Roy Williams still can’t believe the court inside the arena named for his mentor Dean Smith will bear his name.
The ceremony will occur on Aug. 24 at a reunion event after North Carolina returns from a trip this week to the Bahamas.
The announcement in early August that Williams was going to get the honor floored him.
“It was emotional for me,’’ Williams said on the NCAA.com podcast March Madness 365. “It’s hard to talk about. It was very flattering…To have my name on the court inside the building named for coach Smith is pretty special.’’
Williams, who has won titles at UNC in 2005, 2009 and 2017, said he never even thought he would be the head coach at North Carolina. He didn’t even think he would come back once he turned the job down while at Kansas (when it went to Matt Doherty).
Williams said his hiring at Kansas in 1988 was “a tremendous gamble.’’ He said the late Bob Frederick, who hired him at Kansas, hired him on the recommendation from Smith.
“It was a great gamble,’’ said Williams. “It was a tremendous risk.’’
Williams said he has been fortunate to be at two schools where basketball has been extremely important. He coached Kansas from 1988 to 2003 before leaving for North Carolina.
“I wouldn’t have been the coach at Kansas if coach Smith hadn’t played at Kansas and been one of their favorite sons,’’ said Williams.
Williams also discussed the Tar Heels this season, led by Luke Maye. According to Williams, Maye has gone past any ceiling that may have been perceived to have been set for him.
Williams said all three freshmen — Nassir Little, Coby White and Rechon Black — will have an effect on the season. He said Little and White can “really score.’’
He added that the point guard position, open after the departure of senior Joel Berry, could go to Seventh Woods – although he won’t be the only one.
“He will get an opportunity,’’ said Williams. “He hasn’t been completely healthy here for a single week.’’ Woods missed 17 games last season with a stress fracture in his right foot.
K.J. Smith and White will also get looks at the spot.
Williams said it will be an interesting competition for the position.
Williams also said the Tar Heels should be better scoring close to the basket and defending around it, too. He named off Walker Miller, Sterling Manley, Garrison Brooks and Brandon Huffman as players who will help board.
Williams said this could also be the toughest non-conference schedule ever for North Carolina with games against Kentucky (at the CBS Sports Classic in Chicago), Texas and then Michigan State or UCLA in Las Vegas, Gonzaga, and games at Michigan, Elon and Wofford.
“I’ve always tried to play a difficult schedule,’’ said Williams. “And this may be the most difficult.’’