UNC coach Roy Williams doesn't have any issues recruiting head-to-head against Mike Krzyzewski. PHOTO: Robert Willett
CHARLOTTE — North Carolina coach Roy Williams said on Wednesday night during a Rams Club Tar Heel Tour stop in Charlotte that he plans to spend next week focusing on hiring a new assistant coach. Williams will be filling a void on his staff left by the departed Jerod Haase, who left UNC to become the head coach at UAB.
Williams recently has been devoting his attention to recruiting, and he said he’d be doing the same this weekend. After this weekend, though, he will come closer to naming a new assistant.
“Really the meat of the work is going to be done after this weekend’s recruiting period,” Williams said. “I feel pretty good about it.”
The opening on the Tar Heels’ staff has created plenty of interest. Williams said 14 former North Carolina players have contacted him about the job. He also said three players he coached at Kansas showed an interest in joining the Tar Heels’ staff.
“I love them,” Williams said of the former Kansas players who had contacted him. “[I] told them I love them, but this next hire is going to be somebody from the University of North Carolina.”
Some other points of interest from Williams’ talk at the McGlohon Theater in Charlotte:
--During a question-and-answer session with those in attendance, a UNC supporter expressed frustration about the state of officiating during the past season, and he asked Williams how best he could voice his concerns. Williams said he empathized with the fan.
“It’s hard,” Williams said. “I don’t mind telling you. I mean, this year I called [the ACC director of men’s basketball officiating] John Clougherty [for] the first time in three years … but it’s frustrating to me.”
Williams indicated that he called Clougherty to discuss the play when Tyler Zeller was pushed in the back late in the Tar Heels’ 85-84 defeat against Duke at the Smith Center in February. After the push, Zeller inadvertently tipped in Ryan Kelly’s missed shot, and the moment played a key role in the Blue Devils’ comeback.
“He got shoved like crazy in the back,” Williams said. “And the TV cameras didn’t show it as much as one of the cameras that we use for coaching purposes. And I mean, it was just a huge play, four feet in front of the official. So I called about it. And there’s not anything that happens, because it is a very difficult game to officiate. Understand that. You know, it’s snap decisions and we understand that. But I share with you some of that frustration.
“And there’s not a lot you can do. You know, you can call call-in shows, or something like that, and voice your frustrations if that makes you feel better, go ahead. I wish I could do that, too … it’s frustrating, there’s no question. It’s frustrating. Even the NCAA tournament game, against Kansas. We’ve got fouls to waste. I mean, poor Stilman’s trying to tackle the guy. He wouldn’t have been a very good defensive back. He’s trying to tackle a guy from the center line all the way in, and they finally call a foul when the ball’s laid up.
“Because we had fouls to waste at that time … if I get fined for that, that’s all right, too.”
--Another interesting moment of Williams’ talk also involved Duke. And, in particular, Mason Plumlee. During the q-and-a session, a man asked Williams why he stopped recruiting Plumlee, who will be a senior forward for the Blue Devils next season. The person who asked the question, in perhaps an error of phrasing, implied that Williams might be shy about going head-to-head against Mike Krzyzewski in a recruiting battle.
“I went to freakin’ Ames, Iowa [to recruit Harrison Barnes] 11 times and his [butt] went twice,” Williams said of Krzyzewski. “… Don’t tell me I ain’t going to go head-to-head.”
And then Williams described what happened while he was recruiting Plumlee.
“It was pretty simple, and if you want to put it this way, which I do, it was one of the dumbest things I’ve ever done. Because I needed two post players. And all of a sudden I get a phone call from the Wear family in California … and all of a sudden we had two post players. We did not have a scholarship for a third.
“And we had been recruiting Mason, we had been recruiting the Wears longer. … So that was what it was right there. I love Mason Plumlee. He’s one of the neatest kids. His family’s great. I loved him. But at that point, we didn’t call and say we’ll stop recruiting you. It was sort of like, you know, there’s already two post players in that class. And we had already got John Henson before that.”
So there you have it.
--Williams broke down UNC’s incoming recruiting class at one point on Wednesday night. And he broke it down like so:
“Marcus Paige, the little point guard from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, is really good. And coach Smith would never say something like that … Marcus has a chance to be special. He broke his foot in the McDonald’s All-American game – that’s why he wasn’t here [in Charlotte] for the Jordan [Brand Classic] game. But he’s left-handed, similar to Kendall [Marshall], a little better athletically, not as good a passer. But Kendall’s probably the best passer I’ve ever seen.
“J.P. Tokoto, a 6-6 small forward, Vince Carter type athleticism. Has to shoot it better, has to handle it better. And then the two big kids – Brice Johnson from down the road right outside of Orangeburg, South Carolina – 6-9 athlete, quick muscle fiber, those quick twitches everybody likes to talk about. Blocks a shot, can rebound the ball. Really has to work harder to get much more physical. He’s 6-9, probably 200, 205. But that’s like Schwarzenegger compared to what John Henson was.
“And then the biggest one was Joel James – 6-10. The first time I saw him a year and a half ago, [he] was 6-10, 310. Now he’s 6-10, 260. And if he were to walk in this room you would say, ‘Oh, my.’ So he passes the look test. We’ve got to get him passing the playing test, too.”
--In describing the season that ended about a month ago, Williams said it was “a great, great year with a very sad ending.” He said what upset him the most was that “this team really didn’t have a chance to celebrate.”
But, Williams said, “I will tell you, this is more of a private thing, but on [a] Saturday night in Durham, at Cameron Indoor Stadium, we celebrated our [butts] off.”
Williams told the story about how Oklahoma one year won the Big 8 regular season championship with a victory at Kansas. And so the Sooners cut down the nets at Allen Fieldhouse. Williams told himself that he’d never be part of such a thing, whether he was on one end or the other – winner or loser. No team was going to cut down the nets in his building. And he wouldn’t be doing that on the road, either.
Still, part of Williams thought about cutting down the nets that early-March night in Durham.
“I did have that thought in Cameron,” he said. “Decided that would probably cause a scene.”
--Williams spent some time trying to evaluate what kind of team the Tar Heels will be next season. But he said that’s difficult to do. Still, he’s looking forward to learning what kind of team this will become.
“We’ve always said it’s the name on the front of the jersey, not just the name on the back,” Williams said. “And James Michael McAdoo and Reggie Bullock got more playing time than anybody else. We’re going to ask them to step up. Dexter [Strickland] and Leslie [McDonald] will hopefully get healthy – we’re going to ask them to step up.
“Those other guys that didn’t get as many minutes, they’ve got to step up and be better players for us. And then the four incoming freshmen. It’ll be an exciting year. And I really believe that. I think it’ll be a year that we’ll really band together and try to have everything and care about their team.”
One thing is clear: Williams doesn’t expect UNC’s playing style to change.
“I want to run the ball up and down the floor,” Williams said. “If you see us walking the ball down the court, playing a 2-3 zone, it means that I saw somebody an important position doing something, and I’m in the witness protection program.”
--One last thing: Williams and UNC football coach Larry Fedora will be paired up together in the upcoming Chick-fil-A Bowl Challenge charity golf tournament. Fedora isn’t much of a golfer. Williams, if you know anything about him, is.
So naturally, Williams is intrigued to see what Fedora might look like on the course.
“I’m excited about playing in the golf tournament with him,” Williams said. “Now he says he doesn’t play at all, and all that kind of stuff. I guarantee-dadgum-tee you one thing: I’m going to laugh more than anybody else out there. So we’ll have some fun with him.”
And there you have it.