Dukes Krzyzewski, UNCs Williams united in support of championships leaving state over HB2

The NCAA and ACC have pulled all of their scheduled championship events out of the state, including this seasons first- and second-round NCAA tournament games from Greensboro, in protest of North Carolinas controversial law

Eamon Queeney—North State Journal
Coaches Roy Williams and Mike Krzyzewski will renew their rivalry twice next February (Eamon Queeney/North State Journal)

CHARLOTTE — Roy Williams and Mike Krzyzewski don’t often agree on much. But Wednesday at the ACC’s annual Operation Basketball media event, the rival coaches were uncharacteristically united on one highly visible issue that has had a negative impact on their teams. They’re both upset about North Carolina’s controversial House Bill 2. “It’s a dumb thing,” Duke’s Krzyzewski said Wednesday at the ACC’s annual Operation Basketball media event. “HB2 is embarrassing. … This state is a great state. It’s been hurt by this, not just financially, but image-wise.” Many major businesses and even a few states have enacted boycotts against North Carolina in protest of the law, which includes provisions opponents view as discriminatory — including a requirement that transgender people to use bathrooms corresponding to the sex on their birth certificates. Among the casualties are the NBA All-Star Game, which was moved from Charlotte to New Orleans as a direct result of HB2. The NCAA and ACC followed suit by pulling all of their scheduled championship events out of the state, including this season’s first- and second-round NCAA tournament games from Greensboro. Those games will now be played in Greenville, S.C. The change denies both Krzyzewski’s Blue Devils and Williams’ North Carolina Tar Heels the opportunity to begin NCAA play in close proximity to their fans and campuses while enjoying the benefits of a homecourt advantage that has seen Duke go 33-5 and UNC 23-1 in tournament games played in their home state. But according to Williams, that’s a small price to pay for doing what he believes is the right thing. “I think it’s very bad, embarrassing, shameful and not what we should have, so my first thought is not about ‘Oh gosh, if we win we don’t get to play in Greensboro,'” the Tar Heels coach said. “It’s a bigger issue than just that. That’s not the picture we want to send out about our own state. I’m just disgusted with the whole thing.” This year’s ACC tournament is scheduled to be played in Brooklyn, N.Y., so it’s not among the events affected by the exodus from North Carolina. Ten other championship games and tournaments, including football, were moved out of the state because of HB2. It was a decision commissioner John Swofford said was made only after months of discussion among members of the league’s Council of Presidents. “That wasn’t a singular conversation,” Swofford said. “We’d had those conversations back in May. We had conversations with a number of people here in North Carolina. That was just a culmination of conversations leading up to it and there was a time to make a decision that we had hoped at that time would not come. I thought the Council of Presidents vetted it extraordinarily well and in a very, very thoughtful manner.” Swofford said that the ACC delayed pulling its championships from the state as long as it possibly could in the hope that Gov. Pat McCrory and lawmakers would either repeal HB2 or come to a compromise satisfactory to both sides of the issue. It wasn’t until the NCAA made its decision that the league finally decided to act. “At times there was some encouragement that there would be (positive movement),” Swofford said at Wednesday’s basketball media day in Charlotte, which for whatever the reason was not relocated to another state. “But then it never happened.” Swofford said that the ACC’s decision on HB2 is “fundamentally consistent with what the league did with the Confederate flag in South Carolina” in 2009. He also expressed regret for the inconvenience that will be felt by fans, the affected venues and those who will lose income over the relocated events. The commissioner said that decisions on future championships remain up in the air, but are dependent on the state’s actions regarding HB2. The picture will likely become clearer after next month’s election. Regardless of how that turns out, Krzyzewski’s hopes are high that the ACC and NCAA tournament will return to North Carolina sooner rather than later. “If it’s changed, people will want to come back here,” he said. “(NBA commissioner) Adam Silver has already put that out. “I wish the tournament would be here because North Carolina is an amazing sports state, not just basketball-wise. We should be a hub, especially for amateur sports. We have so many great schools in our state.”