Kevin Seifert/Inside Carolina

UNC Coach Roy Williams Updates His Health

UNC head coach Roy Williams has lifted weights and taken yoga, in addition to coaching practice, since his vertigo attack at Boston College on Tuesday. He discussed his health with several anecdotes during his weekly press conference on Friday.

Can you give us an update on how you are feeling?

“It’s better that you ask updates on me than any of my players, because then it means they’re in pretty good health. Yeah, I feel fine. It was, unfortunately, it was on national television, but I can’t remember now if it’s been 17 or 18 (attacks) since 1995. That’s the first time it’s ever happened during a game. I had one in practice this year at the Naval Academy, but it was Brice’s fault, which is normal, right? He had a chance to dodge me or run over me, and he decided to run over me during practice. No, that’s not true either, but we had bumped into each other, and he was cutting through, and I was trying to get out of his way. Normally, with me, it is. “I’ve been examined at Lawrence Memorial Hospital. I went to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester and I was handled there. When I came here 13 years ago, the EMT people examined me. Everybody says I have benign positional vertigo, and what that means is it usually has to be a traumatic, sudden jerking of your head or some movement of your head and the rocks in your brain, or really the inner ear, the little pebbles get out of the tracks and they start bouncing around off the walls, and you’re very dizzy. That’s what mine is. And everybody, all three places, did it at the same time. The first time it ever happened to me, I hit a great shot that I thought was eating the flag up, and it came down right in the lip of the bunker. And I jumped up and, seriously, exactly, said, ‘Golly bum!’ Next thing I know, I’m laying on the ground. I just visited with Scott Smith a few months ago, and one of the bad things I had with him and his dad on the sixth hole at the ocean course at Kiawah. I was in the bunker and I hit a great shot, and sand blew back in my face, I jerked my head around and the next thing I know, I’m crawling out of the bunker. It usually involves throwing up, and that day I threw up on the 7th tee, 8th tee, 9th tee and quit. They played the last nine holes at the Ocean Course without me, so I was really mad about that. It’s happened, but as I said, it’s the first time it’s ever happened in a basketball game, that public.

“What I did, I was asking the official about a play, and I wasn’t mad, I mean you can see, I wasn’t screaming or ranting or raving, you know when I’m doing that, because it’s quite a different thing. And I didn’t like the manner of his response. I’m one of those guys that doesn’t really like, I’m trying to figure out the right way to say this—You know, officiating, it’s hard. It’s a really hard thing. But I like guys who will explain something to me. If I’m ranting and raving at him, you should expect him to rant and rave back at you. But I thought it was a response that I didn’t deserve, and I turned around and muttered the word ‘arrogant’ to myself. We’ve probably got 75 percent of the refs in the ACC that will listen to you and talk to you and tell you, and then every now and then, an arrogance shows up. And that really infuriates me and a lot of other coaches. That referee was not one that I’ve seen before, but at that specific moment, I thought that was his response. So I turned away from him, you can check it out on TV it’s right there in front of God and everybody, and I mumbled ‘arrogance,’ and I started to slap the chair. And then all of a sudden I was saying to Justin (Jackson) and Joel (Berry), ‘How did I get down here?’ It was that kind of thing.

“But it is something that’s not caused by anybody, it was just my reaction to what I thought was not the proper response to a question. Officiating’s a hard job, but I think if you were to ask 100 coaches a feeling of ‘how dare you question me?’ or a feeling of arrogance or a feeling of ‘don’t talk to me,’ it’s something that, especially with older coaches, and I think I’m in that category now, I think that’s what they don’t have much respect for. And it does bother me, and it’s bothered me since Day One. I had one official, one time, long time ago, I jumped up and said something and he turned to me and barked, ‘It’s nothing there,’ and I said, ‘Oh, excuse me, I didn’t realize God was doing this game,’ and three days later I got a note from the official that said that for the rest of his life, when I jumped up and said something, he would pay attention, because I was exactly right when he saw it on tape. Now, I kept that note for 40 years just to make sure I was right one time, but that’s all it was. It was nobody’s fault, whatsoever. It’s something that I’ve dealt with, that I’ll always deal with, and it hasn’t been too big of a thing.

“The first time they tested me, for one thing, in Lawrence, they took me in the back room of the emergency room at midnight, because they didn’t want anybody to know I was going in there. And they tested me, and I passed all of the tests with flying colors. So, that’s part of it. It’s different. Somebody said, ‘Is that the same thing that you do when you grab onto a coach or something?’ And it is completely different. That’s just a blood rush, it lasts about four or five seconds is all it is and I’m fine after that. But, since I’m probably a guy that doesn’t have many negative qualities, I’ve got a couple there, too.”   Did you go through practice like normal this week or did you do anything that was different due to the vertigo attack? “Doug [Halverson], our trainer, has some pills that I’ve given him that he keeps. He gave me two of those pills within two minutes and that really helped. I always end up throwing up, so I did a little bit, and a little bit more. I walked around in the locker room, and I got very emotional. Didn’t mean to. I said we’ve got to go back out to the tunnel, because it’s my team, if we were going lose, I felt like I had to be on the bench with my team. I wasn’t going be back there. And so we went out to about 30 feet away, and luckily the guys made some big plays and we didn’t have that happen. Got on the airplane, the doctor examined me there, and they were concerned because I was on their watch, and they didn’t want me to die on their watch and they’d have to fill out all those papers.

“A couple of times, it’s been people have thought I was having a heart attack. And, I’ve got to tell you one more, I apologize, but this is really funny. I had one on an airplane. July 30, 2005. I went to the restroom—I haven’t gotten up and gone to the restroom on an airplane since July 30, 2005—we hit a couple of bumps, so I sit down and sure enough, it was bad. So I used my bag, and the bag beside that, and the bag beside that, and the flight attendant got nervous, and she had some nursing training. So she came back and knew who I was, and she tried to find my pulse. She couldn’t find one. I said, ‘honey, I am alive. I am talking to you.’ And so the plane lands. Where was the plane landing? Of all places, Kansas City. At that time, I was still not the nice word in that part of the world with some people. So they had to bring the EMS people on the plane. They let everybody off and kept me on the plane. And so the EMS people come out there, and they get me, and he can’t find a pulse, and I said, ‘Big fella, I am talking to you. My heart’s got to be working. I know there’s no ventriloquist, it’s just us.’ He said, ‘We’ve got to take you off on a stretcher.’ And so, now, this is in Kansas City Airport. I have a room at the Marriott. There’s a tournament going on, it’s the next to last day of the recruiting period. He said, ‘We’ve got to take you to the hospital,’ I said, ‘I am not having a heart attack, it’s vertigo.’ He said ‘Let’s take you out and put you in the ambulance.’ And so I said ‘Get me that towel.’ And so they gave me a towel and I draped it over my head, because I don’t want anybody that’s still mad at me to see who it was going off on a stretcher.

“And you know the gate, the baggage claim at Kansas City, some of them sit beside the gate. And one of them said, ‘God, that guy died!’ So I thought I’m one of the few people that’s alive when people are talking about him being dead. I went over and they still wanted to take me over to the hospital, and I talked them out of it, and they took me over to the Marriott and I got the security guard, gave him the extra key, and I said ‘Come on in, don’t knock on the door, because I’m not getting up.’ So I sat their on the bed and called up my golf pro in Lawrence and asked his wife if she’d make me a couple of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and I was fine. So this doctor comes in, and he said ‘Coach, you’re sweating like crazy, you’re white, you have the clammy skin.’ I said ‘Well, take my blood pressure.’ So he said ‘Is that okay?’ And I said, ‘yeah,’ so he took my blood pressure, and before he finished, I said ‘It’s got to be 112 over 74.’ And then he said, ‘I’ll be blankity-blank.’ Because it was 114 over 74. I said ‘Geez, I’m not as good as I used to be.’ So everybody thought I was okay.  

“But I took another pill when I got home, slept, came in the office at 3:30 on Wednesday. I stayed here until about 5:30, did yoga yesterday morning, came in the office at regular time, left here at 8:30. Came in this morning, not that you can tell it, but did my weight workout this morning. It’s just what it is.”  

Do attacks like that make you question your future and the amount of time you have left, anything like that?

“Nope. Because it’s been going on, like I said, it’s been since ’95. If it’d been something, and I read the article, because 12 people sent it to me, about me and Mike (Krzyzewski) and how old we are and how bad our health is. Most of you guys I can outrun. Most of you guys, I can lift more weights. But no, it doesn’t have anything else, no meaning to me, because it’s something that I’ve been very…

“You guys, I’m giving you more information than you’ll ever need. I puked in the bunker at the 18th hole at the New Course at St. Andrews. So Terry Allen, who was our football coach at KU at that time, made t-shirts that said ‘I Saw Coach Williams Puke in The Bunker At St. Andrews.’ There’s been some bad things. If I was going quit doing anything, I would have quit after that. It was windy, and now if I hit a shot out of the bunker and sand’s flying back, I just take it, I don’t even turn. A guy blew his horn up on Franklin Street one day, and everybody jumped, and I didn’t even jump at all. Most of the time, I’ve sort of trained myself to not react to something like that. But there’s a long answer to a simple yes-or-no question.”  

Sometimes when a team is finding itself and it has a game like the one against Boston College, do you feel like that’s maybe the possibility?

“Can you ask me after the game (Sunday)? I felt the same thing when I watched the Virginia-Wake Forest game. I said that could really shake them, propel them, give them some confidence and that would be really good for them. Now this one wasn’t nearly as dramatic as just an old guy got dizzy for a few minutes, but I would agree with you, I’ve seen that before.”  

The problems you guys have been having, are they similar to the little things you struggled with last year?

“More different. I don’t think it’s the same thing. Last year—One exception. Last year, we hurt ourselves by silly fouls, putting people on the free throw line. And that’s what you saw in the Notre Dame game. I think now, it’s just being consistent with our concentration and effort defensively has been more than anything. Plus, the ball hasn’t gone in the basket as much. You make two more shots in the Louisville game or two more shots in the Notre Dame game, it’d really be a boring press conference, the only thing we’d be talking about would be my dizziness.”  

Does Brice Johnson handle prosperity better now?

“I think he was really frustrated in himself in Boston College, because defensively, he and Kennedy (Meeks), I didn’t start them in the Boston College game because they had the worst two defensive grades on the team at Notre Dame. And then Brice was really disappointed with himself after the game against BC. He and I have had a good talk, and he’s an unusual dude. I love him to death, and I’m just trying to push, push, push.”  

Just in a general sense, is Brice better at not paying attention to the details in a good performance as opposed to those times when he had a bad one?

“Brice is Brice. I’ve given it to you before, but I mean, it is. He, sometimes things really, really bothered him that might not bother somebody else, and some things that would infuriate me, he handles it differently. He’s just gotten better and better and better, and I think everybody knows that. If I can get him to concentrate a little bit more on the defensive end of the floor, then he’s got a chance to be a big-time player for a long time.”  

Do you expect the same starting lineup on Sunday that you used on Tuesday against Boston College?

“I don’t know. I haven’t thought about it. I’ve been trying to think about where that next pill is for the last 24 hours.”  

Did you see anything on tape about the lineup change affecting the team?

“We showed them some clips, here we are again, this must have been Wednesday. We showed them some clips, and so I think they see some things and we’ve watched more tape with this team than any team in Marcus’s four years, just trying to see if we can try something different or something works a little better.”    

When you’re talking about coaching toughness, how can that be taught?

“It’s hard. I never had to say a word to Tyler Hansbrough, for example. I haven’t had to say anything to Marcus. But some guys, it’s just your makeup. That’s not part of your make-up. I think you can continue emphasizing it and pushing and pushing it and emphasizing it and pushing, and showing them a time that they could have reacted differently to negative things or reacted differently to loose balls. Reacted differently to somebody pushing them. That kind of thing. I make a nice salary as it is, but if I could figure out how to make that happen, I’d be the wealthiest guy in spots, because on Sunday at the Super Bowl, some of those coaches were still trying to figure out how to reach to a couple of their players to get some of that, and that’s something that happens all the time.”  

Are there any weird tactics you use to get them tougher?

“You’d have to talk to the players, because they think a lot of the things I do is weird. You know, just like a lot of my press conferences.”  

If you weren’t playing a struggling Boston College team, would you have still messed with your lineup like you did?

“Probably not, but I’ve done that a couple of times. In 2006, before half of you were born, we lost our first two games, and I took Marcus (Ginyard) out of the starting line-up and put in Wes Miller. I think we were 1-2 or 1-3 or something. And we go to Florida State and we win the game and Wes makes five 3s. I’ve done some things like that. In fact, last year before I went to Boston College, I was mad at Kennedy and J.P. (Tokoto) and didn’t start them up there. J.P. was sensational. You can go back and look, but he was either seven assists and zero turnovers or nine assists and zero turnovers, and he was sensational. It was the first game that Isaiah (Hicks) had started, and he was really good, too. And then Kennedy bounced back and started after that.”  

Who have been some of the success stories that you’ve had in the past that didn’t come in as tough as you’d like but grew?

“Some guys have it that you don’t know it. If you’d seen Marcus, you wouldn’t have thought this is one of the toughest guys. Mentally, he’s as tough as anybody I’ve been around. That didn’t come from me. I didn’t see it as much his freshman year. I do think that you can affect it a little bit, but you can’t change it a lot. Jared Haase, one of the toughest competitors I’ve been around, and he was that from the first day. Tyler Hansbrough calls me at night after they won the state championship in St. Louis, ‘Coach, we kicked them.’ I’m trying to think, ‘Who is this?’ We’d just got beaten by Georgia Tech in the ACC Tournament. The success stories, I think they’re all little steps. Because I don’t think you change that drastically. It’s not like taking Nate (Britt). ‘Okay, you’re going put the ball in your other hand and shoot it with your other hand.’ That’s pretty drastic. But if I think of one later, I’ll tell Steve (Kirschner) and he’ll let you know. I just don’t think you change that very much. I mean, it’s human nature. You guys see it over time. I’ve changed some in 13 years, but not a lot. Thanks guys.”


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