Charlotte, NC – On Friday, at the regional finals of the NCAA Tournament at Charlotte Bobcats Arena, Carolina’s head basketball coach Roy Williams and players Ty Lawson, Wayne Ellington, Marcus Ginyard, Tyler Hansbrough and Deon Thompson talked with the press.
Q. Coach, your team has been so good from beginning to end. Can you talk about how you maintain that? People are talking about teams peaking at the right time. Seems like you’ve been there for a long time.
COACH ROY WILLIAMS: We’ve got great kids who enjoy playing the game and have a goal of trying to get better. We believe that the best way to get better is work as hard as you can every day, and over the course of time you will be better in January than you were in December, and better in February than you were in January.
And then the other thing is, I’ve always — it’s been humorous to me, I’m not that bright, but I’m not the dumbest guy with a whistle around my neck either. And people talk about peaking at the right time, and I always think if we were all peaking at the same time, how would you know who was peaking? So there’s a little bit of that with me.
We just try to do the best we can every day and see what happens.
Q. Coach, the guys talked before the season about making amends for what happened last year in the Elite Eight. This day, 365 days ago how different is your team from where they were then as far as maturity goes and being able to handle the situation that they dealt with last year against Georgetown?
COACH ROY WILLIAMS: You know, the kids, you’ll have to ask them, I think they used that as a motivation to work hard over the off-season, myself. I don’t think necessarily myself that we played Davidson here and the first game of the season and put your hand together and said “final 8.” I don’t think we played the first ACC game against Clemson and started thinking about Georgetown. I do believe that it was motivation for us to work harder in the off-season, but I don’t think that’s what’s driven our club. It may drive our club after last night’s game, but, still, you’ve got to be great on game day. And we could play really, really well and not win.
And I guarantee you my players, and the old coach, are not going to jump off the top of the building. The motivation for me is my dream, the motivation for me is not what happened last year, the motivation for me is to have the best team that we can possibly be, and I would think that’s what the kids have used it for more than anything.
Q. How different is the group now than a year ago, in terms of being here?
COACH ROY WILLIAMS: I think we’re more mature, we’re more experienced. Last year Ty, Wayne and Brandon, three of our starters were freshmen, so this run through the NCAA Tournament was their first. So I think the experience has been worth something to us. I think we played several close games that year and our team has been very, very tough. Last year in close games we lost a lot of those games that we won this year. So I think the experience and the maturity is the biggest difference.
Q. Roy, can you talk about the challenges that Louisville’s size presents, particularly when they’re in the zone and if there is another team you’ve faced that has had four or five guys 6’8″, 6’9″ or bigger?
COACH ROY WILLIAMS: They do present a lot problems with the zone, and part of it is because of their size and part of its because of their speed that they can close on you. Defensive backs in the NFL they talk about “closing speed,” how close either off the guy but on the pass they close quickly. And I think that’s what Louisville does a great job of in their zone. Because of their size and their athleticism both, I don’t know that we’ve faced a team that plays this style. Clemson is probably closer but, you know, Louisville may be a little more athletic than Clemson and maybe a couple inches taller at almost every spot, too, so they are a bigger, quicker challenge for us.
Q. Coach, has what Louisville done flown over or under the radar this year, getting the slow start?
COACH ROY WILLIAMS: I will answer this question, but you’ve got five bright young men up here that are dying to answer those questions. They are dying to answers those questions. Ty says I’m doing all right, but I’d rather listen to him.
The basketball people don’t think Louisville is flying under the radar, because the basketball people that know the game and the coaches — if I’m not mistaken, they’ve got nine guys back from their team last year. If I’m not mistaken, they were picked 5th or 6th or 7th in the country in the preseason polls.
They went through a time period without Padgett, without Palacios, that’s their two biggest guys. That’s a lot of adversity to face. And even during that time period they lose to BYU by two. They lose to somebody else by one. They lose in overtime. At the end of the season they lose to Georgetown. They lose to Pitt in overtime. All their games, I don’t have the stats in front of me, but I think they only lost one game all year long that was a double-digit loss. So to me they didn’t fly under the radar. I thought they were going to be an extremely good basketball team before the season started.
When we were in Vegas with them, you could tell they had some problems because of the big guys that were out. When they got those guys back, I saw them play on TV a couple of times and they were really, really good.
The only time I saw them when they didn’t play that well is when Rick had on his white suit and he changed at halftime and they played their tails off in the second half. (Laughter.)
Q. Marcus and Wayne, could you guys discuss the attention to detail and the way this team seems to be focused in on doing everything that’s been asked of it, especially of late? Y’all seem to be, it’s like your attention has risen.
MARCUS GINYARD: I think that we just understand at this point that it’s the little things that’s going to get us over the top. You know, like you said, paying attention to the little details that’s going to make this team that much better and get us to our goals. Last year I don’t think that we really were as focused on that as we needed to be and I think that’s why we felt like we came up short. So this year I think this whole team understands that it’s the attention to detail, you know, it’s the little effort plays, the mental things that we have to stay sharp on, you know, in order for this team to succeed.
WAYNE ELLINGTON: As Marcus said, you know, we all been to this point and, you know, only people that have been past this point is Coach Williams and Quentin on our team. So for us not to pay attention and do exactly what he says wouldn’t be very smart of us.
Q. Tyler, could you talk about David Padgett and his play, since you just won last time, I’m not sure how detailed you could be, but what you have seen in him?
TYLER HANSBROUGH: In the clips we watched this morning, it showed on film and he’s a great passer, seems like they run through their offense a lot through him and he runs the floor well.
Q. For Ty and Tyler, what does it say about this team — it just seems like if either one of you guys aren’t on top of your game there is somebody else like Tyler, if you’re not making shots, Deon or Wayne or Alex are, or Ty, if you’re not, somebody else is stepping up, Danny or Q. How much pressure does that take off you guys? And what does it say about this team that you’re able to do that?
TYLER HANSBROUGH: Yeah, I think a lot of guys have been stepping up. I think Q came in and has been playing really well since Ty was hurt. And I think it just shows our depth. I think last night in the first half I wouldn’t say I had my best first half ever and Danny came in, hit some big shots and I think he really stepped up. I think that’s the thing about this team is, when some guys aren’t playing well some other guys can come in and play well, too.
TY LAWSON: Like Tyler said, we have great depth, if we don’t have a good game, other people pick it up, Marcus, Wayne, Al stepped up and got big plays down the stretch. I feel like we have tremendous depth, and that’s one of our assets.
Q. Does that take pressure off you guys that you know that you don’t have to be on top of your game?
TY LAWSON: I think so. It’s not like — we would have pressure if one of us had to score all the points. We know that somebody else can come in and score, and our teammates can come in and help pick us up. There’s no pressure on any one person to score.
Q. Wayne, if they play a zone, have you gone against a zone this year that’s given you trouble?
WAYNE ELLINGTON: No, I don’t think so. In fact, I think, you know, we like to play against a zone. We worked on a lot of zone offense this year and I think we’ll be well prepared.
TYLER HANSBROUGH: I think that’s due to a lot of their penetration. I don’t think it’s necessarily their big men, I think they penetrate and run the floor well, but also, you know, they have a good inside presence and it just shows where they like to get the ball. The guards or the bigs like to get the ball inside and score.
DEON THOMPSON: It’s going to be a war on the glass when we play. Defensive and offensive boards, that’s where the game is going to be determined.
Q. Last night you obviously had to play a different style, Louisville likes to run, also, they like to press. Ty, starting with you and Marcus, Wayne could y’all talk about the prospect of being able to go wide open tomorrow and play the kinda game that y’all like to play? And what you’ll have to do to combat their press and not turn the ball over too often?
TY LAWSON: That’s the way we like to play, up and down, and for the press, you’ve got to take care of the ball and make sure we get the ball in the middle and run our lanes, run how we’ve been doing the whole year, I think we will be all right.
Q. I was going to ask the same question, I will pose that to Roy. You say you would rather win in the 80s or 90s. This seems like an opportunity to do that more so than the Washington State game, where they were going to slow it down and beat you up physically.
COACH ROY WILLIAMS: I think it will be and one of the things that Marcus was going to add there, too, was that we do enjoy playing that way, but we realize it’s very difficult because Louisville’s press is really, really good. But we are going to try to run. They’re going to try to run. It could be one of those 80, 90-point games, but it also could be a 65-point game because both teams are struggling so much because the other team has a hand in that as well.
We played Tennessee in the preseason NIT and it was in the 90s, but at the same time we’ve got to make sure we don’t turn the ball over because you don’t get points for turnovers. We are going to attack. I feel like they’ll attack. They attack with their defense in a full court, we attack with our defense in a half-court more, but it could be one of those ugly games, who knows?
I think Coach Pitino and myself like the ball going up and down the court, but both of us like teams that play defense, too.
Q. Take us back to the Kentucky game, 150-95 game, what do you remember about that?
COACH ROY WILLIAMS: It was a great day for us, but it was 100 years ago. Rick didn’t have anything — that was his first year, he didn’t have any of those players that he had, but it was a great day for us.
Q. Any of the players, you are in the Elite Eight where your tournament run ended last year. Are you thinking about that Georgetown game and how important it is to vindicate yourselves?
TYLER HANSBROUGH: Yeah, I think it’s been motivation for us, like Coach said before, during the off-season and once again this is a new year. It seems like each year our goal is not just to get to the Elite Eight, it’s farther, but that’s basically all there is to that. Yeah, I mean, the Georgetown loss is still on our mind but each year we try to do different things and want to go farther than the Elite Eight.
TY LAWSON: Like Tyler said, it’s in the back of our minds, that’s what gave us the motivation throughout the summer to work hard and get back to this position and hopefully past this position. So that’s where our hard work came from and we’ve been waiting for this moment since last year, since we lost.
Q. Coach, has David Padgett developed into the kind of player you envisioned he would be when you were recruiting him many years ago? And talk about the challenges he presents.
COACH ROY WILLIAMS: I thought David was one of the best running big men that I’d ever recruited and he had great hands, and I think he’s proven that he’s still doing that after double knee surgery and broken kneecap, and there may have been another surgery in there. So I still think he’s able to do those kinds of things. He’s probably developed even to a better floor game by seeing the whole court and being a good passer.
As one of the kids said, Tyler said, running their offense through him. I don’t know that I envisioned that but I thought he had a chance to be a big-time, big-time player and I was ecstatic when he decided to sign with us.
Q. Coach, can you talk about coach Rick Pitino and the success he’s had on the college game?
COACH ROY WILLIAMS: I think Rick is really one of the great, great coaches in the game, not just in the college game. He had a very unfortunate situation in the NBA. Like most college coaches, the teams they get are not very good. And beside that the Ping-Pong balls didn’t come up properly for him he might still be in the NBA if they had gotten Tim Duncan instead of a 4th or 5th pick that year.
I love watching Rick’s clubs play. I wish I was good enough to be able to play a full-court pressing defense and drop back into a zone. I have trouble trying to do those things. I’ve seen his clubs in many different ways. I’ve seen him play a Pac 10 zone. I’ve seen him play a very aggressive zone. I’ve seen him play a full court man-to-man, a half-court man to man. I’ve seen him play set offense. I’ve seen him play freelance offense. So he has the whole package. He’s one of the guys that I have a great, great deal of respect for, and know that if we try to do some things tomorrow that we’ve done more than once this year, they’re going to know about it, and his team is going to be prepared.
Like I say, he’s one of those college guys that got a bad NBA job or he would still be in there, maybe.
Q. I know that ’89 game was a long time ago, like you said, but you and Pitino exchanged words during that game. Did that have any effect on your relationship? Did you guys make amends after that? Forget about it?
COACH ROY WILLIAMS: No, Rick and I have talked about that. It was unfortunate things and probably my fault more than anybody’s, but we’ve had discussions many years ago about that and put it behind us. We’ve played golf together. He was the first guy that got me on Shadow Creek in Vegas, so I owe him one big time because I haven’t been able to do anything like that for him. But when we played out there it was me and Rick and Gene Keady and Nolan Richardson and, I have zero, zero problems with Rick. The only thing I have for Rick is a great deal of respect and I mean that sincerely.
Q. Marcus, how would you describe the chemistry of this team? How has it evolved in the two years that this group has been together?
MARCUS GINYARD: I think that this team has done a great job of really coming together and knowing that we have to go forward, you know, in our quest for our goals together. I think that we’ve done a great job of everybody just putting their personal things aside, and just coming together and just playing well as a team. We all understand that this is going to be a group effort. The National Championship that this team wants, you know, is awarded to the best team, and right now we’re just doing everything that we can to be that best team.
Q. For Tyler and Coach Williams, because you guys score so much, do you think your defense is sort of overlooked? It looked to me like you played good defense last night.
TYLER HANSBROUGH: We like to think that we can play both ends. It’s something that we work a lot on in practices, our defense. We knew last night we were going to have to play defense for a longer period of time than we’re usually forced to, and we practiced for it. Also we practiced Louisville style, up and down, and that’s the way we like to play and I think it’s a big key for us.
COACH ROY WILLIAMS: I think it does get overlooked. We try hard defensively and we’ve worked harder on the defensive end of the floor probably more this year than the offensive end, but the kids have accepted that and I think they have gotten better and better.
Q. Ty, you might have answered this already about Louisville’s press. Watching them against Tennessee it seemed like Tennessee had a lot of length and you think they would be able to break the press because of that. You have quickness, talk about going against that.
TY LAWSON: The press is tough like Coach said, but we’ve got to run to our spots in or organized press break and get the ball out fast, and hopefully stop them from scoring so they won’t be able to set the press. Those are the main things we want to try and do to be successful against the press.
Q. Tyler and Marcus and Wayne, North Carolina and Louisville, this could easily be a National Championship game with two programs of this stature. This will probably be the marquis match-up in the round of 8. Could y’all talk about playing them in a game this big, being a part of it?
MARCUS GINYARD: I think that it’s every athlete’s dream to be put in the position to play on the big stage like this. So it’s no different for I think any sport. So this is the position that we’re put in. This is what we’ve put a lot of time and effort and hard work into. It’s is something that everybody on this team is looking forward to. It’s exciting for us players to play in a big-time game like this. And we understand that the winner of this game goes to the Final Four.
So, you know, you’ve got to be prepared to play a big-time game to get to a place like that. So we’re ready for it. We’re excited about it. I just think it’s something that everybody has been looking forward to.
TYLER HANSBROUGH: Well, I think to get to the Final Four I think every team has to see a team that’s really good. And I think Coach said something to us today, they in ’05 they had to play Wisconsin, that was really good, to get to the Final Four. And I think Louisville is a great team and it’s not an easy road.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks, guys. Questions for Coach.
Q. Could you tell me what year was that you golfed with Pitino, if you can remember? How is his golf game? Were you just in a difficult situation in that ’89 game that you were getting pressed, so you gotta break the press and get layups?
COACH ROY WILLIAMS: I’m going to guess ’92 or ’93, something like that, and that’s probably going to be pretty close. Yeah, we had more players than Rick had. I think he only had about eight guys, but they kept pressing and we kept running through it. And he had some guys foul out, and it was a fortunate day for us and an unfortunate day for them. But it was wild. I hadn’t been involved in anything like that. But it has absolutely nothing to do with tomorrow’s game. It had nothing to do with our game we played them at Rupp the next year, except it’s the only time I’ve been booed by 24,000 people in harmony.
As many games as Rick and I have coached it’s way, way down the list right now.
Q. His golf game?
COACH ROY WILLIAMS: Rick can be a good golfer. When you talk about guys who have a handicap 10, 11, 12, in that neighborhood there, that means you’re pretty doggone good because most people can’t break 100. But I think we switched around partners that day, with Gene and Nolan and Rick and myself. But I was so thrilled to be at Shadow Creek. It was the first time I’d played there.
Q. Have you had any conversations at all yet with NBA people about Tyler’s prospects? Whether it’s this year or next year, does it surprise you at all that his name ends up being so low down on the list?
COACH ROY WILLIAMS: I haven’t had any conversations with a very pointed purpose of trying to determine where he is. I have discussions with the NBA people all the time about players, different players, our players. You know, I guess it depends on what you say about “very low” because whenever the young man decides to go, he’s going to be a No. 1 draft choice. And whenever the young man chooses to go, if you’re a No. 1 draft choice who works as hard as he does, the way I know him, and he’s going to work 10 to 12 years and probably make 25 to 30 million dollars. And he’s got a bad road in front of him, probably the kind of money that sports writers make. So that kind of deal.
Q. After all these years, how close has coming home and coaching in your home state and your alma mater met your expectation when you arrived here?
COACH ROY WILLIAMS: That was not a huge thing with me at all, when I made the decision to leave Kansas and come back. It was just things didn’t feel as smooth and comfortable at Kansas as they had been before, and I had another opportunity on the horizon at the same time. And I even told my wife the week before I said, “Heck, North Carolina is the only place I would leave this place for.” I’ve said no to the Lakers three times, no to the Celtics, no to Miami, 11 or 12 different NBA teams. So it wasn’t a big reason for coming back, but it was in some ways really a huge positive for me because I had a chance to spend some time with my dad. We’ve been pretty much separated for a long, long time because of the situation. I got to see him 15 times in the 13 months that I came back before he died. And I hadn’t seen him 15 times in 15 years prior to that. And it enabled me to be back here with my sister, who was struggling a little bit. I could do some things for her and she passed last year. So those family things, it was really, really good for me. There’s no question about that.
It’s been special; North Carolina was my school for 15 years. Kansas was my school and I loved it. There is no question about that, but North Carolina was home. And whenever I stopped coaching I was going to be in North Carolina because the North Carolina mountains and the North Carolina coast, it’s pretty hard to beat both of those. But it’s probably been even more appealing than I realized it was going to be when I made the decision.
Q. (No microphone).
COACH ROY WILLIAMS: You get the same kind of scrutiny at Kansas as you do at North Carolina, it really is. Being in Denver you know probably better than anybody in here, that Kansas basketball is pretty doggone big. The toughest thing is I’ve got more cousins and friends that want tickets than I ever imagined, is probably the only negative.
Q. Roy, since you came here, this will be your third Elite Eight tomorrow and chance to go to the second Final Four, won a national title. Even the year after ’05 when you lost everyone, you still got back with Tyler’s freshman year to the tournament. Why has it gone so smoothly since you got here?
COACH ROY WILLIAMS: Well, I’ve got two answers, one of them is it’s pretty doggone good players and there were good players at North Carolina that needed to get focused toward winning. We added Marvin Williams, which was a huge plus. It gave us a guy that could do so many things. More mature in my first year, and really more mature my second year.
And then Tyler and his group came in. David Noel was one of the best leaders that I’ve ever been around that led a bunch of young kids to get focused on what was important. I think to me, that’s the biggest reason is really, really good players that — you know, when we go recruiting we try to recruit good players, but also kids that are going to be willing to focus on how the team does. I’m old-fashioned. I tell ‘em if the team does well, everyone else is going to do well also. And these kids buy into that. And I think it’s been proven. We won in 2005, four guys were drafted in the lottery.
So I think very good players, and very good character kids and, you know, for me it hadn’t gone as smoothly as it probably appears from the outside. I know that I’m looking out there, and Bobby has gone down, Ty has gone down, Q out there and I’m bringing Marcus to play the point guard that he’s never played. So a little adversity for somebody else is bigger adversity for us.
And Danny’s situation over the last couple of years has been hard to deal with. But I guess from the outside looking in, when you just talk about winning we’ve been very lucky. I don’t mind saying that, I believe that we have been very lucky.
Q. You mentioned playing golf with Nolan and those guys. There was a time back with Nolan and Chaney, there were a lot of coaches who tend to stand up for coaches when it was against the NCAA or whatever. I wonder as you’ve gotten older, do you see yourself in that role, or is there an absence of issues? Or do you see yourself as a Dean now, and maybe as part of your responsibility as a stand-up?
COACH ROY WILLIAMS: You know, I think we still have issues. We don’t have — I’m trying to put this in the right way. I don’t know that we have as many issues that are really crucial to kids. We had some things that were really just wrong, and I look out there now and I see we have some problems but I don’t see as many things that are just flat out wrong. And I think the test score, the racism, you know, those things were really just wrong. Now I’m big now. I stand up and talk about we’ve got to get the doggone slippery logos off the courts. So that shows how much power I have that they already decided to do it.
But with John Thompson, John Chaney, Dean Smith, those guys were the leaders in our game for such a long time. And with Coach Thompson and Coach Chaney and those guys, what went on through a time period there, they were so much better than Roy Williams, in seeing things and seeing a big picture and seeing things. And they were great to me, I tell you.
I was on a conference call one night and I told them, and I told my athletic director, I would boycott. And don’t tell him this, he’ll laugh when you tell him, but one of the great thrills in my life was John Thompson standing up in front of a bunch of coaches saying, this was not just African-American coaches standing up and saying what they would do, it’s a little, old white dude from the mountains of western North Carolina willing to stand up with us, and that was a great thrill for me because I did make the decision that something was wrong and I was going to be willing. I told my athletic director, who told my chancellor, that that is what I was going to do. They didn’t necessarily like it but they understood, and they were going to support me because it was something that I really did feel was wrong, was the prop 14 and all the things that were going on during that time period.
But now since I’ve been around so long I do have a lot of young coaches come to me regarding problems in the game, and I do try to make my feelings known to the right people. I do try to go through the channels that we’re supposed to go through. And sometimes I’m just a loud mouth and say things that I maybe shouldn’t say. But I don’t think I have the stature of John Thompson or Dean Smith, or maybe not intelligent enough or seeing the big picture as well as they do, but I do believe that we still have some problems but not of the magnitude that what we had at that time. Again, I mean, my athletic director is sitting back there, I tell him all the time I try to base my life on “is this right?” That’s just not right, and then I’m willing to stand up for anything. But somebody telling me I can’t bring a Coke in here, I’m just going to have fun with that.
Q. Coach, the ripple effect of you leaving Kansas comes full circle with David. Even though he wasn’t a part of your program, how much did he remain a part of you?
COACH ROY WILLIAMS: You know, like Andy said, how smoothly it’s gone — I mean there are sometimes, maybe you’ve had these things yourself that in life there is a decision that somebody will say, boy, this is a win-win. Well I felt like that was a lose-lose, because I was going to disappoint some people that I cared about regardless of what I did. It was a horrible decision in 2000 when I decided to stay. And was it a horrible decision in 2003 when I decided to leave. Roy Williams has felt, you know, pretty doggone good about Roy Williams most of my life, but when I stood up in front of those kids at Kansas and told ‘em that I was leaving, and the feeling that I had when I walked out of that room, that’s a feeling I hope I never have again. Because I felt like I was — I felt like I was dirty. I felt like there was — I don’t know how to describe it. If I had known that I was going to feel that way, and knowing how smoothly things have gone, I wouldn’t have left. Because that’s the worst feeling I’ve ever had in my life.
So it wasn’t about the buildings, it was about those players sitting in that locker room. And I know this may sound corny to you, but the ones of you that know me, hell, I’m pretty corny. But that was hard. And David, Omar Wilkes, Jeremy Case, J.R. Giddens, those four kids had already signed with us, and they were going to play at Kansas. It was a great, great place but I wasn’t going to be there. And Christian Moody, who went to my high school, who came to Kansas because I was there, and played for me for one year, you know, Wayne Simien, Aaron Miles, Keith Langford, all those guys. That was a hard, hard time for me, and I really have tried to keep those kids in mind, not just the ones that actually played for me, but kids like David Padgett.
And I was interested in recruiting David. I think David made a great decision because he decided to break away from the Kansas-North Carolina confusion, if you will let me use that word, and start completely new with Louisville. I think it was a great decision. But I did want him, let’s make sure you understand that. It’s not that I said, oh, David, I don’t want you, because that’s not true. I really wanted him.
I’m so pleased. In fact I’ll put it to you this way, this year I’ve seen two of probably the greatest stories in college basketball for Roy Williams, one them is Quentin Thomas. A kid who has seen so much adversity, two or three surgeries. Any time he’s been given a chance, he’s taken a step back, either by injury or by poor play. All of a sudden now we needed, and boy, does he step up great.
The other one is David Padgett. I’m standing on the court in Las Vegas in November. Thanksgiving weekend. Talking to him, this is a week after he’d been told that it was going to be 10 weeks into the season. And he told me, “Coach, I’m going to bust my tail and do everything I can to get back in January. If I can get back in January, I’m going to do it. I’m not going to wait and petition the NCAA for a sixth year. So when I turn on that TV in early January and he’s playing that soon, I mean, if you don’t feel good about what that kid has gone through, there is something wrong with you.
So I’ve been fortunate this year. There are two great stories. I’ve had close involvement with Q and whether I’m able to do it or not I’m feeling very close to David and what he’s done.
Q. David was up here earlier and asked about the things that you were talking about. He said that he has no hard feelings for you and he feels like everything happens for a reason, do you agree with that?
COACH ROY WILLIAMS: Well, there is no question I have no hard feelings toward him, but I could understand if he felt betrayed by me. That’s the reason I said I just felt dirty.
But I agree, and I really think that he and his family and the decision to go to Louisville was a great decision for him, because if he had come to North Carolina there would have been some more friction because North Carolina-Kansas, and I think they were very bright in what they did. And needless to say it has shown up. It wasn’t a bad year for the youngster, if I’m not mistaken, wasn’t he the Big East Player of the Year? That’s pretty doggone good and they’re in the final 8 and we’re in the final 8. But I think he’s right there, I feel fantastic if he feels — and I think he does feel that way about me.
Q. A moment ago you alluded to Danny’s situation and obviously none of us can imagine what he’s been through but how has he handled it away from the cameras, away from everything in private? What have you done or how have you been able to try to help him through this?
COACH ROY WILLIAMS: You know, no one knows how he handled it in private because he’s been very private about it. He really has. He and I have had some discussions and it’s been a situation which nobody can imagine. You know, Bill Guthridge had a great line, “Do not condemn thy neighbors unless you’ve walked in his moccasins for two full moons.” Which means you shouldn’t criticize somebody unless you’ve been in their shoes for a long, long time. And you don’t know their situation unless you’ve gone through it. So it’s impossible for anybody to understand what Danny has gone through.
But our relationship, I tried to say, hey, I don’t understand, I don’t know, but I’m here. And I tried to give him outlets to try to talk about things. Tried to give him some opportunities to stay focused on basketball. Tried to make some special arrangements for him if I needed to, to take care of understanding his situation.
Q. Has it affected his play in any way? Can you see ebbs and flows because of things that are happening off the court?
COACH ROY WILLIAMS: In my opinion, and nobody knows, that is the biggest problem that Danny had to fight all year last year. Because after his freshman year, I’m one of these guys that thinks you should be better as a sophomore, better as a junior, and he struggled a big part of last year. And he’s played better this year because he’s played better. Whether or not that’s because he has handled the stuff off of the court or not, it’s been a great situation for me to see that youngster succeed.
And I’ve been tough on him. I didn’t want him to think that I was pampering him or anything like that. But I was really pleased with the way he played last night, for example.
Q. Louisville brings a guy off the bench who led them in scoring all three NCAA Tournament games. What have you seen of Earl Clark? And how do you anticipate matching up with him?
COACH ROY WILLIAMS: I think Earl is one of the big-time players in our game. You’ve got a guy 6’8″, who can play inside, play outside, shoot, put the ball on the floor, block shots, rebound. He truly is one of the elite players. Rick has decided that’s the best way to use him. And he comes in the game, he played 28 minutes I think it was last night. He’s a terrible match-up for almost anyone. If we try to play with post players, he takes you outside. If we try to play him with little guys, he takes you inside. So he’s a match-up nightmare for you.
Q. A lot has been made about you not having to leave the state for an NCAA Tournament game and a lot of North Carolina fans out there last night. Rick said he offered to play this game in Freedom Hall. How much of an advantage is it? Is it an unfair advantage?
COACH ROY WILLIAMS: I would not have taken that deal, I would rather stay here in Charlotte. I’ve talked about this with the ACC guys for three weeks because three weeks ago they said, if you win, you get to the ACC tournament here and you get this here and there, and I kept saying, we’ve got to play. A great thrill for me was Louisville. We go there and play in the NCAAs in ’91, first year we go to the Final Four, we win two games in Louisville, because we played well. We went to St. Louis in ’93 and we played great and won two games to go to the Final Four. Somebody said something about the atmosphere of tomorrow, North Carolina against Louisville. In 2003, we played in Anaheim, Notre Dame, Kansas, Duke, Arizona, that could have been a Final Four, but that was the regional. And we played great and we ended up winning.
So, again, I’ll go back to this. We’re going to have more people than we’ve got in the forest, but we had 21,750 people yelling for us, and we lost two games at home this year. Yeah, I guess it’s got to be an advantage, but if it’s that big of an advantage, why in the dickens did we lose at home? The opposing team gets 75 tickets, so we had 21,675 cheering for us, and we still got our butts kicked twice.
Q. Roy, you have players from California, Philadelphia, Missouri, you’ve got guys on their way from Virginia and Indiana. When you literally can recruit anybody anywhere, how do you decide who to recruit?
COACH ROY WILLIAMS: I think there’s got to be a couple of things. One, is what you need to fit into, you know, when you’re putting your puzzle together, and where is that person that fills that need the most? In ’95 or ’96 we had Jacque Vaughn, Jerod Hasse, Scot Pollard and Raef LaFrentz. We had no small forward. The best person that filled that spot was Paul Pierce in Los Angeles. So there has to be a need, where is that person?
And does that person fit what you need to coach? There are guys every year that I really make them happy because I decide not to recruit them, because I wouldn’t like to coach them. Which means they sure as the dickens wouldn’t like me to coach them. So it is a situation of you try to determine where is the best player that can fill your needs, and then does he fit what you want to deal with?
And the other thing is, it’s like getting married, both parties have to agree, they’ve gotta like me, too. So it’s a little bit of all that.
Distance, is the biggest factor in recruiting with very good families. And when I say “very good families,” it doesn’t have to mean two parents. But you have to understand that in recruiting, and I try to find out pretty doggone quick is distance going to be a huge factor, because I can’t make our school be any closer. But I’ve had some wonderful kids with single parents, moms or dads, but most of the time if it’s a really good family, that distance is even more of a factor and you have to make that decision pretty quick, too.
Q. Quentin has been the keeper of the comparisons of 2005 because he’s asked about it so much, and one of the things he said was one of the similarities was the bond between the players on both teams. Do you see that as well? And what are the similarities and differences you see between these bunches.
COACH ROY WILLIAMS: Both really good kids with high character all the way through it. Both had kids who were willing to make sacrifices, this year Danny Green, Quentin Thomas, those guys made sacrifices. And Marvin Williams coming off the bench, ended up being the second player picked in the draft, but he didn’t care. He just wanted to win. That’s been the common denominator with both those teams. Quentin said in the locker room the other day, the common denominator is how close the teams are, the fact that everybody wanted to win and the old gray-haired guy. And I told him I didn’t like the “old gray-haired guy” part of it, but then I started thinking about it, I do like that part of it. It’s something that’s been pretty fortunate for me. It’s two different years, who knows what the outcome is going to be. We’re all sitting here thinking, boy, Roy, you’re doing great, things are so smooth, and that’s what was thought last year after we came from 16 down in the second half to beat USC. Great game. And two days later they were finished.
Q. Roy, you mentioned how you felt dirty. As the media, what don’t we understand when Bobby Petrino abruptly leaves Atlanta goes to college, when Huggins leaves to get this job? And routinely we may criticize. What is it that we don’t understand about that, the mindset that, there must be something different that makes that legitimate?
COACH ROY WILLIAMS: With me, and if you will allow me to answer without comparing other situations, because I can tell you what mine was, I had been there 15 years. I had started recruiting Wayne Simien as a 7th grader. He told his parents after our camp in seventh grade that he wanted to come play for me.
Again, I’m corny, it’s that bond that you have with the student-athletes. I have been offered more money. I was offered more money several times to leave Kansas. I’ve been offered more money to leave North Carolina. I wanted to be like my high school coach. That’s all I dreamed about. I was a high school coach in my fifth year before I really started thinking about, you know, I would like to be a college coach. Then I got into college coaching and I saw the bond that you could have, the relationships that you could have, and I felt like that I was sort of abandoning those guys. And perhaps it was even worse because I’d said no three years before. I’d even surprised my own son. My son says he thought I was going to come to North Carolina in 2000 and I didn’t, and in 2003 he thought I would stay and I didn’t, so who knows what goes through your own sibling’s minds.
My daughter gave me a little Plexiglas thing that said, “Statistics are important, but relationships last a lifetime.” And that’s still on my desk at home right now. To me that was the biggest thing. No one from the outside knows actually what that person is going through. My last couple years at Kansas, things hadn’t been as smooth. We had changed athletic directors and his fault, my fault, nobody’s fault. That’s a line from a John Wayne movie, too. “Your fault, my fault, nobody’s fault. I’m going to blow your head off in just a minute.” John Wayne and Richard Boone. It was. That was a good movie, too.
But I think, with me, that relationship that you can have is hard to put into words. And my situation changed. But those faces that I was looking at in that room, they hadn’t changed and those were the same kids. For two years I was ecstatic for two and a half hours every day, and that’s when I was on the court with my team.
Q. You said stature and John Thompson, Chaney, what would it take for you in your mind to achieve that stature? Winning another National Championship?
COACH ROY WILLIAMS: I don’t think Roy Williams is ever going to get to where John Thompson, Dean Smith and John Chaney was. They’re true giants in my mind, because they all weren’t just basketball coaches. They got involved in things more than just coaching. Coach Smith sitting at the counter in North Carolina in the civil rights movement. What Coach Thompson and Coach Chaney pushed through the NCAA and got people to be more aware of what the dickens is going on. So, again, maybe there’s not that big — maybe somebody’s got one that I don’t understand or am not thinking of right now, but I think those guys were intelligent, they were strong, and they understood people maybe more so than — I think John Thompson, Dean Smith they could have been successful, they could have been CEOs of any company in the world, and got people to do what they wanted them to do. And Roy Williams, I think I’m just a basketball coach that — I’m very fortunate, I care about my kids and I think they care about me, but those guys to me are giants. Bobby Knight, I’ll throw him in there. Dean Smith, Bob Knight, John Thompson, I learned so much from those guys on the court but off the court, too.
Q. Roy, coaches and players who won their first title, both in amateur sports and pro sports say, it’s surprising because it increases their motivation to win a second one, they love that feeling so much. Have you found this the last the few years or does nothing match the drive for that first title?
COACH ROY WILLIAMS: I think I’m just as hungry. In fact I think sometimes I work even harder because I would like to do it again. Part of the drive for me, if we were to ever, this year, 2020, if we were to ever do it again, I would enjoy it more. I made some mistakes, I didn’t enjoy it enough. I didn’t allow my staff to enjoy it enough. We win Monday night April 4th, went home Tuesday April 5th, took my staff out to dinner, finished at 10:00. Six a.m. the next morning I met Coach Holladay In the parking lot and we went on a recruiting trip. I would enjoy it more.
Q. David Stern was quoted in Time magazine a couple of weeks ago saying he’s going to push for the increased age limit in the NBA when the collective bargaining agreement comes up. Is that something you think will be good for college basketball given Brandan and Marvin?
COACH ROY WILLIAMS: I do think it would be good for college basketball, and I think it would be good for most kids, but I’m want sure it’s great for — I’m one of those guys, I don’t think you need to have a completely iron clad rule. I don’t think that was a mistake for what Kobe did. I don’t think it was a mistake for what LeBron did. I don’t think they would have necessarily hurt themselves by going to college, but, you know, Marvin Williams, he did what he should have done. Financially he needed some help. Financially he could help his family and it was right there, right in front of him and he didn’t want to go. He would tell you today that he would have loved to have stayed in college.
So I’m not one of those coaches that say we’ve got to have that rule. It’s killing the college game, because I think you also have to think about the individuals. And Sean May scares me to death. Sean May played for us. He was the best player in the country. He wasn’t the Player of the Year, but he was the best player in the country. The media got caught up into it, and didn’t realize until it was too late what he had done the second half of the season. But Sean May played, he went NBA, and next year he got hurt. I tell you what, that scares the dickens out of me.
Q. Some of the guys were talking about the importance of your scout team guys and what they provide to your program. Just how important is it to you to have a full line of guys to be able to use? And is there any sense of fulfillment for you as a coach to be able to get those guys into as many games as they’ve gotten into this year?
COACH ROY WILLIAMS: I would have loved to have been one of those guys. I have that feeling for them. They’ve been great for us. They work extremely hard. They listen. They pay attention to what the other team does, and take it out on to the court and try and do it. They’re great fans and cheerleaders over there. So to get those guys at the end of game, I really enjoy it.
I’m tough on them, too. I don’t want them to go out there and slap it around. I expect them to do what they’re supposed to do, but it’s fun to see their success.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks, coach.