That’s a heck of a birthday gift, even if it’s a day late.
North Carolina will honor basketball coach Roy Williams by naming the court at the Smith Center for him. The hall-of-fame coach has led the Tar Heels to three national titles in 15 seasons at his alma mater.
Williams turned 68 on Wednesday and the school made the announcement about the decision on Thursday.
“Roy Williams Court” will be dedicated during a UNC basketball reunion on Aug. 24.
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Williams has won 424 games in 15 seasons at UNC, second only to Smith, his mentor. He won 418 games in 15 seasons at Kansas before he took the Carolina job in 2003.
He led the Tar Heels to national titles in 2005, ’09 and ’17 and eight regular-season ACC titles.
“It’s very hard to believe; it’s just so flattering,” Williams said in a statement released by the school. “I have to figure out a way to thank all my current and former players, because it may be my name on the court, but it really honors all of them because they made the plays.
“I also want to thank my family for all the support and love they’ve given me over the years. I’ve missed many family things over the years, and they were so understanding. Naming the court will be a thrill for my family. I’ll try to say the right things to the former players, to my family and to the Carolina administration, but I don’t know if I will be able to adequately state how grateful I am.
“I love this place. For 15 years as the head coach and 10 as an assistant, I’ve tried every day to give everything I could to make the Carolina Basketball program better. Fortunately, when I started I had Coach (Dean) Smith, Coach (Bill) Guthridge and Eddie Fogler, who taught me everything about running a program.
“I think about my high school coach, Buddy Baldwin, the person responsible for getting me into the game and into coaching. I also think of Coach Smith. I turned 68 yesterday, and every day I think about doing things that would make Coach proud. It worries me to this day because I never want to let the program down.
“It’s overwhelming to think about it. Coach Smith did so much, he was so good for people. He would be proud of what we’ve done on the court, but Coach was always able to do so much more for the players off the court. I’m glad his name is on the building. It’s going to be hard to think of my name on the floor in his building.
“I would have been perfectly content to be Coach Smith’s assistant for 30 years, but then he thought it was a good idea for me to go Kansas. From that moment on, I’ve tried to do things that he would have approved of. We’ve won some games and some tournaments, and we’ve even won a few championships. Even with the Hall of Fame (induction) in 2007, I’ve never allowed myself to look back on all that. This is probably the first time I can say I think we’ve done okay.”