A Hall of Fame college-basketball coach chronicles his rise from poor son of an alcoholic father to winner of two national championships at his alma mater, the University of North Carolina.
It’s difficult to take seriously a man who habitually eschews curse words in favor of epithets like “dadgum,” so it’s fortunate that Williams has built up serious credibility during his distinguished career as the head coach at UNC and the University of Kansas. Williams’ aw-shucks demeanor masks the inner fury of an intense competitor, a man so driven to win that he invents new competitions just to give himself another chance at victory. A near-perfect embodiment of the American Dream, he endured a hardscrabble youth dominated by a violent father—who ultimately abandoned the family—before climbing down out of a family tree filled with far more scoundrels than scholars. The scrappy Williams overcame those inherent disadvantages and carved out a niche for himself as a junior-varsity player at UNC, foregoing varsity scholarships at smaller schools, before giving up his playing career to focus on coaching. While on-court emotion and intensity account for much of his success, these attributes sometimes overpower the narrative. Williams’ unrelenting desire to convey his earnest belief in hard work and love for his family, friends and players (Tyler Hansbrough in particular) is as cloying as it is compelling—he opens by recalling bouts of insomnia prior to the 2009 season brought about because he so desperately wanted Hansbrough to win a championship in his senior season. Still, the legions of Carolina fans will relish stories—including the recruitment of Michael Jordan—from Williams’ days as an assistant under legendary coach Dean Smith; college-basketball fans will admire his tenaciousness; and Kansas fans may finally forgive ol’ Roy for leaving (well, maybe not).
Williams coaches far better than he writes, but he does spin a good yarn.