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The Loop

Roy Williams is the imploding coach of the week

January 13, 2020
UCLA v North Carolina

Ethan Miller

Ladies and gentlemen, the situation Chapel Hill has become critical. Just three seasons after Roy Williams led his Tar Heels to their latest national championship, it's gotten so bad that they're making the front page of ESPN with headlines like the one staring at me Sunday afternoon:

Roy Williams: 'Fire Me'

Well then. What brought on this unexpected nightmare? First, injuries. Roy didn't recruit a very good class this year from the start, but he did have a high-volume scorer in Cole Anthony, son of Greg Anthony, who was at least a source of constant shooting and, sometimes, constant scoring. But he didn't last long enough for ACC fans like me to figure out whether the "score or die" Anthony-centric offense would actually work...signs were that the answer was no, at least against ranked teams like Ohio State and Virginia, but he tore his meniscus in mid-December and needed surgery that would keep him out at least 4-6 weeks. That meant the Heels would have to hold the fort without him, and without much in the way of talent, and if they didn't...well, considering the example of James Wiseman, there was no guarantee he'd come back at all. But Project Stave-Off-Disaster took a major blow two weeks later when Anthony Harris, a freshman point guard, tore his ACL.

At that point, there were two directions the team could take. The first was to accept the challenge ahead of them, come together as a team, and grind their way through the schedule as best as possible, perhaps triumphing against adversity in certain moments and at least preserving the pride and dignity that comes from representing one of college basketball's legendary programs.

The other option? Well, the other option was implosion. I'm talking unchecked, careening disaster, complete with loss after loss and the disintegration of any team unity. And that's exactly what happened.

The fatal blow here is the home loss to Clemson on Saturday, the first time that's happened in the history of college basketball. The Tigers' record in Chapel Hill was 0-59, an infamous streak of futility that dated back to 1926. Amazingly, the Heels were up 10 points with two minutes to go on Saturday, seemingly secure in making it 60 straight at home. Then the wheels came off. Watch what happened next:

That was Carolina's third straight loss, and eighth in the last 11 games, which all but guarantees they won't make the NCAA tournament barring an insane turnaround or a very unlikely win in the ACC tournament. It also calls into question whether we'll ever see Cole Anthony in a Carolina uniform again.

But it's more than just the losses—it's Roy's comments. Look at this one, from after the Georgia Tech loss, which was made on his own weekly radio show:

"We stunk, OK. We were not very good. The crazy thing about it is, our team, and we've had some very gifted teams, this is not a very gifted team. It's just not."

That's some tremendous under-bus-throwing by Ol' Roy, but I laughed the most about "the crazy thing about it is." Is it really crazy, Roy? Is it crazy that a team that's not gifted is losing games? Or was that just a weird way to transition into blaming the players? Later, he doubled down:

"With the team I (put) out there on the floor, I’ve got one McDonald’s All-American out there, because Cole Anthony is not playing, and we’ve had some teams that have had a lot more than that."

Must feel great to be in that Carolina locker room right down, with such belief emanating from the top. It was his quote after the Clemson game, though, that really brought home the dysfunction. Read the whole thing:

"We've had some great moments as a coach, and right now I'd say this is my lowest one because losing this game was my fault...Told them if I die tomorrow or 20 years from now, that'll be the biggest regret I had in 32 years as a coach. Cause these kids really need a win. And their coach let them down today...Gotta tell Bubba [UNC AD] he should probably fire me, it probably wouldn't be a bad idea."

DARK. The thing is, Roy will probably be fine, and so will UNC. He's a great coach when he has the talent, and though that sounds like a backhanded compliment, it's really not—his system, and his coaching, work brilliantly with the right pieces. Still, this is abysmal stuff from a program of this caliber, and in a year when Coach K is doing more than anyone thought possible with his own allegedly under-talented team, this Duke fan is going to enjoy the hell out of it.

The "I Regret Missing This" Sadness of the Week: Me and Lamar Jackson

It's been a couple years since I mostly gave up on the NFL...not because of any political stance or anything cool, just because it started to bore me and there wasn't enough time in my life to spend two weekend days watching football. But I kept hearing about Lamar Jackson's brilliance this season, and was excited to finally see him in action in the playoffs. Then I missed Saturday night's Titans-Ravens game because Duke was on and in-laws were visiting, and chance was gone. It's not like I've never seen him play—I watched him at Louisville—but I wanted to at least catch a slice of his great season. Instead, I'm forced to look up clips like this:

And this:

...and wither in regret. As I write this on Sunday afternoon, I hereby vow not to miss Patrick Mahomes, lest he too shall be ripped away from us on the march to some godawful Titans-Seahawks Super Bowl.

The Best New Jersey of the Week: Duke Basketball

You know you love them, haters:

Real talk: Even when a jersey is pretty good, the reveal is usually just an occasion for everyone, including fans of the team, to shit all over it. When it's bad, it's a public stoning. This is one of the few times when I've seen nothing but positivity across Twitter. I will spend money on this jersey, and I will not be shamed for it. (Also, I just realized I made an accidental Duke "New Jersey" pun in the title to this section...crap.)

The Ridiculously Talented Human of the Week: Sergio Aguero

With a hat trick on the road against Aston Villa, Aguero became the all-time goals leader among non-Englishmen in the Premier League (passing Thierry Henry), and also set the record for most hat tricks (passing Alan Shearer). Look at the record-breaking goals:

This guy's so good, even Roy Williams could coach him! (Rimshot)