State wont offer coaching job to UNCs Williams … but it once did

Believe it or not, the Tar Heels coach and noted Wolfpack hater was actually approached about the possibility of trading in his Carolina blue for NC State red

Eamon Queeney—The North State Journal
North Carolina head coach Roy Williams shakes hands and speaks to North Carolina State head coach Mark Gottfried before the college basketball game at PNC Arena in Raleigh

CHAPEL HILL — Some of the most impressive names in college basketball are already being mentioned as potential candidates for the NC State coaching job now that Mark Gottfried is officially out at the end of the season.North Carolina’s Roy Williams isn’t among them.That makes sense, since Williams is a Tar Heel born and bred who openly professes his dislike for the Wolfpack. And yet there was a time, believe it or not, that the Hall of Famer was actually approached about the possibility of trading in his Carolina blue for State red and coaching his most bitter rival.”I was offered the job at State,” Williams said, surprising everyone in the room at his regular weekly press conference Friday. “The original call was made to me a hundred years ago.”Williams’ revelation marked the first time he’s mentioned the interest shown in him by State. He didn’t even include it in his autobiography, written a few years ago with former sportswriter Tim Crothers.The UNC coach wouldn’t elaborate on when the offer came or who made it, but it’s likely to have happened when Jim Valvano stepped down in 1990. Williams had just finished his second season at Kansas at the time and had not yet established himself as one of the best in the business. It might also have happened six years later after Les Robinson was fired.Either way, Williams’ response to the offer was as predictable as the result of a first round NCAA game between a No. 1 and a No. 16 seed.”I said how the dickens can I come coach at State?” Williams said. “That just doesn’t make sense. But I was called and asked about it on two different occasions when I was at Kansas.”As little interest as Williams had in joining the Wolfpack, he said that the job is a lot better than those in the national media want to make it out to be — though he did acknowledge that whoever takes it will have his work cut out for him.”It’s a great job, a great school, a great program in the ACC with a lot of basketball tradition, Williams said. “But it’s a hard job. Every one in this league is a hard job. You’re going to have some spells where things don’t go as smoothly as you want them to go.”Gottfried had fallen onto some of those hard times after leading State to the NCAA tournament in his first four seasons there, including two Sweet 16 appearances. The Wolfpack is 14-13 overall, 3-11 in the ACC with six straight losses. Four of those defeats have come by 24 points or more.Because reports of his imminent demise were running rampant in the days leading the second of two meetings between the Tar Heels and Wolfpack on Wednesday, Williams said he wasn’t surprised when Gottfried’s dismissal became official less than 24 hours after UNC’s 97-73 victory at PNC Arena.”It’s a sad thing, because Mark’s whole family has got to go through it.” said Williams, who added that the time of the firing only made the situation worse.”I don’t think any college coach should be fired during the season,” Williams said. “It’s college basketball, it’s college sports. If you want to make a decision as an athletic director that’s your right. I don’t like that part of it. But I’m not the athletic director. I’m definitely not the athletic director at North Carolina State.”She had to make her decision, what she thought was best. It’s hard. Coaching is hard in this league. But firing the coach is not always the answer.”