I’ve always wondered why Coach K is the most hated coach in the country. He runs a squeaky clean program, gives back to his community and profession, is a committed family man, a fervent patriot and a former captain in the Army. He seems, if anything, to be a model American: loyal, honest, hard working, ambitious. I know, I know, when a program maintains a high level of success with a nearly spotless record of conduct, you are hated for your attributes, despised for your lack of corruption. That’s why everyone loved it when the Patriots got caught, and perhaps why Tiger is falling so hard in the media these days.
So when people hate Duke, I understand it as a mixture of jealousy and contempt for success. Notre Dame football is sort of the same way (sort of). I can deal with people calling Coach K “Ratface” and comparing him to evil dictators and comically spelling his name wrong (making them look pretty ignorant, of course. Irony!). Just as Duke will continue to win at a high level under Coach K, people will hate him for being just so good.
My logical thoughts run askew, however, when I gaze down 15-501 toward Chapel Hill. There resides Roy Williams, one of the country’s best coaches and winner of two national titles at his alma mater.
Short pretext: I rarely “disrespect” teams for being good. As a Duke fan, that’d be hypocritical. I hate UNC with a passion, but could I deny Ty Lawson’s speed, Wayne Ellington’s jumper or Hansbrough’s awkward but astounding efficiency? No. I can’t sacrifice credibility by calling UNC’s stars what they aren’t: bad basketball players. (Sadly, Danny Green’s dance skills didn’t make above list).
But when I gaze dejectedly from the Dean Dome court to the pastel-blue-clad Williams, my eyes contract with rage and hatred swells from my bowels to my brain, my head gets light and the same burning question bursts from my lips: why does everyone seem to love this man?
For Roy Williams is guilty of the same things that makes Coach K the most despised college basketball coach. Here’s a sampling.
Remember Roy’s touching story in the Coke ad? That commercial, unlike K’s more direct spots for Chevrolet or Alltel, was forgiven because of its heartwarming message. Roy’s mother worked hard to provide him with a dime so he could buy a Coke (in a old-fashioned glass bottle, mind you) on the way home from school, like his other friends did. As Roy is such an “American Dream” success story, he should be able to take advantage of his fame, and make some money from Coke (although it seems he’s more of a Sprite guy.) He deserves these advertising deals. And that’s fine.
But do people think Mike Krzyzewski was born with a silver spoon in his mouth? Hardly. His parents were working class Polish immigrants in Chicago. Coach’s father even changed his name to avoid racial discrimination when looking for jobs. Nevertheless, Coach earned his place at West Point, played for Bobby Knight, and served in the military. That sounds like the American Dream to me. But K’s commercial appearances are slammed as money-grabs. What gives?
K and Roy even did an ad for Guitar Hero together! Although Coach Knight stole the show in that one.
Profanity and Image
Coach K works the refs hard. Fact. He also curses liberally during games. Check. But Roy Williams, has been guilty of using foul language as well. While “dadgums” and “frikkin’s” are his go-to phrases, the f-bomb has been to known to slip into his lexicon time and again. He also told Bonnie Bernstein, after losing the 2003 national title game to Syracuse, that he “didn’t give a s*** about North Carolina job”. And apparently, he still loves his KU Jayhawks.
These emotional outbursts, of course, are normal. Every coach does it, and some more than others. But hypocrisy runs rampant in the differing perceptions of Roy and K. Roy uses modesty and humility to create his image. (“I’m not the smartest guy around, but I’m not the dumbest either”). By spicing in the occasional curse word amidst all those lovable Southern affectations (“gosh darn it!”), Roy seems like a country boy who happens to be a great coach.
K, on the other hand, exudes professionalism and intensity. Could you imagine him doing something like Soulja Roy? It’d be like John McEnroe buying flowers for a line judge: it wouldn’t fit. But the little quirks that makes Roy so popular somehow reflect badly on the business-like Coach K.
Case in point: after beating Ohio State earlier this year, Roy had this to say about ranting at Marcus Ginyard at halftime:
“I chewed his rear end out probably the hardest I’ve ever got on him,” Williams said of the fifth-year senior. “If I’m going to chew him out, it scares the dickens out of the rest of the team. He’s one of my pets.“
One of your pets? Can you imagine the firestorm if Coach K said something like this? Maybe Roy’s “hardness” and shock-and-awe leadership tactics are the key. And that brings me to the final, and perhaps most telling point.
Let’s just go straight to the details of this one, shall we?
Late in the second half of UNC’s 103-64 romp over Presbyterian this past Saturday, Roy Williams heard a Blue Hose fan shouting at Deon Thompson on the free throw line. The heckler called out “Don’t miss it, Deon!” while the senior forward sank the shot. Coach Williams, upset at an opposing fan shouting at his players at the Dean Dome, had the man ejected from the stadium by police officers. Check out the video below, courtesy of WRAL.
Dan Wiederer of the Fayetteville Observer reported that Roy asked security to check if the man was in the correct seat, which he apparently was. The man was removed on suspicion of intoxication that has not been confirmed as of yet.
But wait a second—why on earth was Roy so bothered by a single fan, chanting a harmless taunt, while his team was up by 40 points? The Presbyterian Blue Hose now stand at 2-8—hardly a serious opponent or a rivalry game. Roy had no reason to get so fired up.
Shouldn’t a coach of an ACC contender focus on his own damn team? This incident is evidence of Roy’s megalomania and absurd shows of power. It’s one thing to call your player a ‘pet,’ or cite Michael Jordan and James Worthy as players better than your struggling freshman. Or to permit your star point guard to gamble on a team trip, or denigrate a former recruit in a book, then in a press conference, for ‘lying to you’ and choosing another school. Those are just coaching moves, right?
But to orchestrate the ejection of a harmless fan, especially when your team is dominating, is absolutely over the top! He actually looked at this guy and said, “Yeah, I’m talking to you!” before gesturing towards security. What, did the guy pull a DeNiro?
Wiederer’s original blog post wondered how the media would react if Coach K had pulled a similar stunt as Roy. The answer? It wouldn’t have happened. While the cavernous Dean Dome is pretty tame in such cupcake wins (do the wine and cheese make fans sleepy?), Cameron is loud and rocking for nearly every game. So it’d be hard for K to hear any taunts, innocuous or otherwise. Nor would he react. He’d be too busy, you know, coaching his own damn team.
And from personal experience, there are always opposing fans heckling Duke players on the line. My personal favorite was during the Montana game last year when a chubby kid yelled “You will not make the basket” before every Duke foul shot in an eerie monotone. Strange.
Is the media coverage of Roy’s mental weakness outburst a chink in his armor? Likely not. UNC fans will go on loving Roy and defending his every move. Like Coach K, he’s brought his supporters wins, banners and discounted Bojangles. Well, they don’t share that last one, but you catch my drift.
In a world where fans constantly forgive athletes and coaches for their wrongdoings, it’s nice to support a top-flight program with minimal controversy and an upstanding leader. While Roy continues to make a show of his power, Coach K will continue working hard to win—with class.
And remember everyone, when you’re in the Dean Dome, do as the cool people do: shut your mouth, and let the dad gums echo throughout the stadium.