Offseason knee surgery helps ease pain of title game loss for UNCs Williams

The 65-year-old coach said Tuesday that hes never felt better thanks to the surgery he underwent to replace his ailing right knee last spring

Christine T. Nguyen—North State Journal
North Carolina head coach Roy Williams reacts during the second half of the NCAA Men's Basketball National Championship at the NRG Stadium in Houston

CHAPEL HILL — Roy Williams’ heart still aches over the way the 2016-17 college basketball season ended. At least the physical pain the North Carolina coach felt throughout his team’s run to the national championship game is finally gone as he prepares for his 14th season with the Tar Heels. The 65-year-old coach said Tuesday that he’s never felt better thanks to the surgery he underwent to replace his ailing right knee last spring. “We’ve had six full practices and I haven’t hurt anything like I did last year,” Williams said at UNC’s annual preseason media day. “The first 42 years of my life as a coach, I never sat down on the basketball court one time. Last year I was sitting down about every 15-20 minutes. So far this year I haven’t sat down except for during water break.” Williams’ physical pain marred what was otherwise one of the most personally satisfying seasons of his Hall of Fame career. His Tar Heels tuned out the lingering distraction of an NCAA investigation that is finally nearing a conclusion to win 33 games, claim both the ACC regular season and tournament championships and come within a buzzer-beating 3-pointer by Villanova’s Kris Jenkins of a national title. After a couple of months to let some of the sting from that loss wear off, Williams underwent the knee replacement procedure in Charlotte on May 27. “It’s been a long process,” he said. “We’re getting close to 4½ months. I haven’t had that scenario where everybody says, ‘oh gosh, you’ll wish you had done it two years before. I haven’t been on that boat yet, but it is better and it’s enabling me to do my job a lot more fun.” Before returning to the court with the Tar Heels last week, Williams tried his new knee out on the golf course — a couple of weeks before he was supposed to, of course. He said he played 36 holes on Aug. 11. Although he said his golf game “stunk,” Williams’ players will attest that he’s already back on top of his game when it comes to coaching basketball. “He’s still doing 33s with us,” junior wing Theo Pinson said, referring to the sprint drills the Tar Heels regularly do at practice. “He’s running well, his body looks great. He’s working just like we are. I’ve got to give him his props. I don’t know if I’d be doing that.”