Roy Williams not slowing down despite tough times in Chapel Hill

CBS continues its "Men of March" series on Saturday, Feb. 15 with North Carolina head coach Roy Williams. The program will air at 12:30 p.m. Eastern, and will re-air at 7:30 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. Sunday on CBS Sports Network.

It's just not in Roy Williams' nature to slow down.

Not when it comes to the basketball court, where North Carolina has ranked among the top 25 teams nationally in tempo since he arrived in Chapel Hill. And not when it comes to coaching, as Williams continues to coach at a high level despite entering his mid 60s.

Through two months of this season, though, one couldn't have faulted Williams if he had one eye on the exit door. The Tar Heels were just 11-7 after a loss at Virginia on Jan. 20, sitting at 1-4 in the ACC. There had been losses to Belmont, UAB, Wake Forest and Miami. There had been the suspension of Leslie McDonald and the dismissal of P.J. Hairston.

Essentially everything about North Carolina was negative at the time -- despite the Tar Heels owning a trio of wins better than those of nearly anyone in the country: Michigan State, Louisville, Kentucky. It was easy to make jokes about the Tar Heels' inconsistency, and the Hairston saga just created a distraction that the program didn’t need.

And it was clearly impacting Williams.

A Bleacher Report story right before Christmas discussed how exhausted and tired Williams seemed to his family. His son even said to the website he had the urge to tell his father to take some time off.

Yet, Williams is still going strong -- and the 2013-14 version of the Tar Heels seem to be figuring things out with all the distractions finally in the rearview mirror.

North Carolina has won five games in a row heading into Saturday's home showdown with Pittsburgh. The competition during the winning streak hasn't been filled with the toughest teams in the ACC, but it was filled with games that the early season Tar Heels might have lost.

The biggest factor has been Williams' lineup adjustments. After using five different lineups in the first five ACC games, North Carolina has used the same starting five during each game of the winning streak. Freshman point guard Nate Britt began coming off the bench, which enabled Marcus Paige to move back to being a full-time point guard instead of playing off the ball at times. McDonald has started seven games in a row on the wing, bringing shooting and a perimeter threat. Inside, freshman Kennedy Meeks has started five games in a row. He can finish at the rim, rebounds well, and is a terrific outlet passer.

It's similar to last season, when Williams' decision to go with a smaller starting lineup that included Hairston and Reggie Bullock at the forward spots and James Michael McAdoo at the five jump-started a six-game winning streak.

Last season, Williams got plenty of credit for his lineup adjustments. If North Carolina continues to win this season, it might be the same. And that has been unfamiliar territory for Williams in recent years.

Williams certainly isn't known as an X's and O's guru. And in general, he doesn't get nearly the overall credit he deserves. He has won two national championships, has been to seven Final Fours and owns a winning percentage that's pushing .800. In 25 years of coaching at the college level, Williams has never had a season with fewer than 19 wins -- and the two 19-win seasons came during in his first seasons at Kansas and North Carolina. 

And that last part is why Williams isn't always mentioned alongside the Mike Krzyzewskis and Jim Boeheims and Tom Izzos and Rick Pitinos of the college coaching hierarchy. He has only coached at Kansas and North Carolina. Detractors, a group that includes some of his anonymous peers, can say he has never had to build a program, he has never had to recruit at a non-powerhouse, he just has to stockpile talent and the results will come.

But just having talent doesn't always equal winning, and being at a winning program doesn't mean every coach is going to win every season. And that's what Williams has done; he simply wins every season. At North Carolina, he has been a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament on five separate occasions, getting a 2 and a 3 in two other seasons. He's extremely consistent -- and there's something to be said for that.

North Carolina probably won't win a national championship this season, and Williams might never get the appreciation he deserves. But he has had maybe the two most difficult years of his career this season and last season -- and he's still going. With three five-star recruits entering the fold next season, Williams definitely isn't slowing down. 

It's just not in his DNA.

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