North Carolina coach Roy Williams suffered a vertigo spell on Tuesday night and wasn’t on the bench for the final 14 1/2 minutes of his team’s 68-65 victory at Boston College.
During a timeout with 14 minutes, 35 seconds remaining, Williams collapsed into a seated position on the court and needed assistance to make his way to the locker room, where he remained for the rest of the game while his assistant Steve Robinson took over the head coaching responsibilities.
Williams, 65, has suffered from vertigolike symptoms for most of his life and was formally diagnosed with vertigo during his years as head coach at Kansas. Though Williams didn’t return to the game Tuesday, he addressed reporters after his team rallied from a nine-point second-half deficit.
Williams said doctors diagnosed him with “benign positional vertigo.”
“I’ve been diagnosed at Lawrence Memorial Hospital in Kansas, the Mayo Clinic in Rochester and Chapel Hill hospital, all three,” Williams said. “I don’t know that the doctors really care that much about me. I just think that they don’t want me to die on their watch.”
Williams’ vertigo struck after he attempted to discuss a no-call with an official. Williams thought that Isaiah Hicks, the junior forward, had been fouled on a play and went to discuss it with an official.
Williams didn’t like what he heard, and “I whirled around,” he said.
“And that’s when it hit,” Williams said. “And when I say benign positional veritgo, that’s exactly what it is. Every attack that I’ve had is when I jerk my head quickly, and I call them rocks, because my head’s full of rocks – rocks in my middle ear, one of the pebbles gets out of the alignment, and it bounces around on your inner ear, and that’s what causes the imbalance.”
Doug Halverson, UNC’s head athletic trainer, who helped Williams off the court, provided Williams with medicine that Williams took in the locker room. Williams became emotional when describing his appreciation for Robinson.
They have worked together since Williams returned to UNC to become the head coach in 2003, and also worked together during Williams’ tenure as the head coach at Kansas. Williams said Robinson “coached his buns off” on Tuesday night.
Williams began his remarks by saying, “I’m alive, I’m kicking.”
But, he said, “I’m not well mentally.”
He still found a bit of humor in the situation, though.
“I’ll be fine,” he said. “I’m not dead yet.”