Why did Roy Williams retire? COVID-19, Hubert Davis estate influenced UNC legend’s decision
Tobacco Road leads New Orleans on Saturday as North Carolina’s NCAA Tournament game against Duke will feature an exciting first in this storied rivalry – and will represent the end of an era.
For one thing, this will be the first March Madness encounter between the teams (and in the Final Four, to boot). It will also be the final game for Duke legend Mike Krzyzewski, who will retire following the conclusion of the 2022 NCAA Tournament whether or not it results in a sixth national championship.
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Of course, Coach K’s contemporary Roy Williams will likely be in attendance for Saturday’s game. But Williams won’t be on the court against his old rival – that spot belongs to Hubert Davis, who took over from the Tar Heels legend in the same way Bill Guthridge replaced Dean Smith in 1997-98.
What led Williams to retire after a successful 18-year stint at his alma mater that included nine nine ACC regular season championships, three ACC Tournament championships, five spots in the Final Four and three national championships? Like Coach K, his decision to quit coaching was partly informed by the COVID-19 pandemic and the belief that he was no longer “the right person” for the job.
Here is Williams’ reasoning for retiring at UNC, just a year before Coach K at Duke:
Why did Roy Williams retire at UNC?
Williams announced his retirement on April 1, 2021, just weeks before his team’s 85-62 first-round loss to Wisconsin in the 2021 NCAA Tournament – the only first-round loss a Williams-coached team has ever had. suffered in 30 trips to March Madness.
Explaining his decision, Williams said his health was not a factor – only that he no longer felt “the right person” for the job:
“But deep down I knew that the only thing that would speed this up (was) if I no longer felt like I was the right person for the job,” he explained during his press conference on the retirement (via The Associated Press). “I’m not going to say the best man because I never thought I was the best at anything. But for 15 years in Kansas I thought I was the right person. At this Back in North Carolina I thought I was the right person, I don’t feel like I’m the right person for the job anymore.
The fact that UNC lost in the first round of the NCAA Tournament with an 18-11 record was only a contributing factor in his decision to retire. The COVID-19 pandemic has also interfered with his ability to coach his 2021-22 team (such as an inability to bring his players to summer school and have trades with former UNC players).
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Williams attributed COVID-19’s interference with normal operating procedures as a reason he felt he was not the right person for the job during a September 2021 appearance on the “Carolina Insider” podcast. ” from the UNC.
“There’s no question, deep down, I really never wanted to retire,” Williams said at the time.
I wanted to win a championship and croak the next day and let it be. People keep asking me why you did that and stuff, and that’s exactly what I said: that I just didn’t feel like I was the right person for the job. Because I didn’t think I was doing as good a job as I was in the past and I had a hard time getting over that.
“I never had that feeling of helplessness, and it just made me feel like I hadn’t done a very good job,” Williams said. “If you take COVID out and take the Wisconsin game out, I really believe I would still be sitting here. But I just thought, ‘Did I coach this team? Did I accomplish anything?'”
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Williams’ doubts about his own abilities weren’t the only reason he wanted to quit coaching.
Speaking to Mike DeCourcy of The Sporting News, Williams said he wanted to do what was best for his team. It meant moving to a time when his successor, Davis, could seamlessly transition into the role of head coach. The freshman coach helped recruit and develop the team that now finds itself in the Final Four.
“The longer I delayed, the more difficult it made all these things,” Williams told The Sporting News. “I really wanted to wait and do it myself a bit later, for me personally. But if you’re talking about the next guy coming in, it wasn’t going to be that easy if I waited any longer.
It’s not just where I coached. This is my school, where I lived and where our children went. So that was the biggest concern: trying to find a time to do it that would be most beneficial to our program. That’s the only thing I’ve ever thought about, all my life, is what was the best thing for our program.
Check out The Sporting News’ exclusive interview with Roy Williams: