CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Roy Williams may have assistant coaches with differing perspectives on his bench, yet he only wants a consensus opinion from the group during the course of a game.
Steve Robinson has served on Williams’s coaching staff for 21 seasons, including all 13 in Chapel Hill. C.B. McGrath has been an assistant under Williams for 17 seasons, and is currently in his seventh season as the junior varsity team’s head coach. Former UNC standout Hubert Davis is in his fourth year as assistant coach, while Brad Frederick is the newest addition to the staff, currently in his third season as UNC’s Director of Basketball Operations.
All four have different backgrounds that help round out the coaching staff. How they share their insights depends on the particular preferences of their head coach, as Williams detailed during his radio show on Monday night.
“Don’t give me a suggestion unless you’ve talked it over with yourselves, with the three or four of you sitting there, because I don’t want four different suggestions every other play,” the 13th-year UNC head coach said. “I said, ‘If you’ve got something that you think is good, then see if everybody else thinks its good, then give it to me.’”
The basis for that approach dates back to a 1981 UNC-N.C. State ACC matchup during Williams’s third season on Dean Smith’s bench. As Smith was walking up and down the sideline, he looked at Williams, who blurted out a suggestion about running a play for Sam Perkins. That momentary bold assertion was immediately replaced by fear of possibly getting it wrong.
“He turned around and called it, and God almighty, my heart rate went to 108 miles per hour, that kind of thing,” Williams said. “We threw it inside and ran the play for Sam, and Sam got it and laid it up. Coach Smith said, ‘Nice call, do you want to do it again on the other side for James?’ And I said, ‘Yeah.’ I couldn’t even speak I was so dadgum scared.”
Throughout the game, Williams can be seen turning to his assistants, sometimes to ask for specific information and other times make a note, such as the time and score of a particular play for film review.
In addition to his preference for a consensus suggestion, Williams said he also occasionally asks his staff to vote for a play call or roster change. For example, he may ask if they like a certain lineup for a defensive stop, or if they want to swap a player out. While Williams holds veto power, it’s not a card he has to play very often.
“A lot of times I go with what they say because I trust them so much,” he said.
Williams also also each assistant to make a quick point during every timeout, provided they have something to add, and then he makes any necessary changes or adjustments to those comments before the timeout concludes.