Roy Williams Retirement: Five of His Greatest Moments With the North Carolina Tar Heels

Published 04/02/2021, 10:00 AM EDT

Not many schools have the privilege of retaining a head coach for more than a decade in college basketball. The North Carolina Tar Heels have been very special in that regard, as they’ve had two of the best. Since Roy Williams has announced his retirement, let us take a look at his legendary career. 


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Roy Williams proved to be the perfect successor to take over Dean Smith’s reign at UNC. Smith took over as the Tar Heels’ head coach in 2003 and brought home three national championships during his impressive stint. 

After 18 seasons of dedicating his life to the UNC Tar Heels, Roy Williams has called the curtain on his successful career. He has stepped down as the head coach of North Carolina which marks the end of an era. 


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Such a moment should be celebrated by looking back at some defining moments from the past. So here are the five greatest moments from Roy Williams’ career.

The five best moments from Roy Williams’ North Carolina Tar Heels career


  • Winning the first national championship

The first one is always the sweetest. Likewise, Roy Willians guided UNC to the national championship in 2005, after just two years of taking charge as the head coach.

The Tar Heels defeated Illinois 75-70 in the championship game and ended their season with a 33-4 record. This marked the first milestone in Roy Williams’ promising stint with UNC.

“They took me for a heckuva ride. What this was was a victory for North Carolina’s TEAM. … I’m speechless. I usually talk my rear end off but I’m speechless,” Williams reacted after the win. 

  • Enshrined into the Hall of Fame

Not many people can boast about being enshrined into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. However, Roy Williams was one of the most deserving candidates and he was inducted into the Hall of Fame on September 7, 2007, for his coaching heroics. 

The best part about Williams’ HOF induction was that he was on stage with the legendary Dean Smith and Larry Brown during the ceremony. 

  • A second NCAA title added to Williams’ resume

The North Carolina Tar Heels did it again. Roy Williams proved that consistency is the king as all his hardwork finally paid off in 2009. He was on top of the world yet again, four years after winning his first national championship as a head coach. 

The Tar Heels saw off Michigan State in the championship game and began the celebrations at the Ford Field in Detriot. 

“Roy Williams is not that good,” Williams joked after the victory. “But, boy, Ol’ Roy’s got some big-time players and that’s what it takes.”

  • Tying Dean Smith’s winning record

As far as UNC’s history is concerned, Roy Williams is the successor to Dean Smith. There’s no second thought to that statement as Smith was the master and Williams was the disciple. 

So when the disciple matches the master’s record, it is something special, isn’t it? That’s exactly what happened on December 30, 2019, as Roy Williams won his 879th game, tying Dean smith’s overall record. 

This took place at the Smith Center, and things got emotional all around. Williams was presented with a photo of him and Smith by the latter’s son Scott. 

This took place after Dean Smith’s passing, and his presence would have made the moment even memorable.

  • The third and final conquest with the North Carolina Tar Heels

April 3, 2017, went down as a special date in the UNC Tar Heels’ history. Roy Williams led the team to its sixth national championship, and the third in his individual career. 

The Tar Heels defeated the Gonzaga Bulldogs 71–65 and began the celebrations at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona in front of 76,000 fans. This victory also meant that Williams had one more NCAA title than Dean Smith, but the former was very humble after the achievement. 


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“I don’t think I should be mentioned in the same sentence with him. “But we’ve got three because I’ve got these guys with me and that’s all I care about right now, my guys,” Williams told the media. 

Overall, it has been a sensational ride for Roy Williams. He began his head coaching career with the Kansas Jayhawks but found true success upon joining the North Carolina Tar Heels. 


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After 33 seasons and 903 wins (fourth-most in D-I history), Williams finishes his career and will go down as an all-time great! 

Read Also: Seven Teams Who Dominated NCAA Basketball With Unbeaten Championship Runs



Arjun Athreya

2167 articles

Arjun Athreya is a senior writer at Essentially Sports and has been contributing since early 2020. Having developed an avid interest in sports at an early age, he pursued a Journalism degree and graduated from Madras Christian College. Arjun manages the Golf division and its content, and primarily covers news pertaining to the NBA as well.