UNC coach Roy Williams sports a new look, talks COVID-19 concerns

Tuesday, April 7, 2020
A bearded Roy Williams reflects on COVID-19 challenges
A bearded Roy Williams reflects on COVID-19 challenges.

ASHEVILLE, N.C. -- For the time being, Roy Williams is decamped at his mountain home near Asheville.

He said that on Sunday, he will return to Chapel Hill. North Carolina's longtime basketball coach, like the rest of us, is learning to cope with this quarantine.

He's made one very noticeable change. The head of the Heels has a new facial accessory.

"To see my face up there and see how bad I look with this fake beard...", Williams laughed.

He's normally quite busy this time of year, so if there's a sliver of silver lining for Williams during this COVID-19 outbreak - "I played golf in March and April for the first time in my life."

But he really made it clear the medical response to the novel coronavirus pandemic has dominated his thoughts.

"I just can't imagine those doctors, nurses going to work every day and worried about their own health and how it's going to affect their families," Williams said, "and yet they still keep going. So, they're definitely my heroes right now."

As for his team, Sunday night Zoom sessions are keeping them connected. Thankfully so far, no one's immediate family has been affected.

"I asked three questions at the end of this Sunday night. I said, 'how's your family first?' Secondly is, 'are you being smart and staying away from people?' and thirdly, just a very simple quick question: 'Give me something positive that you've done this week, either with your family, with your academics or anything.'"

From Williams' perspective, there isn't much to say about last season. He detailed a number of shortcomings, hammering himself for not getting the most out of the players.

In typical Roy fashion, he distilled the 14-19 season the Tar Heels endured this way:

"I don't think there's one simple answer other than the fact we just got our tails beat, and we've got to put it behind us and learn from those mistakes."

In that regard, the summer recruiting session figures to be extra challenging. If there are no in-person camps to evaluate, Williams and his staff will adjust, like everyone else, but he hopes it doesn't come to that.

"What you're going to do is, you're going to rely more heavily on tapes, and you're going to rely more heavily on high school coaches' recommendations," Williams said. "Gracious sakes, I hate trying to make a decision, scholarship or no scholarship on the guy just by watching him on tape."

Big picture though, that stuff seems entirely secondary right now in the face of the COVID-19 crisis. Williams encouraged people to lean on the experts.

"It's such a weird thing. You can't see it; you can't have any idea of it. You don't know what to fight," Williams said. "And so just trying to take the advice of the scientists and the medical people and not the politicians, I think, it's the best thing that can happen in the world right now."