What happened on Monday night in St Louis is the moment North Carolina Basketball head coach Roy Williams had been waiting for all his life. After not being able to win a title with the Kansas Jayhawks in two previous tries, he was finally able to cry tears of joy with the Tar Heels on Monday night.
After North Carolina defeated Illinois 75-70, they gave Roy Williams his first National Championship in his 17 year coaching career in the college ranks, which included five trips to the Final Four and two National Championship failures. The victory also made Williams the ninth coach to lead his alma mater to an National Championship.
“It’s a great moment for our staff, not just for me,” said Williams who won his 41st tournament game on Monday night. “It’s a great moment for our families. It’s a great moment for these youngsters who have these moments, these thrills and these memories for the rest of their lives. The 2005 team was a team out their tonight.”
Maryland Terrapins head coach Gary Williams says that winning a title changes you forever. It is something that you can never have taken away from you and it will always be with you. Roy Williams though was quick to point out after the game that winning a championship will not change everything about him.
“I don’t think it will change the way that I work,” he said. ‘I don’t think it will change the way I’ll deal with people and treat people. If I am perceived differently, then that’s everybody else’s choice. Gary did say one thing that’s right, I’ll never forget this moment. Never forget this feeling.”
Regardless whether his North Carolina Tar Heels defeated Illinois or not, Roy Williams has always been a winner as well as a gracious loser. When his Kansas Jayhawks lost in his first tournament appearance to the Duke Blue Devils in 1991, he found Mike Krzyewski and told him how happy he was for him. Two years ago, he went over and hugged Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim after Kansas was defeated by Syracuse 81-78. What is so ironic about those two loses is that they were at the hands of two elite head coaches that won their first NCAA Tourney Title. Boeheim had 37 Tourney victories before his first championship, while Williams had 22 before he had a chance to cut down the nets after winning his first NCAA crown.
It almost seemed fitting that at the end of the game, Williams went over to Illinois head coach Bruce Weber to congratulate him on a great season that saw the Fighting Illini go 37-2, which tied the single season NCAA record for most wins in a season.
“He’s great for the business and he’s a tremendous coach,” Weber told ESPN.com. “He’s somebody you cheer for and you feel good for him. He’s been here a lot and I’ve always wanted him to win.”
This victory meant so much to Williams that once he received the trophy and celebrated with his players and assistant coaches, he made his way into the crowd to search for his wife Wanda and two adult children Scott and Kimberly.
“I sent someone to go get her to come down to the court,” Williams told ESPN.com. “She always threatens the SID to never let the cameras know where she’s sitting. But I wanted her to be out there. I wanted to be with her and Scott and Kimberly, because coaching is very difficult in some ways, because we make so many sacrifices away from the family and I just wanted them to be with me.”
While many people may look at this championship as one that Williams won, it was the players that made it happen. For example, junior center Sean May who had 26 points and 10 rebounds and was named Most Outstanding Player of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. He also had help from junior forward Rashard McCants, junior guard Raymond Felton and freshmen guard Marvin Williams, who along with May combined to score 65 of the 75 points North Carolina scored.
Those players answered their own criticisms of being coach killers and under achievers. They proved to the world under Williams’ leadership that they can play as a team, a team that now can be called the team that won North Carolina its 4th NCAA National Title.
“It was a blessing man. He finally got it,” said Melvin Scott. “Here’s a man that works hard and puts all of his efforts into coaching. The ultimate goal is to win a championship and to see him win that I felt great for him and his family.”
He finally won his first title, but one thing is for sure. Williams will be finding a way to get his team prepared to make another run at another NCAA National Title again next year.