Nothing is easy about being a high-major college basketball coach, especially these days. But it's undeniably easier at a place like North Carolina, where tradition, facilities and everything else make it a school basically any prospect would at least consider. , for crying out loud.
And yet Roy Williams never took it easy.
I noticed this several years back -- after Williams had already been inducted into the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame and won multiple national titles. He'd reached a point in his career where he could probably relax a little, if he wanted, and still enroll heralded recruiting classes based on his name and UNC's brand alone. But there he was, inside gyms on the grassroots circuit, early in the morning, late at night, sometimes watching 15 year olds. And I remember asking him one time what motivated him to still grind on the recruiting trail to that extent given that, in my estimation, it might not be necessary.
Roy Williams retires at UNC, Chris Beard hired at Texas. Emergency episode of Eye on College Basketball is here.
"I know I can win with great players," Williams told me. "What I don't know is whether I could win with anything other than great players. And I don't ever want to find out."
In other words, Williams was, like lots of us, motivated by the fear of failure. And that's among the biggest reasons he never failed, rarely lost, and had one of the best coaching careers in history regardless of sport. He won 400 games at two different schools -- first at Kansas, then at North Carolina. He won a total of 903 games and is one of just six Division I men's basketball coaches to win at least three national titles.
Roy Williams is a coaching legend.
So Thursday's announcement that he's Wisconsin in the first round of the NCAA Tournament would double as the final game of Williams' incredible career, the timing is actually sensible for multiple reasons., effective immediately, obviously created a big headline because it leaves a void in the sport. An all-time great is saying goodbye. And though the announcement was surprising in the sense that not many people thought last month's loss to
First and foremost, Roy Williams is 70.
He'll turn 71 in August.
It should never really be a surprise when somebody in their 70s retires from anything -- especially a demanding job like the job of being a college basketball coach. When you combine that with the fact that UNC doesn't have a great roster returning, and doesn't have a great recruiting class on the way, it's not like Williams is walking away from an obvious title contender. And he's walking away at a time when roster retainment is more difficult than ever thanks to the transfer portal and assumption that student-athletes will soon be allowed to transfer at least once without penalty. In fact, UNC just lost former five-star prospect Walker Kessler to the transfer portal, which reportedly played a role in Williams' decision to call it a career.
Do I think Williams retired because Kessler left?
Of course not.
But we've definitely reached the point where simply recruiting prospects annually is not good enough. Now you have to recruit prospects to campus, then re-recruit them each year. Or else. And when you're in your 70s, with a legacy secured and enough money to last multiple lifetimes, it's completely reasonable to reach the conclusion that conducting Zoom calls with teenagers, and begging players to stay, is no way to spend your days.
So Roy Williams is done.
remains unclear. This is a school that loves to "keep it in the family," for better or worse. So assistant Hubert Davis and UNC Greensboro coach Wes Miller, a former Tar Heel player, are obvious candidates. I could make the case for either. And either will have gigantic, just enormous, shoes to fill.