North Carolina coach Roy Williams reiterated on his Monday night radio show how “neat” he thought it was when Monmouth coach King Rice -- a former UNC point guard -- received a standing ovation when he brought his team to play the Tar Heels in the Smith Center last weekend.
What makes the UNC basketball family so strong?
“It’s hard to pinpoint it,’’ Williams said. “First you have to say, [coach] Frank McGuire, bringing those guys down from New York, including Lennie Rosenbluth, who’s sitting right here. Winning a national championship, that got people here in North Carolina even more excited about basketball. … That was the first step.
“Then the next 5,000 steps … came from Coach Dean Smith. Because Coach Smith, I’ve said many times, is the best I’ve ever seen on the court, and was far better off the court. When you came to play for Coach Smith, you joined his family. I’m a copier; I’m not intelligent enough to think of a whole lot of things. I thought Coach Smith was the best, and I tried to copy what he did.
Williams said he was also happy, during the game against Monmouth, to see David Noel and Jawad Williams, who are playing overseas, back at the Smith Center to watch the game. Former players can often be found watching behind the bench, adding to that ‘family’ atmosphere.
“North Carolina basketball is something special. And you know how you can tell it’s special?” Williams asked. “Because all the other people make jokes of it, because they’re jealous. All of our guys in the NBA talk about how the other guys [say], ‘Aw, that’s just phony,’ and I tell the guys to just smile and nod at them and say, ‘You’re jealous.’ Because that’s what it boils down to. Frank McGuire and Dean Smith -- Roy Williams is just a guy who happens to be in charge right now -- but it’s a great, great family.”
BEST OF THE TAR HEELS?: Reserves Justin Watts and Reggie Bullock also answered questions on the show Monday night, and there was a fun Q&A during which host Jones Angell asked them questions about their teammates.
Angell: Best dresser on the team? Who do you think?
Watts: If I had to say one guy? [Walk-on] Patrick Crouch. I like his swag.
Bullock: There’s a lot of different players on our team from different places, so they all dress differently, but I’d have to say Strick -- Dexter Strickland.
Angell: Hardest worker?
Watts: Jackson Simmons. He works pretty hard in practice. He gets pretty wild, but he’s a very hard worker.
Bullock: I’d have to say Jackson Simmons, too.
Angell: Toughest player on the team? A guy you wouldn’t want to get in a fight with off the court?
Watts: Tough guys? I don’t know. Strick has a little nasty streak about him -- he’s very competitive, he doesn’t like to lose, and he’ll do whatever it takes to win. So probably Strick.
Bullock: Mine probably would be Justin Watts.
Angell: Goofiest guy?
Watts: I’d give that to John [Henson], hands down. John’s pretty silly.
Bullock: I’d have to say John Henson, too
Angell: Biggest ladies man? (Can’t vote for yourself.)
Watts: Dexter Strickland.
Bullock: Dexter Strickland.
BEGINNING LEAGUE PLAY: UNC begins ACC play against Boston College on Saturday at the Smith Center. What’s the biggest challenge?
“The challenge that every coach faces: you’ve got to get better all the time,” Williams said. “You can’t just say, ‘well, we made it’ or something like that. We’re got to come out on the court every day with a sense of urgency in practice to get better. And I think if we adopt that attitude every day, we should be playing our best basketball at the end of the year. We’ll need to play our best basketball as we play against ACC teams.”
Follow Robbi Pickeral on Twitter at @bylinerp.