Roy Williams Is Hoops' Newest Dean
After all, there isn't anyone in Chapel Hill more deserving of all the success that has come to Tar Heels' basketball in the last few years than their dadgum, corny coach from Asheville, N.C., the '72 graduate who went away for awhile to Kansas before returning to his alma mater six years.
Before Roy came back, the Tar Heels hadn't won a national championship in a dozen seasons. Monday night, they took their second in the last five – 89-72 over Michigan State – or as many as the dean of college basketball coaches, Dean Smith, won in 36 years at the helm of the Tar Heels' program.
This is not to say that Roy is as good as Dean, or better - at least not yet. But it is time to start considering the possibility, no matter that Tar Heels everywhere, including Roy, might consider the thought blasphemous.
"Roy Williams and Dean Smith don't fit in the same sentence," Roy declared Monday night. "I really believe that. I'm not being humble. I just don't believe that."
However, not only has Roy led the Tar Heels to as many national championships as Dean, he now trails Dean by only three for the record of consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances. He trails Dean by only four in Final Four appearances. He trails Dean by just 10 in all-time NCAA tournament victories.
This was Roy's 21st season as a head coach. His 59th birthday is four months away. He is well positioned to surpass Dean on all of those charts and, barring disaster, he will. Even if his star of Monday night's championship, junior shooting guard Wayne Ellington, who finished with 19 points on 7-of-12 shooting, doesn't hang around with junior forward Deon Thompson - like Tyler Hansbrough and Ty Lawson hung around for this moment - he still has a title-caliber team returning lead by NBA journeyman Terry Davis's son, freshman post Ed Davis. Davis tallied 11 points and eight rebounds in just 14 minutes.
Maybe the only Dean record that is out of Roy's reach is Dean's win total of 879. Roy got his 594th on Sunday.
But if Roy desired to hang around long enough to catch Dean I'm not certain that Tar Heel nation would demand that he not. What Roy has done since coming back home is why Kansas fans never wanted him to leave. They knew he could and would do what he's done back in Chapel Hill.
It isn't just the glory that Roy has returned to Chapel Hill that undoubtedly has endeared him for the rest of his life to Tar Heels fans. It is also that he has wrested control of basketball in the state of North Carolina, the Atlantic Coast Conference and all of college basketball from what so many believe to be an evil little empire in Durham, N.C., called Duke run by Mike Krzyzewski.
Coach K became the boss of ACC basketball after Dean retired. Roy dethroned him in 2005 and all but tossed him out of the palace gates on Sunday.
North Carolina doesn't do anything now except go to Final Fours roughly every year and win the title on average every three seasons. Duke hasn't gotten this deep in the tournament in half a decade. It hasn't won a national crown since 2001.
"I've been very fortunate, as you know," Williams said in the glow of Monday night's victory. "Fifteen years at Kansas, we had some great teams. I've said since my second year as a coach, I wanted to have my program where we would be in a position that at the end of the year, we would have a chance to win the whole thing. And for the most part, we've had that, except for our first year at Kansas and our first year at North Carolina."
"The best coaching job I ever did in my life was '91," Roy reflected after title No. 2. "Second best coaching job I ever did in my life was probably 2006. I just spent more time thinking about that part of it than I've ever spent in my life. I don't look in those terms. 2005, I said I'm not that better a coach than I was three hours ago. I'm not now.
"I work extremely hard. I have strong beliefs in how the game should be played. I believe I can convince kids to make sacrifices for a common goal. I have a great university too work for that I can recruit big-time players.
"But. ... again, I mean, '91 was an unbelievable run. We beat [Nos.] 2, 3, and 4 in the country in a three-game stretch. No, I just spent more time answering that question than I've ever thought about, old Roy, what kind of job he does."
How about great?
North Carolina is, once again, the standard bearer in college basketball, and a standard bearer in college athletics. Roy does it right, just like Dean did. His program doesn't reek of anything rotten. He even holds up the student part of the student-athlete equation with the highest academic mark on the new NCAA academic measurement of any team that participated in this year's tournament.
If Roy Williams and Dean Smith don't belong together in the same sentence, then how about in the same building for posterity - the Roy Williams Court at the Dean Smith Center? Anything less would be selling ol' Roy short.
Kevin B. Blackistone is a panelist on ESPN's Around the Horn, the Shirley Povich Chair in Sports Journalism at the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland, and a former award-winning sports columnist for The Dallas Morning News. He lives in Silver Spring, Md.