This is not a particularly new piece of information. North Carolina coach Roy Williams has made clear his feelings on the Wolfpack before. In 2008, Williams said he would rather beat NC State than eat. Seeing as eating is a rather important part of one's daily survival regimen, this might have been hyperbole. But not by much.
Williams confirmed as much in advance of tonight's NC State matchup. At his pregame media availability this week, Williams was asked what the Tar Heels' rivalry with State "means" to him. Turns out it means a whole lot -- and it always has. (Quotes helpfully provided by our UNC blogger Robbi Pickeral, who has all your pregame coverage here.)
"It’s always meant a great deal to me," Williams said. "I’ve gone on record as saying that I struggled with them. I was a freshman in college and some old high school buddies that I had played baseball and basketball with were over at State, and they gave me enough crap for the rest of my life. I didn’t appreciate it and I didn’t like it. So I’ve always had the feeling that this is an important game. It’s North Carolina against North Carolina State.
"You know, every kid grows up and sometimes mom and dad plants seeds about who they’re going to cheer for, and they have an influence," he said. "I didn’t have that influence. I had my high school coach [Buddy Baldwin] who thought North Carolina was great, and then some other people put us down any way they could to me, and I took offense to that. It’s a childish way to react, but it’s stuck with me."
Yeah, OK, it's a slightly childish way to react. But guess what? I love it. Williams doesn't dislike NC State because he's supposed to dislike State. He doesn't dislike them because they're a competitor, or because this game is particularly important to his well-monied boosters, from whom he'd catch guff (a phrase I like to think Roy would use) if he didn't keep the Wolfpack at bay. No, this is an actual, legitimate rivalry for Williams, one that stretches back to the place most people first discover and then codify their seething sports hatreds: youth. In a world of mercenary coaches who coolly adopt the language of their constituents, it's borderline refreshing to see a coach like Williams -- a man at the relative pinnacle of his profession -- willing to get down in the mud and the muck with the rest of us.
There's no disconnect between UNC fans and their coach here. UNC hates NC State. NC State hates UNC. Same as it ever was. May it always be so.