WATCH: Roy Williams Talks Carmichael Return, Cole Anthony's Leadership and Offensive Progress
Roy Williams met with the media on Friday afternoon before North Carolina plays host to Wofford on Sunday afternoon in the first regular-season game in Carmichael Arena since 1986.
Here's what Williams had to say as he reviewed the loss to Virginia and took stock of where his team stands as the Tar Heels finish exam week.
On what stood out from the Virginia film...
Just not taking care of the ball early and the quality of our shots. I think we rushed some of them. Defensively, we weren’t nearly as good as we needed to be.
I think that neither team offensively, was very good but I think their defense was a little better than our defense was.
Is there a common theme in the late runs Ohio State and Virginia have made?
I don’t know that there’s a common thread. It’s the game of basketball; you’re going to have a lot of weird runs. In both games, I think we didn’t handle the toughness, the pressure of a close game and being able to fight every possession. I think we didn’t handle that as well as I wanted to.
You have so many games that every possession is really important. You’ve got to fight through and guard every possession, get the best shot you can get every possession and I don’t think we did either one of those.
Do you practice at Carmichael this week?
We’re going to practice there tomorrow. That’ll be our only day that we’ll practice there.
On his memories of coaching there…
It was just a great place to coach. The enthusiasm, the noise; it was a tremendous home court advantage, which is what I liked.
You may have heard the story. Coach Smith, he said to staff, he said, ‘Is there anything you want in this new building?’ My reaction was, ‘I want the closest seat in the Smith Center to be just like the closest seat in Carmichael.’ He said, ‘Well, go measure it.’ I came back and gave it to him, and that’s supposedly what they did.
How nice is it to have Jeremiah Francis and Anthony Harris back?
Guys, they played two days last week. I have no idea; I put them in the game just because I was ticked off.
As a coach, you do things that are sound fundamentally, sometimes you do things by the seat of your pants. Neither one has worked with the first group at all.
I’ve been thrilled, absolutely thrilled, with how hard they've worked in the weight room to get their knees ready to go out and participate. We’re talking about two days of practice full-court. We were screwing it up, so why stay doing the same things? Let’s give somebody else an opportunity to screw it up.
When they came in, Cole Anthony moved off the ball. Is that something you're interested in seeing more of?
Guys, y’all are making too big a thing. I don’t even know who the heck was in the game then.
Seriously. My wife doesn’t like me to say it, but I was pissed off, Jesus Christ. I have no idea. They’ve practiced two days. That would be like you practicing for two days. I’d probably know how much talent you had I guess, but it wouldn’t be great.
Seriously, two days and in the two days they went full-court, I’m just guessing here, they probably went 25 percent of the possessions … it was just trying to get them, and I did want to get them to see what it felt like in game-action.
It’s the kind of the thing, when things are going well, usually I try to do something.
But I hope, to answer your question one way, I hope it gives me a lot of opportunities to try a lot of things. We’ve got, practice we have 18 guys and we have nine or 10 that are capable of practicing. That’s about the way it’s been the whole season.
Have the struggles just been part of the growing pains that are to be expected?
Yeah it is, but I think the number of injuries have been much higher than what we’ve had in the past. The other thing … I love playing a difficult schedule and this one, a really difficult schedule is matched up with one of the most inexperienced teams we’ve had. I don’t like the fact that we’ve lost these games, but those guys on the other side have been pretty good too. Part of is what you go through every year, yeah.
There's been a lot of gloom and doom this season. Has anything surprised you in a positive way?
Yeah, because they’re really good kids and I enjoy them and I enjoy practicing, but I think, I do have expectations and if you’re going to be successful, you need to play with a high level of intensity and a high level of efficiency and I haven’t been able to get them to, either one of those. That’s been the frustration level.
Now, well everyone can say, ‘Well, you’re not making a shot,’ but still, there’s been a lot of frustration of trying to get them and that’s harder for trying to get young guys, and it’s harder to do that with even old guys unless they’ve done it before. Garrison is really the only guy that’s stepped out there and done those kinds of things. We have B-Rob and Andrew and Leaky who have played some, but they’ve never been pushed out and win or lose has deepened on how they’ve played. So, getting them to understand, ‘Come on guys, you’ve got to get your level of play to here and maintain it,’ so that’s been the biggest frustration.
Armando’s toughness coming back from the injury, I mean his ankle was big … for him to bounce back, I loved that. Garrison trying to help Armando along has been something that’s been really good, but we’re playing new guys and we’re also playing with Christian and Justin, new guys into our system who have played before, who had habits, who played a certain way and we’re trying to change and get them to play a little differently against a higher level of competition.
There’s no question it probably has been doom and gloom but that’s the way I’ve felt a lot of times too. There’s been more frustration level more than there has … I mean, you go back to the Notre Dame game, I mean, what Cole did in the second half, that was pretty pleasant. You’d like to see some more of that.
Then, Garrison’s consistency on the defensive end of the floor and it’s strange because I think probably (Virginia was) his worst defensive game because on the defense inside, you’ve got to finish the defense; what that means is you have to box out. I think it was Garrison’s worst box-out game of the year and (Mamadi) Diakite got a lot of loose balls for them off the backboard.
It’s hard to say about my whole feelings because we have yet to really have what I think is going to be our team; we have yet to have them all together.
What's been the biggest challenge for Christian Keeling to adjust to?
Well, the consistency level and the talent level that he's playing every day. It's different, the talent level he's playing in practice every day, but the talent level he's playing in the games. It's been a big-time challenge for he and Justin both. Their numbers, from William and Mary and Charleston Southern are not like what their numbers are here, but again, as far as I know, it's not Christmas yet, so we’ve still got some season left for those guys to get better, too.
Is too big a deal being made of the offensive issues?
That’s good question because I’ve asked myself that. I mean, a lot of teams play good schedules and we’ve played really good schedules in the past. I think our last four years, we’re No. 1, No. 6, No. 6, No. 1, something like that with strength of schedule, but this is by far our most difficult schedule.
You can say we’ve played four ranked teams, but we’ve played four that are in the top 10, and there’s a difference. With each one of those little grouping you go down, there’s a tremendous difference, and I don’t know, to answer your question, because I’ve been more frustrated perhaps, maybe, not thinking enough about, hey, what I say all the time, ‘That other team’s got a chance to play, too.’
My frustration is being more just, ‘Do what I tell you to do. If the other guy is better, he’s better; if he’s bigger, stronger or faster or whatever, but just do what I tell you to do.’ So that’s been the frustration level with me.
It remains to be seen and like I said, it’s not Christmas yet and we’ve still hopefully got a lot of basketball left to play. I’m not ready to run the flag up or anything like that. We’re probably going to practice probably 65 more times, so I’m not going to give up, and still go to practice every day.
On Leaky Black's development this season…
All I can say guys is he hasn’t been healthy yet. It’s hard to play the game when you’re hurt. I’ve taken him out of three or four games; I don’t know how other to say it other than the fact that we still haven’t seen Leaky healthy yet. I think if he does get healthy in my lifetime, I think he’ll be a better player than he has been so far.
Are players as frustrated as you?
There’s no way kids are ever going to be as frustrated as the coach is, Jesus Christ. After the game, they’re wondering what kind of pizza they’re going to eat. I’m wondering what the hell went on during the game.
I’m sure they’re frustrated with three losses and I’m sure they’re frustrated with the way they’ve played sometimes, but don’t dwell on it; just get it better, just get better. That’s all it is and if kids put in as much attention to detail and study as the coaches did, they’d be a lot better, but that’s not the world we live in. That’s not any condemnation towards them. I mean, they’ve got class going on, they’ve got some other things going on, they’ve got girlfriends or hopeful girlfriends, parents talking to them.
I’ve said many times Jerod Haase came close to me than any player I’ve ever coached because he truly hurt and he’d hurt for a long time and we lost when he didn’t play well. Most of the time, kids get over in the first 38 seconds.
On Cole Anthony’s leadership…
His leadership has been more by example. He’s not one of those guys that talks a lot and says, ‘Come guys, everybody in here,’ but he set an example through the preseason by doing, by far, the best job in the conditioning program, every test we did and the whole thing. During the games, he’s competitive as he can be; he thinks he can make every shot.
I’d say I want his shooting percentage to go up, so I’ve got to get him to trust everybody else more, trust what’s going to happen and not take it upon himself to try to do too much. I think that’s probably the biggest problem he’s having right now is he feels like he’s got to do more and trying more things.
There’s no question Garrison, grade-wise, has been our best defender but think Cole’s probably second and some other guys ought to be mad, because I think Armando might be third. Some of those older guys should be mad that they’re not playing better themselves on the defensive end of the court too.
On who he talks to when he’s trying to figure things out...
Oh, my staff. When I was a younger coach, I’d talk to Eddie Fogler, Coach Smith, Coach Guthridge a lot more. Now, I talk to my staff.
Last week, I had a great conversation about some things with Larry Brown. I’m not afraid to talk to Mark Few or Tom Izzo or Lon Kruger, those guys, because I trust them so much. I’ll talk to Mark after our game next week; we’ll both have a good conversation about what we think of each other’s club. Tony Bennett and I exchanged some things after the game; we agree what’s going on.
I don’t have those kind of people that I had early on but I trust Steve Robinson; he’s been with me 25 years. He knows what’s going on even more than Coach Smith, if Coach Smith were still here, because he’s there every day too.