Atlantic Coast Conference Operation Basketball

Wednesday October 26, 2016

Roy Williams

North Carolina Tar Heels

ROY WILLIAMS: I feel good. This is not my favorite day of the year, but you've got to get through it, and I know it's big and important for the ACC, but just let us make sure we clear about where we stand. I'm having double crowns on my teeth tomorrow in the dentist's office for two hours, and I'm going to enjoy tomorrow a hell of a lot more than I'm enjoying today, so let's make sure we know where we stand.

This is my favorite time of the year. We've had 16 practices. One of the reasons this has been so pleasant this year is because I don't hurt every step I take like I did last year. Tomorrow my right knee is five months old, and I like that part because I'm not limping around, not hurting, not having to sit down. The first 42 years as a coach I never sat down on the basketball court one time, and last year I had to sit down about every 10 or 15 minutes for 30 seconds, then get back up and do it again.

It's a good group I'm working with. I stole Rick Pitino's line and said, guys, Brice Johnson and Marcus Paige are not going to walk through that door. You've got to do it.

That's the whole thing about our team. We had six guys that played a lot of basketball for us last year that were complementary players. How can they step up now when the defense is aimed at them? Every game we played last year, everybody was focused on Marcus Paige and Brice Johnson, and can Isaiah Hicks, Kennedy Meeks, Nate Britt and all those guys handle it when the attention is focused on them.

16 good practices, and we'll get after it again tomorrow. We have a scrimmage this weekend. In fact, Bobby, we're going to Memphis to scrimmage Tubby's team, so we'll have some fun there and try to get something.

Q. Just what you can say about, like you said, Brice Johnson and Marcus Paige not walking through the door, leadership on this team, and returning a lot of players that know how to succeed and how to get far.
ROY WILLIAMS: Well, the leadership, I think that comes once the season starts, especially if you just lost Marcus Paige, who's one of the greatest leaders I've ever been fortunate enough to coach. Everybody depended on Marcus in anything, any situation, and then help Brice to scoring blocked shots and rebounds and those kind of things. But I don't really think you know who the leaders are until you start in the season, you face the competition, you face the adversity, and I think then you know.

But as you said, we have some guys who were able to do some things last year. Joel Berry was the MVP of the ACC Tournament, Justin Jackson started almost every game since he's gotten there, Isaiah Hicks was Sixth Man of the Year in the ACC, so we've got some good players who have done some things, and the leadership in my opinion right now will come from Nate Britt, who's a senior, Isaiah hardly talks at all, Kennedy probably talks too much, so they listen to Nate a little bit more than anybody else, and then you'd go to Justin, Joel and Theo except for Theo's surgery that he's having right now, in fact, but I think those three guys are guys that are going to be the leaders.

Q. Certainly I know you've got a lot of love for your JV guys. What did Aaron Rohlman do to earn a spot on your team? And talk about what he brings.
ROY WILLIAMS: I don't see many of the JV games, and what I do see is just for a couple minutes, so I rely on my staff to tell me what's going on. And C.B. McGrath had a great line. He said Aaron will drive Kennedy and Isaiah and Tony and everybody crazy because he goes to the board every time. And I said, I want that guy. Because he's got to get those guys to box out even better. Because you think about it, Brice Johnson last year in the ACC, the most points anybody had was 39, that was Brice. The most rebounds was 23, that was Brice. The most blocked shots was eight, that was Brice. Our big guys have got to really step up. Brice led the league in rebounding, I think, depends on whether it's conference games or all games, so when he says Aaron Rohlman goes to the board every time, then I think that was something I thought was good.

So far in 16 practices, he's done that for us.

Q. Coach, Isaiah Hicks said earlier after the tough loss in last year's NCAA Tournament that he would define success as playing without regrets. Do you mirror that sentiment, or how would you define success this season?
ROY WILLIAMS: Well, I think that that would typify Isaiah for sure, and that's not a bad way to look at it. If you had no regrets, you did the best you could possibly do, there's nothing left there. Isaiah, I'm just surprised that he talked that much. That's the biggest thing. I thought we were going to have to get a heart transplant for him when he told him he was going to have to do this this day. He about panicked for sure.

No, success is defined by many different people many different ways, and I want to have no regrets, either. I mean, that's it for me. I want to make sure that I did everything I could possibly do, and then I can accept.

And the other thing is your success is not just dependent on you. Your success sometimes is dependent on what other people do, and I didn't choose to blame anybody or say we screwed it up the last play. I chose to congratulate Kris Jenkins for making a big-time shot, because everybody, especially the Carolina fans, they think we're in control of everything. But Duke has something to do with that, and we played Duke, and Virginia has something to do about that, and we play Virginia, Wake and State and Georgia Tech, everybody. But to me that's a very good way -- if you've done everything you can do, you can live with it. If in the huddle we'd have said, okay, everybody get out of the way and let Ryan Arcidiacono drive it to the basket and lay it up and they did that, that would have been something different. But we tried to make sure that we got him to give the ball up, tried to make sure they didn't throw any long pass, and the kid made a great shot, so I can live with that.

Q. The past six years, six different league champions, but all the coaches so far have said this might be the deepest this league has been so far. What's your thoughts on that?
ROY WILLIAMS: Well, 15 teams. I was assistant coach in the ACC when it was seven. I know this is a whole different ballgame out there right now. The depth of the success of the teams in this league is off the charts. You talk about Duke, North Carolina, North Carolina State, we're all within 30 miles there, and you start talking about Florida State, start talking about Virginia, Notre Dame, and all these things. The league is so much different.

15 teams that you have to be ready to play every single night. For two years, Tony Bennett did an incredible thing with Virginia's program for two years. They won the league in convincing fashion, and they're going to be just as good this year as they were maybe in the past couple of years. Mike's team at Duke is off the charts with the quality of the talent of their freshman class and four guys that had great success for them last year.

So I can go on and say really good things about every team, but the easiest way to say it to me, and Dave and Bobby would understand this, there will be other people that say, oh, another league is better, another league is better. There's not one of those guys that wants to coach in the ACC; I can tell you that.

Q. You mentioned guys stepping up and taking on bigger roles. How much of that -- and this is probably a player-by-player basis, but how much of that is mental and how much of that is continued physical work and physical maturation and skill growth?
ROY WILLIAMS: Well, I think it's both. I think that the amount of work that a guy does over the summer, like Joel Berry last year shot the ball completely different success-wise as what he did his freshman year, but he put in the sweat. So I think it is a little physically that you've got to do the work in the summer and the off-season to get it done, and then the mental part of it is hopefully gaining confidence for -- I'll use Joel Berry again as an example. He was MVP of the ACC Tournament last year. Those are big-time games. That's going to make him even better. He has more confidence. He has more of a feeling that I can do this at any level.

Justin Jackson has got to be able to do the same thing. Isaiah Hicks has got to do the same thing. Isaiah on the physical part, he averaged 7.2 fouls every 40 minutes, so he's got to stay in the game, so it's the mental part of him, of being a senior and being more experienced and being able to do that.

Q. When Isaiah was here, he told us that the way last season ended motivated him through the whole off-season and continues to motivate him now. I'm sure that that comes from within, but is that the -- the end of last season, is that something you remind these guys about still?
ROY WILLIAMS: Well, it's what we talked about in the locker room five minutes after the game, whenever we had a chance to talk. I think most of the kids did use that as fuel throughout the course of the entire summer, and I kept telling them every time I'd see them, are you working hard, are you doing what you want to do, are you going to have any regrets.

And I think that -- now, I don't think you can talk so much about what happened last year because it's a new team, new leaders, new people. Every now and then you'll say, hey, guys, you know how much fun it is down at the end. I think you can still say that and say, well, then how did we get there at the end, it's because we worked our tails off. So some moments you can use that as motivation or get to remind them of it.

Q. When you look at Syracuse, they have about usually six guys on the defensive side, but now they're saying they're one of the deeper teams, Jim Boeheim saying this is one of the best teams he's coached. What do you think might make them more dangerous this year on the defensive side of the ball, especially if they're able to press a little bit more with the length that they have?
ROY WILLIAMS: Well, if he says it's one of the best teams he's ever had, he doesn't usually brag very much, so it should worry everybody. I don't know some of the new guys that they got at the end of the spring signing period or anything like that. The freshman they had, Lydon, was off the charts as a prospect, and usually you see guys from freshman to sophomore year really make a huge, huge jump, and I see that that could potentially happen right there.

But if Jimmy is going to say those kind of things about his team -- again, he's one of the guys that usually poor mouths things. So if he's saying that, he's pretty doggone confident as well.

Last year they hardly pressed at all, and yet that got them to the Final Four. So that meant they practiced it. They just didn't use it in a game very often. But that really bothered Virginia for about a six- or eight-minute stretch and changed the course of the basketball game. They will have some more length. I've seen their roster and all that kind of stuff, too, but once the game starts, then you get a chance to evaluate the other teams more so.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports
Rev #1 by #166 at 2016-10-26 19:10:00 GMT

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