This is not an April Fools’ prank.
The University of North Carolina announced around 9 AM (Jayhawk time) on April 1 that Roy Williams was retiring from coaching college basketball. There was a press conference later in the afternoon during which Roy referred back to his time at Kansas upwards of a dozen times; if you are interested in watching the replay, this tweet provides several options.
Coach Roy Williams Retirement Press Conference at 4pm ⤵️
GoHeels: https://t.co/cgXtCOMTzk#CarolinaFamily pic.twitter.com/BBxu3QOGQz
— Carolina Basketball (@UNC_Basketball) April 1, 2021
A North Carolina native, Roy attended UNC and got his start in coaching at the high school level. After serving under Dean Smith as an assistant from 1978-88, he was hired at Kansas after Larry Brown left for the NBA.
Shortly after his hire at KU, the Jayhawks were placed on probation for violations that took place under the previous staff, making them ineligible for the NCAA Tournament following the 1988-89 season despite a 19-12 record and six weeks in the top-25 mid-season.
In his second year, the Jayhawks set a team record for points scored when they defeated Kentucky 150-95 in Allen Fieldhouse. Williams would go on to lead KU to 14-straight NCAA Tournaments, which began a still-active NCAA record streak of 31-straight seasons. Roy would eventually take the Jayhawks to four Final Fours: 1991, 1993, 2002, and 2003.
The one knock on Roy from a KU perspective may be what he didn’t accomplish in Lawrence, namely, he left town without any national championships, plus, some early tournament exits. KU entered the NCAA Tournament as a 1-seed five times under Roy (1992, 1995, 1997, 1998, 2002), only making the Final Four once as a top seed. The 1997 Jayhawks, in the conversation as one of the greatest college basketball teams ever, fell in the Sweet 16 to 4-seed Arizona.
Roy’s 2001-02 Jayhawks are still the only Big 12 team to roll through the conference unbeaten, going 16-0. Williams left Kansas as the second-winningest coach behind Phog Allen (although Bill Self has since passed him), going 418-101 in 15 years.
Roy was 35-4 against K-State while in Lawrence, and did not lose to the Wildcats after the 1993-94 season. He was also 19-13 against Missouri, but interestingly just 4-3 against the Tigers as the AP #1 team. His favorite opponent (other than KSU) was probably Colorado, against whom he held a 33-2 advantage.
The Jayhawks were the winningest D1 program of the 1990s. Roy gave us Raef and Scot, Nick and Kirk, 150-95, 62-straight (home wins), 16-0, “I don’t give a $h!t about North Carolina,” and eventually, after he left KU, he rather unwillingly gave us 40-12, “It’s over!,” and the now-infamous Jayhawk sticker:
Roy Williams finishes his career with 903 career wins, currently third all-time in Division 1. He’s the first (and so far only) coach to win 400+ games at two universities. He turned Kansas around following the probation season that was a result of the Larry Brown era at a time when things could have quickly gone south for the KU program, and also immediately stabilized a North Carolina program that was reeling after three years under Matt Doherty.
Williams is one of 8 coaches in the entire history of Kansas basketball, and I don’t think it’s wrong to say that KU has maintained its “blue-blood” status in college basketball due in no small part to Roy’s efforts while he was here.
Congratulations, Coach, and enjoy your retirement!
Check out more coverage of Roy’s retirement over at sister-site www.tarheelblog.com.