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UNC Now is your place for Tar Heel sports. Beat writer Andrew Carter has up-to-the-minute news and analysis. Columnist Luke DeCock also contributes. Follow us on Twitter at @_andrewcarter or @accnow.

UNC coach Roy Williams undergoes surgery to remove tumor from kidney

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UNC coach Roy Williams underwent surgery on Wednesday to remove a tumor from his right kidney. ROBERT WILLETT

CHAPEL HILL -- North Carolina basketball coach Roy Williams underwent surgery on Wednesday morning to remove a tumor from his right kidney, according to the university.

Steve Kirschner, a UNC athletic department spokesman, said it was not yet known whether the tumor is malignant. Kirschner said it could be a week or more before doctors make that determination.

Williams might have to undergo another surgery next month, but he is not expected to miss any time once the regular season begins in mid-November.

Williams underwent a robotic partial nephrectomy that removed the tumor from his kidney. Dr. Eric Wallen, a professor of urology at UNC, led a team of surgeons that performed Williams’ surgery at UNC Hospitals.

“The surgery went well and according to plan,” Wallen said in a statement. “Coach Williams did great. I fully expect him to coach this season and for years to come.

“He could miss some practice time if we perform another procedure sometime in October, but he would be able to resume his coaching duties prior to the start of the regular season.”

Williams, 62, should be able to coach when the Tar Heels begin practice on Oct. 12, Wallen said. Williams is preparing to enter his 10th season as UNC’s head coach.

Williams planned to go on a recruiting trip on Tuesday but never could because of inclement weather, Kirschner said. Williams called a team meeting at 10 p.m. on Tuesday night and informed his players about his impending surgery.

“It was heartbreaking, very surprising,” said Dexter Strickland, the Tar Heels’ senior guard. “I didn’t expect that because nobody knew what it was about. I can’t really explain it.”

Strickland said Williams “didn’t get into detail too much.”

“He didn’t want us to worry too much to where it affects our play and him not being here affects us still building as a team and having practice and stuff like that,” Strickland said.

Doctors discovered the tumor during a physical examination earlier this month, according to a statement the university released on Wednesday. Williams then informed his staff of assistant coaches.

Until the surgery on Wednesday, Williams hadn’t had to miss any work because of his medical issues. He has been traveling to recruit in recent weeks, and has been preparing to enter his 10th season as UNC’s head coach.

If Williams does have to miss practices – or games – it’s unclear who will assume his leadership role over the basketball program. Steve Robinson, the UNC assistant coach, said Williams’ assistants would likely work together, if necessary, to fill Williams’ void.

“I don’t think we have just one single person to say, OK, this guy – you’re in charge of everything,” Robinson said. “You know who’s in charge? Roy Williams. That’s who’s in charge.”

Robinson last spoke to Williams on Tuesday night. Williams went into surgery on Wednesday morning at around 8, and the procedure ended shortly before noon.

“I think he was just concerned,” Robinson said. “I think he’s concerned just because it’s surgery itself. And I think that this is a situation where he would certainly would like for it not to have to happen. But I don’t know of anyone that’s pretty excited about having surgery and having somebody cut you open.

“But I think he can handle it.”

Williams has endured health issues before. He has frequently been affected in recent seasons by vertigo, which has caused him at times to kneel on the sideline while retaining his balance.

He underwent shoulder surgery in November 2009 and then coached the first two months of that season while wearing a sling. Robinson, who has spent 18 seasons – first at Kansas and then at UNC – as an assistant under Williams, said Williams hadn’t been feeling well in recent weeks.

“I think he’s felt a little uncomfortable over the last couple weeks and then felt like something wasn’t quite right,” Robinson said. “But he still is who he is, in terms of he’s going to laugh, he’s going to be firey and you know, he just does a great job in some of the situations in a recruiting standpoint that we’ve been involved with.”

C.B. McGrath, another UNC assistant coach, said it was “emotional” earlier this month when he learned that Williams would have to undergo surgery.

But, McGrath said, “The way he’s built this program is on consistency. He’s been at the best. He’s been at Kansas and North Carolina. And so everything we do is pretty regimented and everybody knows what they’re supposed to do” if Williams has to miss time.

McGrath said that Williams told him he expected to be released from the hospital on Thursday. It was unclear on Wednesday, meanwhile, when doctors might determine whether Williams needs an additional surgery.

According to several medical and hospital websites, the procedure that Williams underwent on Wednesday is common for kidney cancer patients.

Staff writer Laura Keeley contributed to this story.


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I hope..

Williams does have a speedy recovery. I know he loves his job, but I also know he loves his family. My thoughts are with all of them during this time.

Coach Williams Surgery

Coach, may you keep making the Tar Heels a winner for many, many years to come.  But, it's not about coaching.  It's your complete  recovery.  So many good things come from your players and spread to others.  Your teaching is important as your coaching. 

Get Better Coach!

Lay off the Coca Cola and drink water Coach!  We need you full speed for the two Wolfpack whippings headed your way. ;-) But seriously, best wishes for a speedy recovery and good prognosis.  ACC basketball won't be as fun without you!  

State games

Sure, I think UNC will beat State this year, but State will be much improved, so I am not sure that the results will qualify as a "whipping" or not. ;-)

Speedy recovery

Met him thirty years ago when he was the third assistant and selling Heels calendars. Nice guy. Good coach, Get well soon.

get well soon coach!!!

get well soon coach!!!

roy williams surgery

A die-hard Pack fan wishes for a speedy recovery and the best future health for Coach Williams. Excellent coach, 1st class guy.

Sentiments shared by any reasonable fan of college basetball.


We're All Family

+1 on everything you said.  As basketball fans, North Carolinians, Pack fans, Heels fans, Duke fans - we're all family in times of need and support.  All the best for a speedy recovery.

Best Wishes to Coach Williams

Most know that I bleed R&W and sometimes razz the UNC crowd.  Coach Williams is a character, that even he and the most ardent UNC fans will admit.

However, this is NOT about Coach Williams, but about Roy Williams.

WRAL just ran a piece where Dr. Alan Mask went into a lot of DETAIL about the HYPOTHETICAL diagnosis.  He said that the odds of a non-malignant tumor were exremely small.  He emphasized that the word TUMOR should not be confused with liesens (sp?).  He said that IF the tumor was malignant, then the procedure would be to go after the Primary or the Larger tumor.  Then, after recovery for a few months, go after the Other Smaller tumor.

Having gone through prostate cancer robotic surgery, I can relate to what he had done today.  It was probably a much shorter operation, however, the surgeon spent a great deal of time trying to ONLY remove the tumor and NOT removing any more kidney tissue than was necessary.  The robotic surgery is a technological GOD Send.

So, Coach will recover quickly from this procedure and the subsequent one.  Then the treatment(s), if required to treat any metasized tissue will begin.

As a state fan and a cancer survivor, Roy Williams has my prayers and my support.

No snide comments should be here.  We should NOT joke about serious health items for the teams we support or the teams we compete with.

I do HOPE that the "Pack Pride" comments will be removed or an apology issued.

Everyone needs to remember Roy (Coach) Williams in their prayers.

Thank you ViperRet

For  your classy comments, and your prayers for Coach Williams. It brings back the past, when we UNC fans were equally concerned for the health of Coach Valvano, who was also, as you say, "a character," and one many UNC fans loved to watch coach.

Robotic surgery is tricky, and does not always go as planned. (I know this from a close relative's experience). Let's all pray that it does go well for Coach Williams.

Get well soon coach!

Get well soon coach!

so far .....

Classy comments..... so far!

Lets keep our fingers crossed it continues.


May Roy live to burn some hind ends of red shirts!  I just hope that one of 'em isn't mine.

Best wishes

For a complete and speedy recovery, Roy.

Pack Pride???

Surely Pack Pride is behind this too.

Godspeed, Roy...

Godspeed, Roy...

...wishing Coach Williams a

...wishing Coach Williams a speedy recovery...look forward to seeing him in Raleigh...

Our Prayer.Are With Him.

Sorry to learn of coach Roy,surgery.Upon hearing the news i went to praying for the doctors to be lead by the hands of God,and it not be serious,& coach Roy be healed.And God be with his family.

get well soon roy!!

get well soon roy!!

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About the blogger

Andrew Carter is the University of North Carolina beat writer for the News & Observer.