by: AARON BEARD, Associated Press
Posted: Apr 2, 2021 / 1:12 AM CDT
Updated: April 2, 2021 / 9:33 AM CDT
North Carolina chief basketball coach Roy Williams speaks to media outlets during a press conference on Thursday, April 1, 2021 in Chapel Hill, NC Williams. NC Williams is retiring as the college basketball head coach after 33 seasons and 903 wins. The Hall of Fame coach led the University of North Carolina to three NCAA championships in 18 seasons as the head coach of the Tar Heels. (AP Photo / Gerry Broome)
North Carolina is now faced with the challenge of finding the successor to Roy Williams.
The Hall of Fame coach retires from the iconic men’s basketball program of Tar Heels and opens the job for the first time in nearly two decades. So remains athletics director Bubba Cunningham, who heads the best-known coaching search of his nearly ten-year tenure at UNC, with Williams at least making a certain contribution.
“I think we have the best job in college basketball,” said Cunningham. “This job doesn’t get opened very often. We have to spend a lot of time thinking about who the right person is right now. “
Williams announced his retirement on Thursday, saying he no longer feels like “the right man” for the job over the past two difficult seasons. This ends an 18-season run with three NCAA titles since he returned to his alma mater after a 15-year run in Kansas.
In a virtual press conference Thursday evening, Cunningham said he and Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz would handle the process instead of setting up a search committee. He said he had sought input from numerous former players as well as Williams whom Cunningham said he had already shared his opinion.
Williams also mentioned this during his press conference early Thursday.
“I put a lot of pressure on him and the Chancellor’s shoulders because I have a very strong opinion of what I want to do with the program,” said Williams.
Cunningham said he prefers experience as a head coach but it is not required. The same goes for hiring people with UNC ties who worked with longtime assistant Bill Guthridge, who took office after Dean Smith’s retirement in 1997 and Williams’ return in 2003 – but during Matt Doherty’s tumultuous tenure after Williams did the Had refused office, did not work after Guthridge’s retirement in 2000.
There are seasoned coaches with strong program connections, such as Wes Miller of UNC Greensboro, who played on Williams’ 2005 NCAA championship team. Stanford’s Jerod Haase, who trained under Williams at UNC; and Hubert Davis, who played for Dean Smith and has spent the past nine seasons at Williams.
“The history and tradition here wins,” said Cunningham. “We have had it in the family for a long time. This is important. But it’s not the only factor trying to make such a decision. “
Cunningham said there was no specific timetable, although he noted that UNC was quick to hire Mack Brown for a second stint as a football coach after sacking Larry Fedora in a trial that lasted just days in November 2018. He mentioned the urgency of a new coach dealing with large numbers of college players making transfers, a list that includes UNC Freshman’s 7-foot walker Kessler.
“It will be a very different environment when it comes to coaching, recruiting and keeping students to play on the team,” said Cunningham. “And honestly, college basketball is better when North Carolina is good. We have to be good and we are determined to be good. And now we need to find the right leader who will maintain the standards to which we have become accustomed. “
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