1-on-1 with Roy Williams

With the start of the basketball season only 10 days away, read an excerpt of the Inside Carolina Magazine interview with Roy Williams from the Basketball Preview Issue.

This excerpt contains only a third of the entire conversation. To read the full interview, check out the October -- Basketball Preview -- Issue of the Inside Carolina Magazine, the only UNC preseason yearbook that features interviews and profiles of every player and insider scouting reports, plus a ton of exclusive photography. To learn more about the publication and how to subscribe, CLICK HERE. This issue is available on newsstands throughout North Carolina and available by mail-order from Johnny T-shirt.


1-on-1 Interview:
Roy Williams


Inside Carolina Magazine
October 2011
INTERVIEWER: Greg Barnes
PHOTOS: Jim Hawkins

R
oy Williams is seated at his desk as his assistant opens the door into the head coach's office suite, located on the north end of the recently renovated UNC basketball offices. The Hall of Fame coach rises and asks if I need a water to drink, reaching out over the large desk to shake my hand. He directs me to the chair closest to the window, joking that the handful of pictures of his first grandson on the desk's edge makes it difficult to see over. More photos are on the way, however, as Williams's second grandson was born in late August.

He's relaxed and open on a rainy Tuesday morning, detailing his recent golf outing with the likes of Mitch Kupchak, George Karl and Bill Guthridge before turning his attention to the 2011-12 roster and the season that awaits. Williams is forthright and honest in breaking down his team and players, while also acknowledging that this season indeed has the potential to be special.

There are a lot of expectations that have already been placed on this team. The assumption being that when an Elite Eight squad returns all five starters and several key reserves, the team will automatically be better. But there has to be improvement in order to be better, so in what areas do you expect this team to improve over last year's edition?

I think that's a great way to ask the question, because if you have five guys back but they were not very successful, you might be improved but you may be better off by replacing some of those as well. So it doesn't guarantee success at a high level. We have five starters returning. [Losing] some guys who played some is more of a big-time blow than people think -- they'd probably say Roy is just badmouthing.

The guy who played better in late spring and early summer than anybody [else] on our team was Leslie [McDonald]. When you have a guy that can come off the bench and score for you or doing like Ed Davis did in rebounding and blocking shots, when you have a guy coming off the bench that can change the game, it really elevates you. Marvin Williams, those kinds of guys. And yet, Leslie would have had a chance to start, too. So that was a bigger blow, but team-wise, we do have a chance to be really good. It depends on one thing -- that everybody has to be extremely focused toward our team goal.


In today's culture and today's times, kids have an easier time doing that, but the people around them make it difficult for them because everybody is looking at that pie in the sky at the end of the college playing days to the NBA. So that sometimes gets in the way. It was the most amazing thing to me about our 2009 team that we had those three guys who tested the waters plus Tyler [Hansbrough] and not one day did I ever talk to any of those kids about being selfish trying to get their own or anything. That was the most amazing thing. I felt it during the season, but after the season was over that year, looking back on it, it was just mind-boggling.

But I do believe as a team collectively, we've got to stay healthy. No one can afford a lot of injuries. So we have to stay healthy. And then the other thing is to keep everybody moving toward that common goal… Collectively also, we saw that we got better last year but we also have to realize that we can continue to get better in depending on your teammates defensively to be in the right place [and] depending on your teammates to do what they're supposed to do on the offensive end.

When we talked this time last year, you pointed out how John Henson and Dexter Strickland had played positions they had never played before as freshmen and how that was one of the reasons they struggled at times. Where do you see them improving after having made such significant strides last season?

To me, the biggest part of their struggles was the uncomfortableness of their freshman year, of playing positions that they had never played. Last year they got a little more comfortable. John got a lot more comfortable. Dexter still got some time as the backup point guard, particularly down the stretch and he'll play that role again this year, so I'm hoping the time that he got his freshman year in playing the point and then last year playing the point as well, that that won't be nearly as much of a challenge for him. It won't be treading completely new waters, so I'm hoping that will help him there. John really got so much more comfortable about his game and he sort of found his niche. He found the places where he can be successful and didn't try to do things that he can't do for the most part. So I think that his confidence should really be at a high level. Dexter's confidence in the things that he can do defensively and running the floor, and particularly his play in the Kentucky game, I would hope that would carry over to a great deal of confidence for him this year.


During the 2009-10 season and then again in the beginning of last year, we would see a good game out of Tyler Zeller and then it was almost as if he would vanish for stretches. And then as the season progressed, he became more of a consistent performer. What do you attribute that change to? Was it just experience?

I think it was experience, but I also think it was his teammates' confidence in him. He sort of became the rock that he didn't have to have the ball all of the time, but that he was going to put up good numbers if they gave him the chance. I think that he'll still do that this year. I think he'll improve in every little area of his game. I need him to improve rebounding the ball, getting the ball off the board more, getting to the offensive board more. I need him to be more consistent with his running because sometimes he outruns people and gets some easy ones, and then for the next few possessions, he won't do it, so we need to get him consistent there. And then the other thing is that I think he'll show that he can make a facing jump shot. That would really help us because that would open up more space for Harrison's drives, it opens up more space for John to use the inside area even more so and it makes it harder for the guy guarding Tyler to come out and guard him out on the floor a little bit more.

How about Kendall Marshall? Where does he need to improve?

That's hard because I would have a difficult time coming up with somebody who's had a more impressive second half of their freshman year than what Kendall did. But there's no question he's got some big-time areas where he's got to improve. He's got to get better defending on the ball. He's got to get more consistent with his jump shot. And then after those two, he's got to continue being Kendall. And I'll tell you, it's a challenge for him to see if he's going to be as hungry this year. Last year he was really hungry. He didn't know if he was going to get any playing time, so he worked his tail off and concentrated like crazy. Now, can he handle it when the position is his? Is he going to get fat and happy or is he going to be just as hungry as he was last year?

Before last preseason, you talked about that freshman class -- Harrison, Kendall, Reggie Bullock -- being very mature for their age. I'm assuming that played out exactly as you expected.

I think the only one would be Reggie because of the difficulties he had with the injury, but he's had a really good late summer and early fall. I'm really expecting good things from Reggie… They were kids and they were wacko at times, but they really did have a maturity that you seldom see in freshmen.

Is Reggie back to 100 percent?

Yeah, he's back. He's playing now and everybody feels really good. We will have to watch his knee quite a bit because he's had two surgeries on the same knee, so we'll have to watch it, but boy, he's done some really, really good things in the offseason. Former players and his teammates are saying great things about the way he's playing right now.

This excerpt contains only a third of the entire conversation. To read the full interview, check out the October -- Basketball Preview -- Issue of the Inside Carolina Magazine, the only UNC preseason yearbook that features interviews and profiles of every player and insider scouting reports, plus a ton of exclusive photography. To learn more about the publication and how to subscribe, CLICK HERE. This issue is available on newsstands throughout North Carolina and available by mail-order from Johnny T-shirt.


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