Roy Williams is a Naismith Memorial Hall of Famer and has been since 2007. So it’s not like the North Carolina coach completely lacks respect.
But he is underappreciated.
And a reminder of that came Saturday when Williams secured at least a share of the ACC regular-season title via an 85-67 victory at Pitt. His Tar Heels are now 25-5 overall and 13-3 in the league. So they’re one victory away from winning the outright league title for the second consecutive year. But even if North Carolina loses its final two regular-season games to Virginia (Monday) and Duke (Saturday), the Tar Heels will still be nothing less than ACC co-champions -- which means Williams has now won ACC regular-season championships eight times in the past 13 years.
That’s eight ACC titles in 13 years.
Mike Krzyzewski has two in the same timeframe.
And that sentence is not designed to discount the greatness of Krzyzewski. He’s the GOAT, far as I’m concerned, based on the fact that he’s won five national titles in three different decades, built Duke into the biggest brand in college basketball and maintained it with different rosters and different styles. He’s tremendous. So when I write that Williams has won eight ACC regular-season titles in the past 13 years while Krzyzewski has only won two, I don’t want you to wonder what’s wrong with the latter as much as I want you to recognize how incredible the former has been.
Because Roy Williams has been incredible.
Again, he’s now won eight ACC regular-season titles in the past 13 years. No other school has won more than three in that same timeframe. No other coach has won more than two. In four of the previous seven years in which UNC has won an ACC regular-season title, the Tar Heels have gone on to also make the Final Four. They advanced to the national championship game in three of those years. They won the national championship in two. And yet when folks debate a Mount Rushmore of active coaches, Williams almost never gets serious consideration.
My question: Why not?
He wins the league many routinely call the nation’s toughest and deepest literally more often than he doesn’t win it, and you can’t do that by simply out-recruiting people -- although, it should be noted, Williams hasn’t really been out-recruiting people lately anyway. Under a cloud of possible NCAA sanctions that has undeniably hindered the pursuit of prospects, North Carolina’s past four recruiting classes have ranked sixth (2013), third (2014), 10th (2015) and fifth (2016) in the ACC, according to 247Sports. Regardless, the Tar Heels are just one more victory away from winning the ACC outright for the second straight year.
That should be applauded.
And if you want some historical context, consider this: Dean Smith won 17 ACC regular-season titles in 36 years at UNC. That’s 47.2 percent. Roy Williams has won eight ACC regular-season titles in 14 years at UNC. That’s 57.1 percent.
Bottom line, Roy Williams is the sports’ most underappreciated coach.
I don’t know if that’ll ever change.
But it should.