Radio show notes: Smith still has gleam

Some notes from UNC coach Roy Williams' radio show on Wednesday night. ...

SMITH STILL HAS A GLEAM: Former North Carolina coach Dean Smith, suffering from what his family announced in 2010 as a "progressive neurocognitive disorder that affects his memory," still goes into his Smith Center offices quite often.

The 81-year old still has good days and bad, but it’s always a highlight when Williams gets to see his mentor.

“I saw Coach Smith, and said hello to him twice last week,’’ Williams said. “Coach is struggling, there’s no question about that. But Coach will still, every now and then, get that gleam in his eye and knows what the heck is going on everywhere. I saw him, I think it was Monday, right before practice this week, and I told him I was getting ready to go down to practice, and his eyes lit up a little bit about that.

“But this is a tough thing he’s going through, and so many people genuinely love the man and should do that. It’s a difficult time for him and his family. But I love seeing him when he comes by the office.”

CHEESE AND CRACKERS: Williams doesn’t know how much of the Super Bowl he’ll be able to watch on Sunday; he doesn’t think he’s been able to view a complete game since his freshman year at UNC. “It’s basketball season,’’ he said. “If it was the middle of July, I’d watch the whole dad-gum thing.”

Still, depending on Sunday's practice time, he said he'll try to catch some of the matchup, and at least the highlights.

Asked about his favorite Super Bowl snack, he said: “I’m a big cheese and crackers guy; I’m pretty easy.”

Then he added, laughing, “That’s just boring.”

UK RENEWED: Williams said he was happy to renew UNC’s series with Kentucky after a one-year hiatus; the Wildcats will play in Chapel Hill next December, and the Tar Heels will travel to Rupp Arena the following season.

“It’s two of the biggest names there is, great tradition at both places, it’s a game I enjoy -- I enjoy it a lot more when we win,’’ he said. “It is a great rivalry.”

Putting together a non-conference slate, though, has become more challenging as the ACC has expanded its schedule.

“It’s ridiculous,’’ he said. “You’re trying to put together a package, and everybody wants you to play Kentucky, Kansas, Duke, UCLA, Connecticut, Michigan State -- but they want you to win every game, too, and those other people feel the same way.

"You’ve heard me say before: I like to get a good mix in our schedule, and when we went from 16 to 18 [ACC] games, I tried to dial back the number of those big-time games we play a little bit, but you have to have some opportunities for the kids to have some success, get a little bit of confidence.”

MORE PT FOR J.P.: Freshman J.P. Tokoto has averaged double-figure minutes over UC’s past three games. The reason for the increase?

“A lot of times when you get more playing time, it’s what you’re not doing that’s just as important as what you are doing,’’ Williams said. “He’s not turning the ball over as much, and J.P. is athletic as all get-out; he can defend, he can offensive rebound, he can run, he can really do some big things. And his two big negatives right now are his ability to shoot the ball and his turnovers. So he’s cut down on his turnovers and he’s started shooting the ball a little bit better. … J.P.’s going to be a big-time player for us.”

BRIEFLY: Williams reiterated that reserve guard P.J. Hairston, who suffered a concussion on Tuesday night, is doubtful to play against Virginia Tech this weekend: “He’s probably not going to play on Saturday, but we’ll make that decision on Saturday.” ... The biggest challenge of playing the Hokies? Defending Erick Green, who leads the nation in scoring at 25.5 ppg. "Every team they’ve played, they’re trying to stop him,'' Williams said. "He’s leading the ACC in scoring, he’s shooting 50 percent from the floor in conference games. As a guard, he’s just having a tremendous, tremendous year, and this is the kind of year you dream of your guards having, and we just … have got to try to slow him down a little bit."