Q&A with Roy Williams, Part I

CHARLOTTE, N.C. --- Roy Williams answered questions for more than an hour at the ACC's Operation Basketball media event. Read everything the Tar Heel head coach said in InsideCarolina.com's multi-part transcription ...

What’s the last week been like for you?

Not very pleasant. It’s been a tough week, but you know it’s been a tough last year and a half. Last year with Leslie and P.J. and their problems, NCAA. Then all of a sudden this stuff going on too. The last 16- 17 months haven’t been very pleasant. That’s the reason I’ve enjoyed it so much, the relationship I have on the court with the players.

Some of you were here when Coach Smith coached, and stuff off the court ran him off – not anything like we’re going now – the media he didn’t really enjoy, the recruiting, the alums he didn’t really enjoy. He loved coaching. He made me promise that I wouldn’t quit at 66, because he quit at 66 and felt that was too early. The last 16 months, if this had been my first 16 months, I’d be mowing the grass on the greens at the golf course.

How do you keep from feeling like everything is crashing down on you?

Human nature is you feel that, like ‘Golly bum what else is going to happen next?’ But at the same time, we’ve made some mistakes. P.J. made some mistakes; I’ve never shied away from that. At the end, the mistakes he made with the NCAA, I said ‘I’ve gone to the cliff with you but I’m getting ready to be pushed over the edge and I can’t do that.’ And yet for 41 practices he was sensational for us last year. Then they said he was not eligible to play and he didn’t practice with us.

This year is a different kind of thing because now the bad things, the things that I’m extremely sad about goes to the core of our University. I’m a graduate. My wife is a graduate. More importantly, I sent my son and my daughter to school there because I thought it was a great place. I would still send them there. I’m extremely confident that it’s going to be the University of North Carolina again. But right now, people don’t think the things that I think. I can’t control what everybody thinks of what went on or thinks of me. This has not been a very good time. But I don’t just assign (this as) ‘Well you can’t catch a break’ because we did make some mistakes.

Speaking of mistakes, did you make any mistakes?

If I look back on it, of course you can say maybe ‘I should’ve done this, I should’ve done that, or should not have done that.’ If you ask me did I make a mistake in this, I’d say no. If I had to go back and live it over again, knowing what I know, darn right. Somebody said, ‘Well you get some credit for wanting to not be in the “no-show” classes.’ Well, I thought independent study was not a negative thing. It’s just that I felt like my players would be better in a structured situation where I could go and look-in and make sure they were in class.

It’s not that I was trying to hide them from something that was negative. I never took an independent study course in college, so that was a little foreign. The stuff about the AFAM, we had nine out of 10 players majoring in the same thing. I thought, that was sort of not ordinary.

That goes back, and you guys get the chance to believe what you’re going to believe, seeing college football where … go around the room and everybody is majoring in drama, boy I thought ‘that must be the easiest thing to major in.’ That was my whole thing right there, let’s not push them to anything and let’s not prevent them from going to anything. Let’s allow them to choose what they want.

After my second year we had one guy that wanted to major in AFAM, and guess what we let him do? Major in AFAM, I didn’t know there was anything wrong with that. The rest of the guys chose to major in something else. Guess what I let them do? Major in something else. I thought that’s what I was supposed to do.

Should I have done something? I’ll stand up in front of anyone, president of the United States, the Pope and I’m not even catholic. I’ve never chosen a course, I was never asked to choose a course, I don’t have the knowledge or the experience to choose a course. I’ve never asked or been asked about how to teach a class. I’ve never had a professor come down to the Smith Center and tell me how to conduct a practice. A basketball coach, in my opinion, is supposed to emphasize academics, make sure that the players have the correct time to work on their academics.

I let my players; if somebody comes in and says ‘Coach, I’ve got a study session with my group at 6-o-clock.’ I’ll say ‘what time do you need to leave?’ He says 5:15. I say ‘OK, wave at me.’ I’ve never said ‘No, no you can’t do that.’ When the player leaves they wave and I say good luck. I’m not talking about going to take a test, I’m talking about three college students or four or five or 10 or 20 to get together and have a review session.

That’s what a basketball coach is supposed to do. We’re supposed to emphasize ‘we want you to get an education, not just grades. We want to emphasize that we want you to get a degree, not just stay eligible.’ I’ve been very fortunate; I’ve never had a player ineligible. Now if you want to be a cynic, and say ‘no joke with what they did’ well that’s a bunch of crap too. We’ve never talked about eligibility. We’ve talked about gaining a degree and being productive in society.

You can say I’m too short, too ugly, too much gray hair, bad golf swing, but there’s not one freaking person in the world that can say I’ve never emphasized the academic side of it. If they say that, they’re lying or whatever they want to do. That’s what it is.

If you had to do it over again, do you think missed anything?

I didn’t see the smoke. I was naïve. It’s my university. It’s the University of North Carolina. I went to school there; I worked to get my degree. I went to every class. I took a course pass/fail one time, dumbest thing I ever did. I got a B+ in the dadgum class. I made a 3.6 one semester at North Carolina. I sent my children there. You think I’d want to send my children to a place where they do silly things? I didn’t know. I don’t think I was supposed to know. Arts and Sciences up on campus controls the academic part of our university, not Roy Williams. I do get emotional about it, my gosh. I’m not a guy that just goes to a program stays for a couple of years and then leaves to see if he can get a better shoe contract. It’s my place. Some of you guys graduated from North Carolina, maybe.

I’d fight somebody, that’s my school. You can accuse me of being naïve, but truthfully I don’t think you can go past that. But that’s my opinion and they’re like noses, everybody’s got one.

Are you worried about having to forfeit a championship?

I’m fearful of being able to walk out of this room without getting hit by a car. I can’t let that dominate my life either. I’ve seen NCAA decisions that I scratch my head about in one direction and scratch my head about in the other direction…

I have no idea what’s going to happen, I have no timetable. I know what I can do. And what I can do is go to practice tomorrow and try to coach like crazy and try to give my kids guidance and let my kids know that I care about them. That’s what I can do.

Are you fearful of a slow start this year because of this?

I think it’s a fresh thing, not fresh ‘good,’ but ‘new’ is a better word. Last year we had a lot of junk and the kids did band together, but it was more internal. We were more involved. To me, we’re external. We’re involved because it’s our university. We’re involved because basketball is mentioned. But we’re not involved like we were last year; like this is the guy I roomed with, and dove on the floor with.

I was so proud of last year’s team, the way they handled the adversity. I met with my team last Thursday. I said, ‘Do you guys have any questions about any of this stuff. I don’t know that I have answers, but I’ll give you my opinion.’

I said this earlier, 15 years ago everybody thought Michael Jordan invented the game and they don’t know anything about Naismith. Now everybody thinks it’s Lebron or Kevin Durant. But the kids they have a youthful exuberance or immaturity or whatever they can handle things better than we do as adults. Am I expecting a slow start? No. If it happens, I’ll say I didn’t expect it but it’s here. I don’t go in looking for something, especially for something negative.

Do you sense that your guys have tuned out the Wainstein Report?

I think they possibly have. I haven’t read all 132 pages with a fine-tooth magnifying glass or anything like that. I’m not even sure they were in the sixth grade when basketball had anything going on with things. Somebody said nothing has gone since 2011, but I think it’s much earlier for basketball. … I read enough to know that I was very disappointed and sad. They weren’t involved, yet we’ve seen sometimes that people are penalized that weren’t involved. For me as the head coach, leader, adult, the supposedly mature one I guess I have to think about that. I think they’ve categorized it into moving on.

We lose an NCAA tournament game; it sticks with the coaches forever. The players, by the time you get back on campus, they’re wondering what they’re going to eat that night. I don’t want to eat for a month. Young people have a way of doing that.

The first part of many coaching contracts; including yours, talk about ethics and NCAA violations. Are you confident you’ll have the support of North Carolina moving forward?

I’m as proud of my ethics as I can possibly be. I’m not going to do anything like that. If they fire me, it’s because I didn’t win games. It’s not going to be because for sure, knowingly, did something unethically. I don’t move my ball on the green when nobody’s watching… So, no, I don’t worry one second about my ethics. And the NCAA, I’ve never knowingly done anything that would even violate an intent of the rule. I drive 70 miles a hour in a 60 miles per hour zone. If it’s 70, I drive 79 or 80. But I’m not involving young people when I’m supposed to be somewhat of an example. … I’ve got a saying: ‘You better be proud of who you are, because you’re the only guy that you live with.’ You can accuse me of everything, but that’s not ever going to be something that’s going to be right…

In the 900 pages of emails and texts, there’s a lot of correspondence between Wayne Walden and Debbie Crowder. Do you understand why people might have questions about why Wayne didn’t come to you and explain the whole paper course thing?

I’m not even sure when Wayne even knew. That report, those people did an amazing job with all the time and commitments and people and emails. But I’ve used these as examples - it said that we had 11 players from the ’05 team – it was not, there were seven. Said they talked to seven, they spoke to 10. There was supposedly some meeting, it was reported in there, I had with a group of academic people and tutors, and I told them their job was to keep my team eligible. Didn’t happen, did not happen. And we cannot find out where it was ever said. At the bottom they disclaimed the report, because they said they couldn’t talk to that person. I’ve got two guys that have been trying to find that statement that was supposedly made, we can’t even find that statement.

Wayne Walden, you can take a sentence out of this dadgum monologue that I’m giving and it may sound a lot different than it does with the whole monologue. Wayne Walden is one of the most ethical people I’ve ever known in my life. Still, I’ll say that today. You don’t find any emails between me and Wayne Walden, that doesn’t prove I’m innocent. It’s just that I don’t freaking email. You can’t find any emails from me and Debbie Crowder, that doesn’t mean I’m innocent. I don’t email.

I haven’t seen those emails; don’t have any idea if there’s one that stands out more than the other. There’s a difference between somebody thinking and somebody knowing, and there’s a difference between coming aware in 2004 or 2008 that something had happened three or four years before. It’s such a complicated investigation. That’s why I feel for Ken Wainstein and their group, because it was so complicated.

… We had some things that I’m not proud of, that I’m hurt by. I can’t describe it more than saying it’s terrible. … I think the report was so exhaustive, so comprehensive, so complicated, if I’d agreed with everything they said, I think it would’ve been monumental.

You’ve gotten emotional when talking about your kids and ethics. How has this affected you personally away from the job?

It’s only affected me in the way the things that they have to deal with. They know me. My friends know me. My high school coach knows me. Coach Smith knows me. The people that really mean something to me, I’m not worried about their thoughts about me, I’m worried about what they have to listen to other people saying...

Check back tomorrow for Part II...

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