Roy Williams in January defended his decision to lead his team -- most of it, anyway -- off the court in the final seconds of a loss at Florida State. ROBERT WILLETT
Court-rushings in college basketball have become a national topic today after Duke coach Mike Kzyzewski last night expressed concern for his player’s safety following the Blue Devils’ lost at Virginia. After time expired, Cavaliers’ fans rushed the court and wild scene ensued.
You’ll remember that North Carolina coach Roy Williams has been at the center of court-rushing controversy, too. Here’s a look back at how Williams’ decision to leave the court in the final seconds of a lopsided loss at Florida State a season ago. Near the year anniversary of that loss, Williams was still defending that decision …
With 14 seconds left in the Tar Heels’ 90-57 loss at Florida State in January 2012, Williams approached Seminoles coach Leonard Hamilton and engaged in a brief conversation. Moments later, with the clock still stopped, Williams led most of his team off the court and into the locker room.
He said later he wanted to shield his team from a postgame celebration that he knew would be wild.
But the five UNC players who had been in the game at the time – a group comprised of four walk-ons – remained on the court and were engulfed in the chaotic celebration that began when time expired on one of the most memorable victories in Florida State history. Williams later said he thought his entire team had followed him off the court, and that he didn’t intend to leave anyone behind.
The odd spectacle of Williams and most of UNC’s players leaving the game early, while the Tar Heels’ walk-ons remained to play out the final 14 seconds, created controversy and became a topic of discussion for days on Internet forums and local talk-radio shows. As he has since the day it happened, Williams in January defended his decision to leave the Florida State game early.
“(I) have zero regrets about walking off the court,” he said in January, before his team’s return trip to Florida State. “Absolutely zero. If you can pick a number that emphasizes it more than zero, pick that number.”
Williams did say he regretted that UNC’s walk-ons had remained on the court, left to fight their way off amid the throng of celebratory Seminoles fans. But Williams defended the spirit of his decision, which he said was meant to protect his players from any potential incidents involving opposing fans.
The loss at Florida State last season was UNC’s third of the season, and Williams said he was a fearful of a repeat of a scene that happened after the Tar Heels’ first defeat – a 90-80 loss against UNLV in November 2011 in the Las Vegas Invitational.
Rebels fans swarmed the court after that game, and the Tar Heels had difficulty getting back to their locker room. One of UNC’s female student managers was pushed to the ground in the melee, and an irate Williams chastised a police officer in a hallway after that game.
UNLV played at UNC in December, and Williams said UNLV coach Dave Rice brought up the incident from last season.
“I go down to coach Rice, as I do almost every coach that comes here, and say, ‘If you have any problems down here around the bench, you get our attention, we’ll help you,’” Williams said. “He said, ‘I just hope and pray that you will eventually forget what happened at our place last year.’”
Williams became the butt of jokes after the Florida State game last year for leaving some of his players on the court. Some critics suggested he was a poor sport for leaving early, while others accused him for not caring about his walk-ons.
“Most people criticize me for that, and I’ve got no problem,” Williams said in January. “But those blankety-blank-blanks that say that I should have known they were out there, I say yeah. But sometimes you don’t. And I thought we were all leaving the floor. We were getting the dickens out of town and trying to take care of my team.”