UNC coach Roy Williams, Tar Heels at ACC Operation Basketball
Q. Coach, you led the ACC in scoring last year, averaging more than 85 points a game, and I suspect you would have liked to have scored more. What does it take offensively and defensively to play at your tempo, especially many of your opponents want games in the 60s and 70s, and can this year’s team push the tempo that old Roy would like?
ROY WILLIAMS: It’s hard. It is hard. The young guys come in, boy, Coach, I really want to run, and they get there and find out it’s a lot harder to do it than it is say they want to do it. For us, we do like to play at a fast pace. I’ve never had a team play at as fast of a pace as they want them to.
This year’s team, what I’ve emphasized to them so far is last year could have been our best three-point shooting team ever with Cam and Luke and Kenny, Coby. Those guys are gone, so we’ve got to be a lit better on the defensive end of the floor, a little better on the backboards, a little better at defending around the rim, scoring around the rim. But the biggest thing is we’ve got to run and make sure we can score some in the open court. For us, it’s get the ball in the point guard’s hands and him to push it as fast as he can and get our big guys.
So far in practice, Armando and Walker and definitely Harrison, those big guys have really run the floor nicely for us. We’ve got to keep doing that. So you’ve got to emphasize that every day so we can see if we can get the game at our pace as opposed to somebody else’s pace.
Q. Coach, just what you can say about the makeup of this year’s team, four freshmen coming in, two grad transfers, just what they bring to the mix of what you already have and what you’ve seen so far.
ROY WILLIAMS: It’s been a hard preseason. We’ve had eight practices, and we’ve only had — the most we’ve had is 11 guys that have been able to do the whole practice. We’ve got all of the aches and pains and some very serious injuries that we’re trying to get over. So it’s been difficult to see so far.
So far, Garrison and B. Rob have been two of our best players. They’re two of our most experienced players. They’re trying to drag the other guys along with them. Cole has been a guy that wins almost every sprint, won the 12-minute run. One day we had maybe the toughest conditioning test, and he finished and made all his times, and guys had to make up five times, and he ran that with them and won those too. So he’s gotten the respect by doing the little things, the tough things.
But those three guys have so far been the leaders of our team, and now we’ve got to get Andrew Platek healthy. We’ve got to get Christian and Justin out there on a full-time basis and knowing what we’re doing. For us, it’s got to be getting healthy is one of the biggest things, but these two guys up here with me have done the best job so far for sure.
Q. Question is for Garrison and Brandon. Can you talk about what your preparation was over the summer knowing that you have to have a different mentality being more go-to guys than role players from last year?
GARRISON BROOKS: Me personally, I would say the biggest thing for me would be just leading by example and trying to be on time and work as hard as I possibly can just to show other guys that you have to work the same way I’m going to work to kind of step up to my level.
BRANDON ROBINSON: For me, it was definitely the little things. Coach always preaches about the little things. Definitely, like Garrison said, leading by example, and me always trying to get in extra work in the weight room, trying to get guys to come with me in the weight room and get extra work in, and get in before practice, after practice, getting extra work in with the coaches.
So just always preparing and just leading by example is my biggest thing.
Q. I got a chance to ask Garrison. I wanted to ask Robinson and Coach as well. How much of you guys’ competitions in practice get into you guys’ philosophy as far as competing and as far as trying to win everything? Whether it’s every little drill, every one-on-one. How has that been helping you guys’ chemistry so far?
BRANDON ROBINSON: I think everything we do in practice is about competing. It’s nothing that we do that it’s like you lose and you just move on. If we have a drill in practice, at the end of practice, you’re going to run for it if you lose. And I think from the weight room to the classroom, everybody in our program knows that we compete. So we compete trying to get better grades with each other, compete trying to lift heavier weights than each other.
Coach is a big competitor, and he always jokes around how he and Coach Rob compete about little things. He pulls his keys out before Coach Rob to open up the door. So I think everyone in our program has a competitive nature.
ROY WILLIAMS: You got anything?
GARRISON BROOKS: I already answered it.
ROY WILLIAMS: Did you need anything from me? I think B. Rob’s right. Everything we do is competitive. At the end of the day you win, you don’t run. If you lose, you do run. The game is competitive, but I also think life is competitive. So we compete in everything we do, and everything there is a consequence. If you lose, you don’t get the rewards, and if you do, you do get the rewards.
Q. For Coach Williams, at the start of the season, taking out the guys you said that wouldn’t be ready — so Anthony, Jeremiah, and Sterling — how do you see the rotation shaping up so far?
ROY WILLIAMS: I really haven’t. There’s been six or seven guys that stand out because their experience or their play, and that’s been Cole, B. Rob, Christian, Justin, Garrison, Armando. So those guys have been on the white team just about every day. Walker really does some good things, and Andrew has been hurt a little bit. Those two guys really put in a lot of work too. So they’re going to get some reps as soon as they get healthy, or in Andrew’s case, as soon as he gets healthy enough.
We still — Sunday we had — from Sunday, it was October 6th, we play on November 6th. So we still have a month to worry about that part.
Q. Question for the players. In watching some of Cole’s games in high school, he has a unique ability to attack the basket. Sometimes he shoots. A lot of times he dishes. Brandon, as a jump shooter, how does that help you when he dishes to you beyond the line? Especially Garrison outside, how does that change your life as a post player to possibly get a Cole Anthony pass?
GARRISON BROOKS: I would just say, just seeing him dish all the time in high school, it just helps me to get prepared, to get the ball, even if he passes it, to kind of make him look good for those flashy passes he has.
BRANDON ROBINSON: I think the one thing we preach about in pre-practice with Coach Rob is always being shot ready. That’s something I’ve been working on a lot, always being shot ready when Cole has the ball. The pass could come to you at any time, so always be shot ready and always expect the pass to come to you when he has it.
ROY WILLIAMS: And these would be the two that have most benefited from Cole’s ability to pass. I think Garrison has gotten more lob dunks in the first eight practices than you did maybe all year last year. So they’re aware of his passing ability, and B. Rob is always shot ready.
Brian, don’t you laugh. I remember when you played, boy. I remember that too.
Q. This is for Garrison and Brandon. Just what you can say about your leadership roles elevating through the process. We see that in North Carolina every single year somebody moves on, and within a couple years it’s who’s going to step up next, but there’s always those guys who have gotten time. Just what you can say about the experience you’ve had and what it does for you leadership-wise now.
GARRISON BROOKS: It’s been a learning experience since we had Luke, Cam, and Kenny.
GARRISON BROOKS: For me personally, it’s been like a learning experience since we had Luke, Kenny, and Cam leave campus. So I think that they kind of instilled the things that are important — being on time, would being very hard, and learning how to talk to everyone. Like me and B. Rob, just kind of like keep on with what they’ve already taught us and kind of mention what we want to do and what we’ve learned as leaders from like hearing them.
BRANDON ROBINSON: Each and every year since I’ve been here, it’s been different type of leadership styles. As the years go on, you see these different leadership styles change based on the team that we have. I think me and Garrison’s leadership styles are different from Kenny, Luke, and Cam, just because based on the team that we have, having new guys come around.
So like he said, we’re taking in things that we saw them preach to us, and we’re preaching to the new guys that we have here but still trying to do it in our own way and be ourselves.
Q. Coach, you were needling your players just a few minutes ago. Have you always had that type of rapport with your kids over the years? If not, did you find a point in your career in which it was comfortable for you to give as much as you get?
ROY WILLIAMS: It feels very comfortable, yes. It’s something I enjoy kidding guys. I enjoy pushing guys. I’ve got to be able to take it a little bit along with that, but I’ve always said I was fortunate enough to help recruit and help coach Michael Jordan, and the only thing he ever did better than play was talk, and he used that to his advantage.
So you have to be careful because there is a fine line that you can go over when you’re needling someone — I’ll use your word there. I do try to push guys, and sometimes I’ll make it humorous, but they also know there’s a point to it. But I don’t mind taking it a little bit as well. It’s okay.
Q. Coach, the last three years you’ve led the ACC in rebounding. Two of those years, Luke Maye had a lot to do with it. I think you’d agree he’s arguably one of the better defensive rebounders in school history. Where are those ten rebounds a game that he got going to come from, especially on the defensive end?
ROY WILLIAMS: These two guys up here. They’re up here for a reason. But Garrison is rebounding the ball even better. B. Rob’s understanding we want him to go to the boards. Again, I’ll say Armando and Huff and Walker and Sterling, when he gets back, are going to understand that too.
But I think rebounding is the most important factor of the game. I really do. You get the ball, and I get the ball. You get the ball, and I get the ball. The only way to break that is if I get an offensive rebound and don’t allow you to get an offensive rebound. Then that means I’ve got one more possession. So I think that’s something we preach a lot and emphasize a lot. So I hope we do it well.
Q. Coach, speaking from media day, one of your players — I can’t remember who it was — but he said that you always mention Coach Smith. How important is it to keep Coach Smith’s legacy even through you and keep his name for the players?
ROY WILLIAMS: The guys that I have on my team now never saw Coach Smith coach a game live. I made that statement, and my wife said some of the guys said who you’re coaching right now weren’t even born when you started coaching, at North Carolina even, much less Kansas.
I do think he’s the greatest coach that ever was. People say that your numbers are as good or whatever, but when I talk about he’s the greatest coach that ever was, I thought he did it on the court. As much as I try to keep relationships and keep aware of former players, current players, and what they’re doing personally and everything, I’m not as good as Coach Smith. So I want to set them a high standard.
I enjoyed calling Garrison a couple weeks ago, the fact that I’d been — I’m a fan. So I go to the drug store, CVS in Concord, and there’s a basketball magazine, and his mug’s on the front. So I called him just to tell him to tell his mom don’t buy that down in Alabama. Wait and get up here and buy it up here. It’s got his picture on the cover.
But that’s not the effect that Coach Smith had on guys, but I do like to know that there’s a tremendous relationship off the court, and Coach Smith was the best there ever was at that.