From Coby to King, Carolina Family Shows its Meaning

Brant Wilkerson-New

It was early on Thursday morning when Sean May sent the clip over to Roy Williams, when a player he'd briefly coached at North Carolina took the time to deliver a heartfelt message about a man that had shaped Tar Heel basketball players for decades.

Shortly after his Monmouth program fell 73-54 at Kansas State on Wednesday night, King Rice instead wanted to talk about the coach that helped him get to this point in longtime Carolina assistant coach Bill Guthridge.

"Really, really cool night for me and my program and not for some of the reasons people might think," Rice said. "I'm a Carolina guy that got raised up by Bill Guthridge. Coach Guthridge is a Kansas State Wildcat man. He taught me so many lessons, just about life, about growing up, about being a good man when I wasn't a man yet. I wanted to start just by saying thanks to Coach Guthridge that I had this opportunity because his lessons over the years got me to start listening better and now I have been a head coach for nine years."

It brought a smile for Williams and led him to reach to Rice.

"It was a neat deal for him and King’s emotional," Williams said. "I’m emotional, so that never bothered me about anybody else, so I thought that was really a neat deal for him.

"I called him and congratulated him because I think those are the kind of things that make this place a little special."

A 1960 graduate of Kansas State, Guthridge began his career at his alma mater before joining Dean Smith's staff in 1967 as an assistant — a post he would hold for 30 years until he was named Smith's successor and led the Tar Heels to an 80-28 record and two Final Four appearances in three seasons.

Rice spent time walking about the Kansas State campus on Wednesday with Guthridge in his heart.

"I am just proud that I am one of his former guys that got to come into this building, in this town and have an opportunity to see where he did it a long time ago," he said. "Because he was a great, great, great man."

It's not the first time Rice has gotten emotional about his time at Carolina in recent years, also giving a tearful press conference in 2017 after his Monmouth team lost in Chapel Hill.

It was a tough night for the Hawks, leaving him disappointed with both the officials and a crowd that chanted for biscuits as the Tar Heels broke the 100-point barrier.

After calming down in a Smith Center hallway, Rice thanked Williams for allowing him to bring his team.

“He treats me like I’m one of his own sons. He always tries to take care of me, since I was a kid," he said. "I am the luckiest guy that in 1987, Coach Smith gave me a scholarship and it has made me have a great, great, great life ... I am the luckiest man that I got the chance to play at North Carolina.”

Coby White expressed similar feelings on Tuesday night after Williams made a trip to Chicago to visit the rookie point guard who was in the midst of the first slump of his pro career, making 18 of 62 field goal attempts in the previous six games.

Williams said he makes a point of going to see all of his former players early in their rookiie seasons, and given White's struggles, he made a particular priority of getting to him now.

The two had a chance to visit before the game, and Williams had a simple message for his former point guard.

"I just told him, ‘Be Coby. Don’t stress it; how long do you think you’ll play, about 15 years?’ He said, ‘I hope so.’ I said, ‘OK, we’re 10 games into 1,500, so come on, quit stressing a little bit and just be Coby,'" Williams said. "I think he was really frustrated through the first three quarters and then that first one went in, and it was on then. It was pretty impressive."

All White did after that conversation was deliver a career-high 27 points, setting a new Bulls franchise record with seven 3-pointers in the fourth quarter.

“I appreciate you for coming, you know I love you," White said in the postgame interview. "Our relationship goes past basketball — I love you."

Asked whether it had been a big week for the notion of the Carolina Family, Williams smiled.

"It’s pretty good," he said.