USA Today Sports Images

NCAA Tournament Thursday UNC Press Conference

GREENVILLE, S.C. --- Roy Williams and players spoke to the media on Thursday at the Bon Secours Wellness Arena.

Coach, in your losses Joel has struggled. Have you seen any kind of common theme in those games where he hasn't been at his best? We all know obviously how important he is to your success?
"Yeah, usually to break it down even as strictly as you can, the ball doesn't go in the basket for him. He hasn't had many of those games where people use the word struggle where his shot has gone in or he's gotten in foul trouble. But he's extremely important. It's sort of like -- you know, in football it's only one of 11 guys; in basketball, it's one of five. If that one of five happens to be your point guard I think it's exaggerated even more. So he sets the line of our defense. He's a tremendous outside shooter. He pushes the pace. He does all those kind of things. And when it's not going well for him, it is a big loss."

What did you think of the cowboy hats?
"I didn't necessarily think they were cowboy hats. Is that what you think they are?"

What did you think of the hats?
"Could be Mafia hats. Who knows? I like 'em. I've got one. We're going to have a team picture made today with everybody -- we'll have a team picture today with everybody, coaches included, with the hats. I don't look good in a hat at all, may not look good anyway, but I know I don't look good in a hat. But I'm going to try to put mine on. He asked me what color, what band. All that stuff. Hats by Shea. It's a pretty neat deal."

You've obviously been previously outspoken on many occasions about the HB2 stuff. Has that ship sailed now that you're here, or are you conscious of it being here?
"I still think I'm conscious of it being here because I'm afraid what's going to happen in the next few years. I hope to coach a little bit longer. I hope this is not my last hoorah kind of thing. I'm very sad, very disappointed about the whole thing, what apparently is something that's really, really hard to change. But people in Greenville have been great. We already practiced today at the school right out of town. And they were great. I asked them if they painted their floor trim Carolina blue because we came and, no, that was their colors. It bothers me. It's really something. It's very, very sad to me, to be honest with you. It's one of the best press conferences I've ever been to."

How much of an inconvenience is it really to be a No. 1 seed and kind of have to go on the road like this?
"I don't really look at it like that. I love to, when I was at Kansas, playing close to home and North Carolina playing close to home. If I can't play close to home I say give me the warmest place, because I'm tired of the winter time. But I don't really look at it like that. I just think, again, sad is the commentary I'd probably use, the word I would use, because the people in the state of North Carolina and the kids in the state of North Carolina aren't getting the opportunities that we've had in the past. And I think that's the biggest thing with me right there. It's just it's not the way I'd like for it to be."

One question on Jayson Tatum, you've seen him quite a bit in the last month or so, and he's really taken off since then. What do you think has been the difference with him? And did you notice -- even the first game against you guys where he kind of went off in the second half as a turning point for him -- what makes him so good this last month?
"I think with every freshman you have no idea when the light bulb is going to go on. The more gifted you are you hope it goes on a lot quicker if you're their coach. I recruited Jayson very hard, saw him play tons of times. The injury -- I apologize I can't remember what his injury was, I know he missed some time early -- so it's probably getting healthy is the biggest thing, the familiarity and then being all of a sudden to able to do things that he was able to do in high school gave him more confidence. But I think it's just father time gave him a little bit of help getting over the injuries, and maybe when he did get started in there, it was a little bit later than everybody else. So he may have fresher legs now too, but I just think getting healthy was probably the biggest thing from the outside looking in."

What problems does Texas Southern present?
"Looking, first of all, it's scary when someone -- I'm going to miss this, I probably shouldn't say this -- 19 out of the last 21 games or something like that. Played 16 straight games on the road. I've known Mike a long time. He was an assistant coach at Indiana and head coach at Indiana. I think taking the road on the team like that to help them financially and probably taught them some tough love kind of thing with the adversity they faced.

"You look at them, they've got four starters averaging double figures, and I think Marvin's like 9.6. So they're a balanced team. Trey Jefferson, the speed and quickness that he does things with, Lofton, the things he does to you inside/outside, averages six or seven free throws a game. So it's the kind of team that I don't like to play because everybody scores, not just one guy. I think it's always a little easier to guard when only -- the team only has one guy to score unless it's like Malik did us in Vegas when he got 47.

"They don't mind a fast pace, so I know our pace isn't going to bother them. They play man-to-man. They know who they are. They know their strengths, know their weaknesses. There's a reason they're here. When you go through league play and only lose twice and then turn around and win your conference tournament again, that's pretty impressive. There's a lot of things, there's not just one that jumps out."

You were talking about freshmen to begin with but in particular Seventh Woods. He said in the beginning he battled confidence issues because a kid like him was making such a big impact. How have you brought him along to make him a more confident player to come off the bench to contribute?
"I haven't made him a confident player. I wish I could have done a better job. But the biggest thing with Seventh is he's been battling injuries since the end of his senior year in high school. He got hurt at the end of his senior year, didn't play in many of the all-star games or anything in the spring because he was hurt. Came to Chapel Hill in the summer and went to one session of summer school, then starts practice -- we played, I can't tell you when it was, but we played quite a few games. I said, 'on a scale of one to ten where's your body?'

"He said, 'five or six.' I know a month or so ago we got it up to an eight. When you're a freshman, No. 1, point guard, No. 2, somebody throws a lot of things at you if they play the way we do. So we've thrown a lot of things at him mentally. Then the biggest thing is that he wasn't as healthy as we needed him to be and as he wanted to be, because when he's healthy he's got a gear that a lot of people don't have. And so just recently we've started seeing Seventh do the things that we thought he could do all along. But because of his body and aches and pains and not being healthy, he lost some of his confidence there, and I haven't been able to get him back to where I'd like for him to be confidence-wise. But I say this, and I believe it other than his mom and his dad, nobody thinks he's going to be as good a player as Roy Williams does."

With the way the last year ended, what kind of motivation has that served, especially now that tournament time is here?
"I think it's two ways. The way that last year ended, meaning the final shot that we lost the national championship game, I'm hoping that motivated them. And we talked about it, providing some motivation or fuel to work extremely hard in the offseason. And then when practice started, I said, it's motivation for that reason and it's motivation because what we did last year was great. Everybody in the country would have loved to have done what we did last year. There was only one team that enjoyed it more than we did. So I think just for me, talking to the kids and reminding them how much fun it was last year, let's try to do that again.

"So I think we've used it as motivation a little bit. But kids maybe not be driven as old guys like me because of something that happened. They may just want it because they want it themselves and that's okay. But I do try to remind them how much fun we had last year also, not just the hurt of the last shot."

I wanted to not talk about tomorrow especially but in 32 years we've never had a 16 beat a 1. Is it going to happen or is it close to happening at some point?
"Who knows. I'll tell you what. Every coach of the No. 1 always worries like the dickens about it the night before. It's something you always think about. I forget what year it was but I'm going to guess 2002, when I was at Kansas, we were right there. We were a 1 seed in St. Louis playing against Holy Cross. And Kirk Hinrich got hurt during the course of the game. We were right there starting to make history and the kids made some big plays down the stretch and we ended up winning the game. Yeah, I'd say it's probably going to. That's just the way I look at it. If I'm a No. 1 seed let's just put it off for another year. If I were a 2 seed, I wouldn't care. Probably happy (laughter). Get it out of my way."

Inside Carolina Top Stories