Cancel that Uber, and raise the ceiling to the roof

Published 11:29 am Monday, April 10, 2017

UNC basketball coach Roy Williams didn’t win three national championships by being slow on the chalkboard.

No, Roy has outdone his mentor, the late legendary Dean Smith, by being one of the brighter bulbs on the Christmas tree.

Smith only won two titles, though in total Final Four trips he should have had more (Curse you, Bobby Knight! – I’m not going to blame that lost title in ‘81 on the Reagan assassination attempt!).

Roy said at the pre-Final Four press conference that the Heels had better not have been looking past Oregon in their first game because if they did, they’d be taking an Uber back to Chapel Hill. Since I don’t live in Uber territory here in the Roanoke-Chowan – where you can just dial up a vehicle for anything from transportation to picking up your groceries – I’m left to guess that Williams would’ve put the whole bunch on a 20-mule team if it hadn’t been for those free-throw rebounds last Saturday.

Williams became the sixth coach to win at least three NCAA championships Monday night when the Heels knocked off Gonzaga 71-65 in the title game. Only Wooden, Krzyzewski, Rupp, Knight and UConn’s Jim Calhoun have won as many or more. That total gives Williams one more championship in 14 seasons leading the Tar Heels than Smith had in 36.

Smith passed away over two years ago at age 83 and his record speaks for itself, making him one of the most revered figures in college athletics. In those 36 years on the bench he won 879 games, but he meant so much more to those who played and worked for him.

That includes Smith’s long-time UNC junior varsity and later varsity assistant coach: Williams. Now with his latest NCAA title, folks are trying to measure the two together.

“I don’t think Roy Williams should ever be put in the same sentence with Dean Smith, I really don’t,” Williams said Monday night. “I think Coach was the best there’s ever been on the court,” he continued, “and he was an even better person. And so it (the comparison) is a little staggering.”

Someone who never played on Williams’ jayvee team was Michael Jordan. Roy was, however, an assistant to Smith when “His Airness” came thru Carmichael Auditorium.

Last year, you may also recall, Jordan was part of the 35-strong UNC player alumni who attended the Villanova game. He even nodded props to the Wildcats’ Chris Jenkins for stroking the game winner, champ-to-champ.

This year, Jordan opted to remain away from Phoenix, claiming superstition and not wanting to jinx the team. But later he did send Williams a post-game text where he probably suggested a new slogan.

Jordan took a lot of grief last winter for a remark he made right before the second Duke game, promoting UNC football, when instead of probably meaning to say “the sky is the limit”, he declared, “the ceiling is the roof”.

Maybe Jordan knew what he was talking about all along, because that little malapropism has now become emblazoned on apparel, the newest bit of Carolina sports marketing to celebrate the latest title:

“Ceiling … Roof … Championship Banner”

I guess Jordan’s retired UNC jersey isn’t hanging in the rafters of the Smith Center for nothing; you know, up on the roof.

But back to Williams, he says he enjoys the Masters golf tournament, going on amongst the azaleas and the pines in Georgia this weekend. He further said he even plans to play a round or two at exclusive Augusta National in a break from basketball and recruiting later this spring.

I just hope instead of a Green jacket, somebody reserves him a coat made of tablecloth blue plaid.


Gene Motley is a Staff Writer at Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact him at or 252-332-7211.