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March 28, 2016

Roy Williams

Houston, Texas

DAVE WORLOCK: Good afternoon and good morning, depending on where you are. We want to turn it over for the Q&A with North Carolina Tar Heels Coach Roy Williams.

We'll go ahead and take questions.

Q. Roy, I'm wondering if you could reflect back on the course of the season. What do you think the most valuable loss you had was in terms of providing you with good lessons?
COACH WILLIAMS: That's a good question. Needless to say, I haven't thought about it. I try to look at the losses and look at what the basic causes were.

I think each and every loss you learn something. I've always said you'd like to win when you play poorly and still get the win, but you can learn from that.

It's a fact that the kids, you're getting their attention a lot more after a loss. I think the Virginia game was the last loss. I think we gained something from that because we didn't feel that we played exceptionally well, but yet we had chances.

We learned something from a couple of effort plays that Virginia made. I think that was the one thing I can bring from that one.

The Duke game we lost here, it was very painful to everyone because we felt like we sort of had the game under control, sort of felt like we were in charge. All of a sudden the game is over with. We look up, they have one more point. A little bit of that same kind of thing, that game and the Virginia game, we knew we made some mistakes. We had to congratulate the other team, but we also made some mistakes that directly contributed to the losses.

Those last two are the ones I remember the most, and I think our kids got the most from them.

Q. Roy, some thoughts about Justin getting a chance to come home here and play in his backyard.
COACH WILLIAMS: Well, last night when we came back on the bus we congratulated everybody. I should say this morning. It was 3:00-ish this morning. I said, All right, guys, we always talked about if you play well, they let you come back and play some more.

Justin, where are we going to play this weekend?

Big smile on his face. Coach, I think it's called Houston.

I know he's excited about it. His family will enjoy it. They've been fantastic supporters of our team; traveled a lot to see the kids play. I know it will be a little bit easier on them, to say the least, with the game there in Houston.

Q. You mentioned this team is one of your favorite teams that you coached. What makes this team so special, in particular Marcus Paige?
COACH WILLIAMS: When you have a team full of seniors, not full, but three seniors like Marcus, Brice, Joel James, you build up such relationships. Four years, you can build great relationships with kids. You want them to feel rewarded.

I feel like we won 25, 26, 24, the first three years here, so they won 75 games in their first three years but we hadn't gotten the ring. Marcus said something in front of the team this year. Guys, we haven't gotten a ring since we've been here.

Trying to have dreams and goals for kids, seeing them reach those, how they made sacrifices to do those kind of things is special.

With Marcus particularly, the injury problems he's gone through for the last couple years, yet he's continued every day to try to be the best Tar Heel he could, best teammate he could, help us in every way.

Brice accepting my push and push and push for all those years. See what he's been able to blossom into.

Joel being one of the greatest stories in college basketball from a student-athlete standpoint makes them pretty special.

Q. When you talk about Brice, seeing the progress he made throughout his career, kicking up another notch this season, what did you see from him in the off-season? What kind of work did he put in?
COACH WILLIAMS: He has put in a lot of work. I'm always asking him to put in more. I really am. I've pushed him. I'm never satisfied with how much he's doing, but yet I've been able to step back and see how much he's improved every year.

Brice was not a McDonald's All-American out of high school. He was not selected in the top 25, but I think he's in the top 25 in his class right now.

I think it is a lot of hard work, a lot of handling my constructive criticism, a lot of handling of all the thing the coaches are trying to tell him to do every single day to make himself a better player.

The attention that he's gotten has given him more confidence. He's played better and gotten his intensity level to a level higher. He's trying to maintain that.

It's one of the things you love as a coach, is to see your players improve, improve, improve. Needless to say, he's done that for four years, and I'm as happy as I can be for him.

Q. Roy, how do you keep your guys in that balance between loose, having press conferences, taking this moment seriously?
COACH WILLIAMS: It's a battle that I know I fight. I don't know if other coaches fight it or not. But I want my guys to have fun, but I also believe you have to work really, really hard. So trying to find that balance. I don't want our guys hating coming to practice because of the work and sweat involved, because of how much I push them. I want them to have a little fun. There is a balance. I fight that all the time.

Guys, I love you when you laugh, but we didn't go as hard as we needed on that play. Or I love it that you guys are having fun, but there is a loose ball on the floor and we were reaching for it. I think the other teams might be diving for it.

I have that confrontation in my own mind all the time and I bring it out to them. I always say I want them to have fun, but the best way to have fun is to work your tail off and be successful.

Q. Roy, back to Justin. Can you talk about his growth when you first recruited him to where he is today.
COACH WILLIAMS: I just love the kid's game. He was in my camp as like a seventh grader. I walked through the gym, saw this skinny kid make this nice little pass. I stood there and watched him. He made a couple other really good plays. I'm leaving that gym and going to check another gym, and coach Steve Robinson came in. I said, Watch the little skinny kid. I forget what team it was now on the far court.

Coach Robinson saw him, liked him. That's where we first got into him. I think he's the only guy I have on scholarship that's ever attended my camp. He's been a breath of fresh air every day he's been here. He's tried to improve. His body makeup is not what you see because he is still thin. I'm not calling him skinny anymore by any means because he's worked hard. He has developed his game in every area.

I think he will eventually become a pure shooter. I think that's the next step for him to take. He's gotten better defensively. He's gotten to be better at seeing the big picture both offensively and defensively. When he develops and takes those next two or three steps, become as pure shooter, he's going to be the one of the best there is.

He helped us a great deal. He had a tough stretch early in the year, six or eight games where he was struggling. I took him out of the starting lineup against Boston College and told him he was going to play; he would still be important.

I think he had 20 that day. He's gone on quite a stretch run since then. His shooting percentages are up, numbers are up, defensive grades are good still. I couldn't be more pleased.

At the same time, I want more out of him because I believe there is going to be a step in there that one of these days he's going to all of a sudden wake up and make 40, 45% of those three-point shots, then you're talking about something that's extra special.

Q. What are your thoughts about playing in such a big facility like NRG?
COACH WILLIAMS: I have no idea. Haven't thought about it. How big is it?

Q. Pretty big.
COACH WILLIAMS: That's what I would say, too. It's a big place. (Laughter.)

2009 we won a national championship in Detroit. I think it was called the Ford Arena. It was pretty big, too. Still playing on the same court. I go back to Hoosiers. I tell them the court is the same distance, the rim is the same height, the free-throw line is the same distance, so we'll see how it works out when we get there.

Q. Roy, for you personally and for the program, what does it mean to reach this level again? North Carolina has done it so many times. Things are a little different right now in terms of the investigation going on. You've mentioned some of the criticism you've taken within the state, nationally. Does it feel different? Is there more validation when you go through something like that? How do you handle the ongoing investigation compared to the fact you're in the Final Four and you're playing basketball at the highest stage possible at the collegiate level?
COACH WILLIAMS: You hit it on the head yourself. You probably gave the best answer, because I would agree with everything you said.

It's different to what we had to go through. There were mistakes made. We said that freely. We're discouraged about it, sad about it. You can put any description there you want.

But the team, we really try to focus on playing basketball. We've tried to focus on getting Brice, Joel, Marcus Paige to have the best senior year they could possibly have. Those kids trusted, believed in us. It makes it even a little more special.

Here we are going to, as you said, college basketball's biggest stage. It doesn't validate anything because I don't think my integrity and credibility shouldn't have been in need of validating.

But it's been a tough time. At the same time, I'm very proud of the fact we have no allegations against men's basketball. I like that part. I don't like the part that my school, and it is very much my school. I went to school here. My wife went to school here. Our children went to school here. Hopefully I can live long enough to see my two grandsons go to school here.

It's not just a workplace for me. It's been painful, it's been hurtful. This group of kids have helped me focus on basketball. It's been a sweet, sweet run. Hopefully we can do some more. Coming down to Houston, hopefully people will focus on the game, my players, what they're accomplishing, not the other stuff we don't have any control over.

I'm really hopeful that will be the story down there.

Q. Roy, Marcus shared an anecdote last night, talking about how you told the team you didn't come this far just to come this far. If you can remember that message, what inspired that. What do you remember about telling the guys that last night?
COACH WILLIAMS: It was a neat deal. One of my former high school players that used to have a thought for the day when I was a high school coach. That was over 38 years ago. But two thoughts I liked. I didn't come this far just to come this far. The other one was pretty good, too.

I liked that. Brought it out to the team. Said, That's the way I feel and I hope that's the way you feel.

Needless to say, I'm going to try to call the young man and tell him I used it with the whole team, and it's about time he tried to help me a little bit instead of me taking care of him, running all those extra sprints, all those things I made him do.

Q. Who was that? Where did that expression come from?
COACH WILLIAMS: One of my former high school players.

Q. Is there a name?
COACH WILLIAMS: Yeah. It's Porky Spencer. That's just what we called him. Needless to say it was not his full name. We called him Porky. Porky Spencer played for me in high school. One of the great young men I was fortunate enough to coach. Comes to a lot our games. Makes that drive down from Black Mountain seven or eight times a year, and then gets in the car and drives right back. Make him famous today.

DAVE WORLOCK: Coach, congratulations again in advancing to the Final Four. Safe travels down to Houston. We'll see you in a couple days.

COACH WILLIAMS: Thank you very much.

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