Roy explains why he left Berry on bench so long, timeout philosophy

Tuesday, the UNC coach offered a little insight into why he held his point guard out of action as long as he did against Duke on Friday and why he didnt call any timeouts when the Blue Devils made their decisive run

Anthony Gruppuso—USA Today Sports
Mar 10

CHAPEL HILL — North Carolina basketball coach Roy Williams was widely criticized for leaving point guard Joel Berry on the bench too long after picking up his fourth personal foul in last Friday’s ACC tournament semifinal loss to rival Duke. The Tar Heels led by as many as 13 shortly after Berry left the game, but trailed by seven when he finally reentered with just over five minutes remaining. Tuesday, at his pre-NCAA tournament media availability, the Hall of Fame coach offered a little insight into why he held his star player out of action as long as he did. “When he got his third (foul), I called him over and said ‘you’ve got to be smart, I’d like to have you in the game,” Williams said. “Joel told me, ‘I’m good.’ Well, he wasn’t good. It didn’t take very daggum long for him to get the fourth one and then he was so ticked off on the bench. “I got down in front of him and said ‘look, I need you to keep your head in. We need to get you back in the game.’ And he didn’t make me feel like his head was into it. Standing on that bench in Brooklyn didn’t show that he could handle it, so I left him out. “I told the staff if it ever gets past a one-possession game, then I’m going to put Joel in. (Duke’s lead) got to four, so I put him in. If it had happened three minutes earlier, I’d have done it then. I don’t think I’d have put him back in any earlier than the seven-minute mark.” The problem is, once he sent Berry to the scorer’s table to report back in with just over five minutes remaining, he had to sit there for two more possessions until play stopped to get back onto the court. By that time, the Duke lead was up to seven and the game was all but decided. “When I got him up to go to the scorer’s table, one of the coaches said ‘You want to call timeout to get him in?’ And I said no,” Williams said. “The reason I said no is that the ball was in Justin Jackson’s hands and Isaiah Hicks was posted up. I like that scenario. And what happened? Justin turned it over throwing into the post to Isaiah and they make a three. I could have called a timeout then, but I liked that scenario.” Speaking of timeouts, Williams was asked about his philosophy on calling them later in Tuesday’s press conference. Let’s just say the subject struck a nerve, because Williams’ response to the question was to tell the gathered media to “find something damn original to think about.” His answer to the question was essentially, “I call timeouts whenever I feel like it.” It took him four entertaining minutes to actually explain it, though. In the interest of context, here is the unedited transcript of what he had to say: “I’ve been criticized for 29 years for not calling timeouts. I’m still 5-10½. That part ain’t changing, either. My philosophy is the same daggum philosophy I’ve had for 29 years, I call ’em when I want to and I don’t care what the blankety-blank anybody says. “I’ll give you an example. Before half of you were born, in 1991, we’re playing in Madison Square Garden against Vegas and I jumped up to all a timeout and Kevin Stallings says ‘Coach we get one in 40 seconds.’ I said ‘I don’t care, we could be down eight more,’ because we had like a 20-point lead and all of a sudden Vegas cut it to 12 and they were scary. And my guys looked like they were panicking. “What I base it on, is it more important to call it then or to save it. My high school coach says ‘dang, if you weren’t so stupid and called a few more timeouts, you’d have won a few games. I’m going to call it the way I always have. “There were two timeouts during the course of (Duke’s) run, anyway. Timeouts are overrated, I believe. God almighty, we take a timeout every time the referee gets a heartbeat –12, 16, eight, four. “Why do we leave the huddle? Watch me. I keep my guys in the huddle less than any coach in basketball. I send them out. I’m tired of talking to them. There’s only so much I can say. So my policy, philosophy, process is I’m going to call a timeout when I think it’s the right thing to call. Seriously. “One of the coaches said (during Duke’s run) ‘you want to call a timeout?’ Justin Jackson’s got the ball on the wing and Isaiah Hicks is posted low with a little guy behind him. I like that, so I’m not going to take that away. “But I did … 1991, go look at it. I called one with 12 minutes to go in the half. I called one Friday. I called a timeout at 11, There were two timeouts there. I’m not going to change, because we’ve been pretty damn good. “I had a player, and this is more important than any of you guys (in the media), fans or all that internet crap, tell me that if you call a timeout I’m going to panic. I don’t want my players panicking. Everyday we practice, I put them down six with three minutes to go or up six with three minutes to go. Almost every day. So am I wasting all my time to call them over there, put our hands together and sing Kumbaya? “I’m going to call it when the hell I want to call it. I don’t care what you guys say, what anybody else says. It makes no difference. You haven’t been on the bench 1,000 games and I have. So that’s my philosophy. Talk all the hell you want, it doesn’t make a difference to me. We’ve won some games by not calling timeout. One player said if you call timeout I’m going to panic. That’s a helluva lot more important to me than anything you guys say or any plummer that’s putting something on Facebook. Think of it guys, I’ve coached 1,000 games. We’ve been in some tight situations and we’ve won some games. “That’s the whole thing, we’d talked already twice and then I called one with 11 (minutes left) because I didn’t like the looks on our guys’ face. That’s your answer. If I don’t like the look on my guys’ face, I’ll probably call a timeout. But we’ve been there before. Really. Every day … 86-80, unless we’re playing Virginia, because I make it 66-60. That’s the truth. If we’re getting ready to play Virginia, late game situation it’s 66-60, us ahead or us behind. Everybody else else it’s 86-80. One year we played Billy Tubbs when he was at TCU and I made it 96-90. So if my guys look nervous or confused or panicky, then I’ll call it at that point.” Williams was then asked what he thought of Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski calling timeout after his team made a basket just after point guard Joel Berry’s decisive fourth foul Friday. His answer provided some insight as to why it took 10 agonizing minutes before bringing Berry back into the game … “It’s what he believes in, what they believe in. I’ve never let what anybody else does stun me, because a guy’s got to feel comfortable in what he’s doing. I want to get the play stopped to get a guy out sometimes. “I’ve asked players. I’ve asked the ’05 and the ’09 team in the championship game: ‘Do you guys need a timeout?’ I’ve asked players when they’re going to the free throw line: ‘Do you need a timeout to rest?’ I do that all the time.”