CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – In February 2015, Roy Williams decided to switch up his starting lineup on a road trip to Boston College after several days of talking about urgency and commitment. One year later, the Hall of Fame coach is discussing similar topics and considering lineup adjustments once again before facing the Eagles on the road on Tuesday.
Williams was asked about potential lineup changes during his weekly radio show on Monday, and left the door open for possible alterations to his starting five following No. 9 North Carolina’s two-game skid against Louisville and Notre Dame.
“I put some different guys out there with the starting five today, and I may change and start them tomorrow, or I may go back,” Williams said.
He did not offer any further details on which players may enter the starting lineup or which ones may exit. All five Tar Heel starters currently average 11 or more points per game.
“If you do something like that, you act like that one person, or two, or three, or four, that he’s the one who screwed it up,” Williams said. “It was North Carolina that screwed it up.”
He made similar comments after inserting forward Isaiah Hicks and guard Nate Britt into the starting lineup at Boston College last season in place of forward Kennedy Meeks and guard J.P. Tokoto.
“I hesitated a little bit to make any change, but I wasn’t going to make just one change, because you make one change everybody thinks you’re pointing at him and that’s not what it was,” Williams said following the 79-68 win on Feb. 7, 2015.
Notre Dame scored on 16 of its final 20 possessions. What was the challenge behind getting stops consistently?
“Rebounding is what killed us down the stretch. When they did miss a shot, they ended up getting a rebound, and we give them two opportunities, so that just kills you.”
There are times when this team is really good at rebounding and then other times like Texas or Notre Dame when the other team has dominated them. Why is there such a discrepancy?
“I don’t know. If I did, as I’ve already said before, I would have fixed the sucker. We’re first in the league in rebound margin, first or second. First or second in the league in offensive rebound percentage. We’re first or second in the league in defensive rebound percentage. We were in the top 15 in the country for most of the season in rebound margin, and you have Texas, they score either 21 or 27 points on second shots, and then Notre Dame got 23 points on second shot opportunities. You take away those, we’ve outrebounded everybody else or scored more points on offensive rebounds.
“We’ve played 23 games, 21 of those games we’ve really done a good job rebounding, and in two of those games we really stunk it up. A lot of it is want-to, a lot of it is being disciplined, you have to box out every time. A lot of it is going to the board. The bottom line is the Texas game and the Notre Dame game, that was the game. They have two or three turnovers and we have 15. If you told me before the game that we were going shoot 50 percent from the 3-point line, they were going make 3-out-of-18 3-pointers, they were going shoot 38 or 36 percent for the game, Wanda would have one less house, because I would have bet the house.
“The fact of the matter is we had all of those stats, we shot 50 percent, they were 3-for-18, the rebounding was 41-40, but the fact of the matter is they scored on their offensive rebounds and we didn’t. The other part of it is they have three turnovers and we have 15, so there’s so many different things that go in a game, but you can’t give up 23 points on offensive rebounds.”
Yesterday marked the anniversary of Dean Smith’s passing.
“We’re talking about what went on in Louisville, I remember calling Coach Smith Halloween night. That was 1988. The NCAA put us on probation, Kansas, for things that had gone on before we got there. I talked to Coach, and he said ‘You’ll handle it.’ I said, ‘That’s easy for you to say, give me some advice.’ He said ‘No, you’ll handle it, it’ll be great, and those kids will love you,’ and that kind of thing. So every major decision that I felt like I had since 1979, I would always ask Coach Smith his opinion, see what he thought. It’s hard to believe it was a year and one day ago. I remember, if I’m not mistaken, I think it was Boston College, and I get the phone call on the bus. That night was tough.”
Are you pleased with the way Coach Smith was honored?
“I think so, because it would fit him. He wouldn’t want much of it. He really didn’t. And you’ve heard me say this: maybe one of the highest moments and finest moments of my life has been going to the Four Corners against Georgia Tech at the start of the game and getting the lay-up. If you remember, I had to run back to the bench and sat down like a little kid, because I was about to start crying or something like that. That was a tribute that I think he really would appreciate. I think he really would like that. I think he would have said, ‘Now go on and win the game,’ you know, we were lucky enough to do that. I think that the ceremony where all the former players and coaches came in was just off the charts. It’s something I think he would have appreciated.”
How do you pick out the jacket you wear for each game?
“I’m glad we’re getting this serious stuff. You know, the last two games, I’ve worn brand new suits. If anyone wants to buy one of those suckers cheap… I generally know the record of the coat when I put it on and the record of the coat when I take it off. It depends, and a lot of times if we play one game against somebody, and we play poorly, that may not be worn unless I go to a funeral. There is a lot of thought process and a lot of scientific stuff that goes into this with me. Wanda, a lot of times I’ll pick it out, I’m laying it on the bed, and I’ll say, ‘Which tie do you like better?’ or something like that, but I don’t ask her much more than that, because if we lose, I’ll blame her, so she needs to stay out of it too.”