CHAPEL HILL - One week after his Kansas Jayhawks lost to Syracuse in the national title game, Roy Williams was named the 18th men's basketball head coach in North Carolina Tar Heel history.
Williams, a 1972 graduate of UNC and assistant under then-UNC head coach Dean Smith from 1978-1988, returns to his alma mater after 15 years as head coach at Kansas. He replaces Matt Doherty, who was forced to resign his position as Tar Heel head coach April 1.
"I was a Tar Heel born, when I die I'll be a Tar Heel dead," Williams said. "But in the middle, I am Tar Heel and Jayhawk bred and I am so, so happy and proud of that.... When I was a youngster, it was my dream to play at North Carolina. Then I dreamed of coaching at North Carolina."
Three years ago, Williams was offered the same job, but he turned it down after a few days of deliberation. This time around Williams said he was equally torn, almost calling and rejecting the position as recently as Sunday afternoon and on two separate occasions during the week.
However, Williams said that after leaving the Wooden awards in Los Angeles to return home Sunday afternoon he decided to make a decision by the time the plane touched the ground and stay with whatever he chose. After deciding, Williams called North Carolina Director of Athletics Dick Baddour at 9:30 a.m. this morning to tell him he would coach the Tar Heels next season.
Many speculated that Williams would be more inclined to leave the second time around. Not only did he have a public rift with former Kansas Director of Athletics Al Bohl - who claimed he was fired in an effort to get Williams to stay - but Williams was also losing two of his prized recruits Kirk Hinrich and Nick Collison to graduation. Nevertheless, Williams said his other players were incredibly important to him and nearly kept him in Lawrence, Kan.
"Today has been extremely hard, as the last four days have been to make this decision," Williams said. "I wanted to coach both, but you can't. Last time I decided to stay because it was the right thing. This time I decided to leave because it was the right thing."
Williams' hiring comes on the heels of a three-year rollercoaster, both internally and externally, for one of the nation's most storied programs. The Tar Heels experienced quick success when Doherty was hired, but after the worst season in Tar Heel history in 2001-2002 coupled with an NIT berth last season and constant grumblings that the players were unhappy, Doherty was quickly forced out the door two weeks ago.
"I don't think [last season's UNC team was] having as much fun as we were having," Williams said. "So one of my goals is that I want [my new team] to have fun. Now the bad thing about that is one of the ways to have fun is to win. So you have to work your tails off for that part. But, we're going to win."
Now, the Carolina faithful are hoping Williams can restore the program to stability and its former grace.
"I've had several former players say 'Coach, we need you,'" Williams said. "All the former players I ever see... they know I care about them.... I haven't been here in 15 years and there's not a Carolina player in those 15 years who I wouldn't yell at and run across the street to hug. I don't think we'll have a problem with that."
Williams said that he planned to bring former Kansas assistant coach Steve Robinson to North Carolina to join his staff. Robinson, a former head coach a Florida State, was with Williams at Kansas for many years before leaving and then returning for the past season. Williams said he also planned to bring his other assistants from Kansas, but wasn't sure who would be accompanying him yet because some of them may be candidates for the Jayhawk head coaching job.
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Williams signed an eight-year contract worth an annual salary of $260,000, as well as bonuses for making the NCAA Tournament, the Elite Eight, a graduation rate equal to that of the student body. Williams said that he would not accept the last bonus, however, as making his players graduate is simply part of doing his job.
The fastest coach in NCAA history to reach 400 wins, Williams has taken Kansas to nine Big XII championships and four Final Fours - including the past two - in the last 15 seasons. With a career record of 418-101, Williams has the highest winning percentage among active coach with a minimum of six years experience and has taken Kansas to the NCAA Tournament in every season but his first.
Williams is also known as one of the greatest coaches never to win a national title game. He has twice lost in the NCAA finals, once in 1991 to Duke 72-65 and most recently in 2003 to Syracuse 81-78.
"I received a phone call today from [Kansas Chancellor Robert Hemenway] who was most gracious and he said 'we're sending you a treasure'." North Carolina Chancellor James Moeser said. "Welcome home, Roy."