The floor inside the arena named for one legendary North Carolina basketball coach will now bear the name of the Tar Heels’ current Hall of Fame leader. UNC announced Thursday that the playing surface inside the Dean E. Smith Center will now be known as Roy Williams Court.
The official dedication will be held at a basketball reunion scheduled for later this month.
“From the time I first met Coach, I have been touched by his commitment to the success of his players and his belief in their capacity to dream big and accomplish even bigger,” UNC chancellor Carol L. Folt said in a statement announcing the news.
“Generations of Carolina basketball fans have witnessed the result of his teaching and love for his players on the courts, but that is only part of his story as he cares so much and helps in so many ways here at Carolina and across our state. Naming the court for Coach Williams expresses our gratitude to this very special and much-admired Tar Heel.”
Williams, a 1972 graduate of UNC, spent 10 years as an assistant to Smith before moving on to the head coaching career of his own at Kansas. He returned to his alma mater at one of the lowest points in the program’s history in 2003 and immediately restored the Tar Heels back to their past glory.
UNC has compiled a 424-126 record in 15 seasons under Williams and his national championships in 2005, ‘09 and ‘17 make him one of only six coaches to win as many as three titles. The Asheville native was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007.
“Coach Williams is one of college basketball’s greatest coaches ever,” athletic director Bubba Cunningham said. “But I’ve come to see that the measure of the man is his integrity, his honesty, the manner in which he relates to and supports his players, and the love he has for the University of North Carolina.”
Cunningham said that Williams didn’t want to honor, but his former players and staff members want it for him.
“It’s overwhelming to think about it,” Williams said. “Coach Smith did so much, he was so good for people. He would be proud of what we’ve done on the court, but Coach was always able to do so much more for the players off the court. I’m glad his name is on the building. It’s going to be hard to think of my name on the floor in his building.
“I would have been perfectly content to be Coach Smith’s assistant for 30 years, but then he thought it was a good idea for me to go Kansas. From that moment on, I’ve tried to do things that he would have approved of. We’ve won some games and some tournaments and we’ve even won a few championships. Even with the Hall of Fame (induction) in 2007, I’ve never allowed myself to look back on all that. This is probably the first time I can say I think we’ve done okay.”