Hall of Fame Kansas, UNC coach Roy Williams reflects on college hoops in NIL/portal era

Gary Bedore, The Kansas City Star on

Published in Basketball

Former Kansas and North Carolina men’s basketball coach Roy Williams has said many times he did not retire on April 1, 2021, because of radical changes in the sport and college athletics in general.

Though the 73-year-old Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer reiterates that’s still the case, he did concede in a Zoom call with media members last week that the paying of players through NIL and movement of players via the NCAA transfer portal have certainly altered the game he coached for 48 years, including 33 as a head coach.

“I knew NIL and the transfer portal were going to change college basketball,” Williams said in a media call set up to discuss his serving as honorary chairman at an upcoming Korn Ferry golf tour event May 30-June 2 in Raleigh, N.C.

“There’s no way in the world I thought it was going to change as dramatically and as quickly,” Williams added as quoted by the Raleigh News and Observer. “Some of it good, and a lot of it not good right now. When you are teaching your child to ride a bike, you walk beside them and hold the bike, and then you get training wheels and then you tell them to stay in the driveway and then you release them.

“We went from zero to 1 million and there are no incremental steps. And I always think that is bad, I really do, because you can’t change any mistakes.”

He continued: “I’m all for doing more things for the student-athletes and I think we had gotten tremendously more student-athlete friendly over the last 10 to 15 years. But these two changes (NIL and portal) here, back to back, changed it dramatically and I’m old-school. Commitment and loyalty and those things always meant a great deal to me.”

Williams told the media last week that despite NIL and the portal, college basketball will survive.

“I still love it, but it is different. And I’m not sure it’s for the better, either,” Williams said.


Another issue facing North Carolina’s program specifically is the future of the ACC. There’s talk North Carolina could be heading to another league sooner rather than later.

“So much has happened with college basketball and the conferences and no one saw this coming 10 years ago,” Williams, who coached at KU 15 seasons then UNC 18 to conclude his career, told the News and Observer. “Things have happened in college basketball and have done it so quickly, and we’re all chasing the dollar. And that’s the sad thing about it, that we’re losing some value. We still have a great deal of things going on that are really fun, but the conference alignment, realignment, it’s a sad, sad world because all those things will be decided in the courts. And that, to me, is the sad, sad state of college athletics.”

Williams on the day of his retirement announcement did explain his reasons for leaving college athletics after so many years. NIL and the portal did not top his list.

“Yes, I want to see my children and grandchildren more. I want to give Wanda (wife) more time. I still don’t know about getting in an RV and driving across the United States of America, though. I’m all-in for going to baseball parks with the grandkids. But the biggest reason we’re having this meeting is I don’t feel that I’m the right man any longer,” Williams said at the time.

“I love coaching, working with kids on the court, the locker room, the trips, the ‘Jump Around’ music, the trying to build a team. I will always love that, and I’m scared to death of the next phase. But I no longer feel that I’m the right man.

“I just never got the team this year (2020-21) where I wanted them to go. I just didn’t get it done. I didn’t get them to buy in and focus on the things that I think are really big in the game of basketball. We got better. All season long, I think we got better, but not to the level some of our (teams) have been. I didn’t push the right buttons.”

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