes those thoughts: "Coach means so much to me. He's been not only a coach, but a positive role model and a father figure."
"His willingness to understand the athlete and get the best out of the athlete is what makes Roy a Hall of Famer," said Michael Jordan. "His patience, his knowledge for the game, his effort and diligence to understand the game and understand the player and how they can co-exist. To me, that's a Hall of Fame-type guy, someone who makes adjustments according to the personnel rather than forcing his way of thinking on a team or a player."
An editorial in the Lawrence (Kan.) Journal-World stated: "Williams is a winner, not only on the basketball court but also as a person. Collegiate sports need more coaches such as Williams, men and women who set an example for others to try and match."
Williams has led Carolina to more wins in the last six years than any other program in the ACC and over the last three years the Tar Heels are 101-14. Duke is second in that span with 80 wins. The Tar Heels are 42-4 away from the Smith Center in the last two seasons, including a 14-2 ACC road record. Over the last five seasons, Carolina is 31-9 in ACC road games.
Williams says the 2008-09 season was the most challenging of his career because of injuries to Hansbrough, Lawson, Ginyard and freshman Tyler Zeller. The Tar Heels were unanimous preseason choices to win the national title in both the media and coaches' polls. They won their first 13 games, but lost their first two ACC games. However, Williams kept his team together and UNC won 13 of its final 14 ACC games. Led by Hansbrough, Lawson, Ellington and Danny Green, the Tar Heels clinched their fourth ACC regular-season title in the last five years, won their fourth straight game at Duke and landed a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament for the third consecutive year. In the NCAA Tournament, Carolina put on a stunning display, winning six games by an average of 20.2 points, the highest margin in 13 years. UNC became the first team to win all six games by a dozen or more points. Carolina never trailed in the second half of the last four games against Gonzaga, Oklahoma, Villanova and Michigan State.
UNC led the nation in winning percentage (89.5) and scoring margin (+17.8) and was second in scoring (89.9 ppg). That was the seventh time in the last eight years his teams have been in the top four nationally in scoring (first in 2002 and 2005, second in 2007, 2008 and 2009, third in 2003 and fourth in 2004). His teams have averaged 85.9 points at UNC with the Tar Heels reaching 100 or more points 35 times.
His teams have finished in the Top 10 nationally in scoring in 10 of his 21 seasons, in scoring margin 15 times, in field goal percentage 12 times, in win-loss percentage 10 times and in field goal defense four times. Also, his squads have finished in the top seven nationally in assists per game in seven of the last eight years and in the top eight nationally in rebounding margin in 10 of the last 13 years.
In 2008, Williams led the Tar Heels to a school-record 36 wins, ACC regular-season and Tournament titles and a berth in the Final Four with a win over Louisville in the regional final. Hansbrough won every major National Player of the Year award. He is the fourth to play for Williams - along with Jayhawks Drew Gooden and Nick Collison and UNC's Sean May - to win National Player of the Year honors since 2002.
The 2005 national championship capped a season in which the Tar Heels went 33-4, including a 14-2 mark in the ACC. Carolina led the nation in scoring average, scoring margin and assists and became the third team in history to lead the nation in scoring and win the NCAA championship.
"We all wanted to win for the seniors, but I especially wanted a national championship for Coach Williams," May said. "He's a great person and a great coach and I wanted to be on his first national championship team."
In 2006, Carolina faced the loss of its top seven scorers, which was unprecedented in ACC history. Sports Illustrated predicted Carolina would miss the NCAA Tournament and the Tar Heels were picked by the media to finish sixth in the ACC. However, Williams earned National and ACC Coach of the Year honors by leading the youngest team in Carolina history to a second-place ACC finish, a win at top-ranked Duke and a No. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
"UNC's starting lineup consists of two true freshmen, two former walk-ons and a guy who wasn't even first-team all-state in high school," wrote David Glenn at ACCSports.com. "All of this is a tribute to the players, of course, but it's an even bigger tribute to their leader. Williams wasn't the only coach in America who lost all five starters from last season. He's the only one who's winning big anyway."
"Roy's really a bright man," says Dean Smith. "He has the whole package of what you want as a college head coach. You want somebody who knows basketball, can judge talent, is a competent leader and can teach it in practice, makes good decisions in the game, is highly organized, and also is honest in recruiting.
"He's like Tiger Woods in golf - they have the whole package," Smith adds. "I don't know anyone else who does. I certainly consider him to be the best college coach in the country."
Williams became the UNC head coach on April 14, 2003, 10 days after leading Kansas to the NCAA championship game against Syracuse.
"Roy Williams is one of the select few of the greatest coaches in the entire game of basketball," says Hall of Famer Bill Walton. "His impact on young people's lives throughout this great land will change the course of history."
Williams is one of the most respected men in basketball. That was evident by the number of well-wishes, congratulatory calls and letters Williams received before and after winning the national championships and being elected to the Hall of Fame, including many from former Kansas players and parents.
"Coach Williams has so much knowledge about the game it is unbelievable," says Marvin Williams. "He is a great coach and he loves to teach."
"He reminds me a lot of Coach Smith," says former Tar Heel National Player of the Year and NBA All-Star Jamison. "Not just basketball, but knowing the importance of having good people, caring about making sure they are successful after basketball. He'll have a big influence over every player that comes through the program, preparing them for life."
"He's going to teach you the fundamentals of the game and off the court he cares about his kids," says Jackie Manuel, starting guard on the 2005 national champions.
"He wants the best for his kids. He's going to push you; he's trying to bring the best out of you. If I have a son, I would definitely let him play for Coach Williams."
"Roy is as good as it gets in a person," says legendary Hall of Famer Jerry West. "There's nothing deceptive about him. He is what he is - a wonderful person and a great coach. If you watch his teams, you know they've been coached. If you go to his practices, you know why his teams are successful. His players play the right way. They're team-oriented. They play a fun way offensively. They're aggressive. He changes defenses. He's just a wonderful coach."
Williams was assistant coach at Carolina from 1978-88. Working for Dean Smith, he helped coach such standouts as Mike O'Koren, Al Wood, James Worthy, Sam Perkins, Matt Doherty, Michael Jordan, Brad Daugherty, Kenny Smith, Joe Wolf, Steve Hale, Jeff Lebo, J.R. Reid and Scott Williams.
Carolina won the NCAA title in 1982, finished second in 1981 and won or shared six ACC regular-season titles and three ACC Tournament championships.
"I think of his honesty, integrity and tremendous work ethic," says Daugherty, a five-time NBA All-Star. "He is a classy, classy individual. But he is also one of the toughest people I have ever met in my life. No one is tougher than Roy Williams, but he is fair. That's why the kids love him so much. When you have played four years for him he will be a friend for life and you will be a better man, and appreciate every ounce of the experience when you are gone."
Kansas hired Williams on July 8, 1988, replacing another UNC Hall of Famer, Larry Brown. "He's as good a coach as our sport has," says Brown. "If you ask people around the country, they'll say there's no better college coach than Roy Williams." Williams coached a number of the finest Kansas players in history, including Mark Randall, Adonis Jordan, Rex Walters, Greg Ostertag, Scot Pollard, Jacque Vaughn, Raef LaFrentz, Paul Pierce, Drew Gooden, Nick Collison and Kirk Hinrich.
The Jayhawks averaged 27.9 wins per season with a high of 35 in 1997-98. He also won 30 in 1989-90, 34 in 1996-97, 33 in 2001-02 and 30 in 2002-03. The Jayhawks reached the Sweet 16 nine times and the Final Eight on five occasions.
Kansas went 30-8 in 2002-03, his final year in Lawrence. Led by Collison, the NABC National Player of the Year, and Hinrich, an All-America, the Jayhawks reached the national championship game. It was KU's first back-to-back appearance in the Final Four since 1952-53.
In seven years of Big 12 Conference play, his teams went 94-18, capturing the regular-season title in 1997, 1998, 2002 and 2003 and the postseason tournament crown in 1997, 1998 and 1999. In 2001-02, KU became the first Big 12 team to go 16-0 in league play. From 1995-98, Kansas was a combined 123-17 - an average of 30.8 wins per season. Kansas was a regular in the AP Top 25 from 1991 to 1999, placing in the AP poll for 145 consecutive weeks. Overall, Williams had Kansas in the AP Top 25 in 242 of 268 weekly polls. Kansas reached the No. 1 ranking in the country in six different seasons and was ranked at least No. 2 in the nation in 11 of the 15 seasons.
The Jayhawks went 201-17 (92.2) in Allen Fieldhouse, and won 62 consecutive games in Allen from February 1994 to December 1998.
Williams has coached players to 25 first-team all-conference honors, including eight UNC selections (McCants in 2003-04, Felton and May in 2004-05, Hansbrough in each of his four seasons, and Lawson in 2009). Seven players - five Jayhawks, Hansbrough and Lawson - have won conference player of the year honors. The 2009 NCAA Tournament marked the first time in history that two ACC Players of the Year were on the court at the same time.
Hansbrough and Lawson both earned first-team All-America honors in 2009. This marked the 12th and 13th first-team All-America seasons by one of Williams' players. It also marked the fifth straight year that Carolina's top inside threat earned first-team All-America honors.
Gooden (2002), Collison (2003), May (2005) and Hansbrough (2008) won National Player of the Year honors and LaFrentz (1997 and 1998), Pierce (1998), Gooden (2002), Collison (2003) and Hansbrough (2007, 2008 and 2009) have earned consensus first-team All-America honors.
"I was just coming (to Kansas) to play basketball for a man I knew I could trust and a man I hoped would make my dreams a reality," said LaFrentz, a two-time Big 12 Player of the Year.
The NBA has selected 19 of his players in the first round, including Hansbrough (13th), Lawson (18th) and Ellington (28th) in 2009. In 2005, UNC became the first program to have four players chosen in the NBA Lottery.
Williams emphasizes academic development, as well. Every Carolina senior in his tenure has either received his degree or is on track to do so. Sean May, the 2005 Final Four MVP, entered the NBA Draft after his junior year but earned his degree this past summer. Marvin Williams, who went to the NBA in 2005 after just one season, has taken summer classes in Chapel Hill each year since and is now a junior in academic standing.
Three players have earned first-team Academic All-America honors - Vaughn (twice), Haase and Ryan Robertson - and 34 have earned first-team academic all-conference honors, including Tyler Zeller in 2009.
Williams grew up in Biltmore, in south Asheville. He attended Roberson High, where he played basketball and baseball. He played basketball for Coach Buddy Baldwin, was named all-county and all-conference in 1967 and 1968, all-region in 1968 and served as captain in the North Carolina Blue-White All-Star Game.
Williams played on Carolina's freshman team in 1968-69 under Bill Guthridge and earned two degrees from Carolina -- a bachelor's in education in 1972 and a master's in teaching in 1973.
He began his coaching career in 1973 at Owen High School in Swannanoa, N.C., coached for USA Basketball teams in the 1991 World University Games, the 1992 U.S. Olympic Development Team, a U-22 tournament in Argentina in 1993, and the 2004 Olympics in Greece. He was NABC president in 2001-02 and served on the NCAA rules committee for six years.
Several of his staff and players have gone on to head coaching positions, including Matt Doherty, Neil Dougherty, Jerry Green, Steve Robinson, Kevin Stallings, Mark Turgeon and Rex Walters.
Born August 1, 1950, he and his wife, Wanda, a 1972 Carolina graduate, have a son, Scott, and a daughter, Kimberly. Scott earned a business degree from UNC and played point guard on the basketball team in 1997-98 and 1998-99. He and his wife, Katie (Wolford), live in Charlotte. Katie is a 2001 Carolina graduate and former cheerleader. She earned a doctorate in physical therapy from Boston University. Kimberly, who also lives in Charlotte, is a 2002 Carolina graduate with a degree in English and a former member of the UNC dance team.
The Williams family has contributed more than $250,000 to the Carolina Covenant, an initiative at UNC that allows low-income students to attend the University debt free. Roy and Wanda serve as honorary chairs of a $10 million campaign to endow the program. Coach Williams hosts an annual Coaches vs. Cancer breakfast that has raised more than $750,000 and direct the autographed basketball program that has contributed more than $500,000 to local charities.