By R.L. Bynum
Did you know that well before Roy Williams left Carolina for Kansas that he turned down jobs at Mississippi State, Chattanooga and George Mason? Or that he turned down two NBA jobs while the NCAA investigation was ongoing?
You may have heard that Wanda, his wife, encouraged him to retire after the Tar Heels won the 2009 national championship. But how long did he think about it? “At least three seconds.”
Did you know that he wants to fight anybody who says, “Roy knew”?
It’s all in a dadgum podcast.
A new Capitol Broadcasting Company podcast called “Roy: That Dadgum Legend” follows his path from an intramural referee while a student at UNC to Hall of Fame coach. The first three of the six episodes were released Wednesday and the last three will be released next Wednesday.
The podcast includes extensive audio from a two-hour interview that Joe Giglio and Joe Ovies — afternoon drive-time hosts of “The OG” on WCMC (99.9 the Fan) — conducted with Williams in his new Smith Center office.
Giglio joined WCMC in March 2020 after a long career as a sports writer at The News & Observer. He mostly covered N.C. State but also covered UNC some, and was the UNC beat writer for the 2017–18 basketball season.
In May, the two produced a six-part podcast on former N.C. State quarterback Russell Wilson called “Never Failed.”
Williams jokes at the start of the first podcast about all those timeouts he saved over the years.
“All of them are those boxes. The unused timeouts are in the boxes that have tape on them so nobody can get in and steal my timeouts. I’ve got ‘em forever,” he says with a laugh.
The initial episode of the podcast, titled “The Beginning,” traces his time from becoming a respected intramural referee on campus and statistics guy for legendary Coach Dean Smith as a student to taking a job on his staff that came with part-time pay ($2,700 a year) but full-time duties.
Williams sold calendars to make extra money. For a time, Wanda Williams taught at Chapel Hill High School to make ends meet. As Giglio explains, she stopped teaching because they wanted to start a family, even though they may not have made enough money to do that.
The hosts discuss how important it was to convince Phil Ford to come to Chapel Hill. Williams said that they made sure that Ford’s camp experience before he committed was a good one.
“So, every time Phil Ford drove, it was foul on the other guy and every time we tried to take charge it was a charge,” Williams said.
Williams talks about getting permission to watch Smith’s practices from the upper concourse of Carmichael Auditorium during his junior year at Carolina. He noted every little detail because he knew that he wanted to coach. Williams says he still has those notes.
He talks about the jobs he turned down before taking the Kansas job and how he would have been happy to have just stayed on Smith’s staff.
Williams speaks fondly about his mom, “the angel of the world” as he calls her, who retired at 65 after working about 48 hours most week to spend more time with her grandchildren, only to get cancer seven months later and die nine months later.
Williams talks about how his mom is one of the reasons he has such a passion for raising money to fund cancer research.
The second episode, called “The End” looks at not only Williams’ decision to leave Kansas for Carolina but to retire in April. He talks about wearing a Kansas sticker at the Final Four when he was UNC’s coach and the “least gifted” comment about his 2019–20 team.
As to Wanda urging that he retire after the 2009 national title?
“She thought it was wearing on me and I was getting older faster than other people and the losses had gotten worse and worse and worse and that, OK, now you could go out on top and you’re losing a lot of guys and, you know, this kind of thing,” Williams said. “I listened to her … and I said, ‘Honey, I’m not ready yet.’ ”
The third episode, called “The Junk” delves into how he dealt with the NCAA investigation and is the shortest of the first three episodes. It includes a fair portrayal of the trying time in the Carolina program.
The words that Williams says always triggered him were “Roy knew.”
“I wanted to fight anybody that ever said that, I really did,” Williams said. “Because I didn’t know; didn’t have any idea.”
Williams said that, despite getting a couple of NBA offers (from the Los Angeles Lakers and another team that he doesn’t reveal), he was never going to leave during the NCAA investigation.
Williams said that his stance was that there was “no way that I will ever, ever walk away from this job until everything is finally settled and it would be proven that we did not do anything to intentionally help our basketball program, and that was it. They could have thrown the book at us and I never would have left.”
The passion comes out when Williams defends his intentions.
“There’s not been one frickin’ day that I haven’t cared about what our kids were doing,” Williams said. “There’s not been one frickin’ day that I didn’t think that education was even more important in basketball because the ball is going to stop bouncing.”
It’s a binge-worthy podcast with lots of good stories.
But you’ll have to wait until next Wednesday to get to the final three episodes, starting with the fourth episode. In that, they’ll discuss his faux cursing and his decision years ago to try to never curse.
ACC pool photo