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March 20, 2009North Carolina head coach Roy Williams spoke Friday afternoon in Greensboro about his team's NCAA Tournament second round opponent, LSU, and what the Tar Heels will need to do to advance to the Sweet Sixteen for the third straight year.
Q. Is there an update on the status of Ty Lawson?
WILLIAMS: "I don't know. Now we can go to the questions. The plan is to have him practice a little or a lot---just depends on how well it goes. That will be the first test. Then at 11:30 tonight we'll have the second test. Because by that time we'll know whether there's going to be any swelling or not. So he has to get through the first that he can do it (practice). Get through the second without any swelling and see how he feels tomorrow. So it will be a game time decision more than likely."
Q. Would you talk about your impressions with Marcus Thornton, maybe what you saw him do yesterday?
WILLIAMS: "What I saw him do yesterday was scary. I followed LSU's team this year because of how much I think of Trent (Johnson) and the job that he's done. But if I'm reading the propaganda right, there were seven games that he had been over 30 (points) this year, so yesterday was eight. But it was. He can post you up. He shoots threes, drives you to the basket. Makes free throws. Gets offensive rebounds. So the impression I had from that game yesterday was scary. Then I started really reading the material and looking through the stat sheets of what he had done in the other games and that is probably still the best way to describe it."
Q. Usually at this time of year, freshmen are kind of tailing off a little bit. What is it about Ed Davis that he seems to be going in the opposite direction and really starting to improve. And how important is it to you guys that this is happening now?
WILLIAMS: "I think he's been improving throughout the course of the whole year, and I've been very lucky that I've had some freshmen who have played great basketball in tournament time in the past. But I think having Tyler (Hansbrough) and Deon (Thompson) in the starting lineup and carrying the load has allowed Ed to come along at a comfortable pace for him. We've pushed him every single day in practice. He's been good all year. He was good in Maui. But he hasn't had to carry the load. He hadn't had the major responsibility because of those other guys being there."
"You'd probably have to ask him how comfortable of a freshmen year it's been for him, who knows. But I think he's worked extremely hard every day in practice, and we've encouraged him to do the things we've asked him to do, and hopefully we'll continue playing well like he has recently."
Q. Going on the premise that with each day you stay off an injury or don't play with it, it gets a little bit better. And the fact that Bobby (Frasor) and Larry (Drew) have done pretty good jobs so far since Ty's been out, is there a temptation to even if he's available to play tomorrow to try to make it through tomorrow's game without using him so that if you do need it you can put him in. But if you don't you'll have him more healthy and rested for the next round?
WILLIAMS: "No, huh-uh. And try to take this in the right way. There was some thought process against Radford. A 1 seed against a 16 seed because we're more gifted. That doesn't mean we're going to win the game. But we were more gifted and there was some thought process at that point."
"I've never, ever been in an NCAA Tournament that I didn't think every round after that first round was going to go down to the wire. So trying to be sort of like sand bagging in golf. I mean, you throw a few strokes here and there, and when you get ready to play somebody, your game's not there. The fear for me is number one, that we have to play well tomorrow or it doesn't make no difference how Ty's toe feels. If I'm at Wilmington at Wrightsville Beach, I don't give a darn about Ty's toe at that point."
"So for us it is not a consideration. It was a consideration during the ACC tournament. There is no question about that. And again, please put it the right way so it doesn't sound like I was overlooking Radford, but we were more gifted than them. So there was some thought process at that point but not now."
Q. Danny didn't have a great shooting game by any means yesterday. But he hit the three and did score 15 points. You've seen kids go through slumps many times. Do you get the sense maybe he's starting to come out of it or on the brink of coming out of it?
WILLIAMS: "I think he did the things that he needed to do yesterday and that is get to the backboards and help us there, and make other plays and not be concerned about whether his jump shot was going in. I think that's the easiest way to work out of something in basketball is realize you can do a lot of other things to help you help your team more."
Q. Can you talk about two things, you know, teams that have had success against your team this year have been able to get penetration at the point, but needs to stop that against LSU. Talk about the challenge that Chris Johnson, probably LSU's only tall defender in the back, the advantage he has as a big, tall lean guy that can get up and down the court?
WILLIAMS: "He (Johnson) does have the build that enables him to block shots from a distance. He can take the contact and his arms are so long and he has such good timing he can still block the shots. It helps their team because if they gamble a little bit and get out of place and the guy takes it to the basket, they know they have him back there to block some shots. And he does have the ability to run the floor and get involved. The best part, took two outside shots yesterday and made both of them trying to do things that he can't do."
"The first question is we as every other team in the country gets hurt by dribble penetration. And the games that we have lost we've been hurt by badly. So that is a concern for us against a team that has two or three guys that can put the ball on the floor and take it to the basket."
Q. In 2005 you're able to bring Marvin (Williams) along slowly and that worked out well. Are there any similarities with Ed this year? Did you learn anything with dealing with that circumstance in '05 that's helped you?
WILLIAMS: "I've been around a long time. I've had a couple of those scenarios in the '90s, also. But they're completely different players. Marvin was a perimeter player in a big guy's body that had the versatility to play the three spot or four spot, at times even played the five spot for us. Gave us instant offense off the bench. Eddie is more defensively rebounding, blocking shots kind of player. Both of them wonderful kids who want to be coached and enjoy being on the big time team and don't feel like they've got to get 35 shots a game."
Q. I might be getting the figure wrong. I think you said Ty told you he'd have to tell you to be 90% to play against Duke. Is that the figure tomorrow or would you accept something a little lower?
WILLIAMS: "You know, if I say that he'll hear it and say it even if it's not true. So it doesn't make any difference. It's a little different now because I've got the information to go by of practice today. You know, at that point everybody thought it was just going to be one of these 24-hour things."
"When we had pregame meal, I didn't think he was going to play the day of the Duke game, but he went the arena, went to the Smith center and starts moving up and down. Said it felt good, trainer said he looked good, and that was it. But I think today I'll have more concrete evidence or at least being able to see it with my own eyes a little bit more."
Q. Not I know talking about Ty specifically, but when you consider every team that's either won a national title or played for one in the past few years has had a pro point guard, Derek Rose, Mario Chalmers, Mike Connolly, Toryn Green, am I overanalyzing it or is it important to reach if you're going to go that far to have a pro point guard?
WILLIAMS: "It's important to have a really, really good, I don't know if it's -- Derrick Phelps at North Carolina won it in '93, and I don't know that Derrick ever played in the NBA. (Former Kansas guard) Adonis Jordan took us to two Final Fours and never played in the NBA. So I would agree with the whole idea but I wouldn't put the pro thing in there. I'd say you've got to be really good. And if you have a really good point guard, you have a better chance, yeah."
Q. You guys really appear to have a physical advantage in the post with (Tyler) Hansbrough being as big and strong as he is, and Johnson being so rail thin. Are we making too big a deal of that or do you feel that's the case?
WILLIAMS: "I still think it's North Carolina against LSU. Never Nervous Purvis before you were born, probably, he took Louisville, and he got out on the court and beat your rear end. So I don't know I'd say the physical part of it. If you you want me to make it, I would say you are overanalyzing it. We had Brandan Wright a couple of years ago that, you know, he makes the post player Johnson youngster look like Arnold Schwarzenegger. So it depends on can you play or not play? And he can play. And Tasmin (Mitchell) gives him a load inside and they've got some guys off the bench that can do some things, too."
Q. Coaches like to say that crowds don't win games, but North Carolina is 26-1 playing postseason in the state of North Carolina. That's statistically more than a coincidence. So how does it help you be close to home?
WILLIAMS: "Every one of those teams were really good, and that's the best thing. Of course it has to help, but I do really understand. I was sitting on the bench with the one, okay, on black Sunday. So don't tell me the freaking building wins the game, penn's players beat our players. I was sitting on the bench at Kansas where everybody said if they just win two games they'll go to the Final Four because they're going to Kemper Arena. Well, Virginia beat our tails."
"You can put any number on there you want, but I still feel like you've got to play. I've never seen a building beat me yet. Never seen the crowd win the game for me yet. It's got to be the players playing the game. You know what that is. But you could convince me it was more important if all those North Carolina teams weren't very good."
"Most of the time those North Carolina teams were going to win wherever. I mean, one of those years I think we played -- well, I'm too old for that. But we played Utah in Utah. You know, the building didn't beat us, North Carolina's players beat Utah's players. It was during that time period. It was the year after 'Black Sunday' (in 1980). So it is something that helps. You can put any value on it you want to. But the building doesn't beat you, it's the players."
Q. You spoke fondly of Coach (Trent) Johnson. Noticed a couple days ago you exchanged a warm greeting with him. Do y'all have a specific history on or is it just a normal coaching channels?
WILLIAMS: "I think guys who are reprobate sort of socialize more with other reprobates. And Trent fills that category, I guess that means I do, too. No, I've been around him a lot in the summers, some of the trips, some of the recruiting. You know, knew when he worked with Mike Montgomery, and Mike's a good friend. You sort of gravitate to somebody that is as low as you are in life, so Trent and I get pretty close. We over married, I can tell you. Especially him."
Q. The low scoring game at the Meadowlands when you were a North Carolina assistant against LSU. If you remember anything about those two?
WILLIAMS: "I remember going to play LSU in Baton Rouge. And playing them down there in about 1985. Of course I remember '84 when John Tudor tried to block Kenny Smith's shot and broke his wrist when we were 17-0. But to play the game at Baton Rouge when we played with Shaq and Stanley Roberts and Chris Jackson. The thing I remember about that one is their starting lineup a few years later signed contracts worth $69 million, and our starting lineup signed a contract worth $210,000."
"But I've always enjoyed LSU as a school. It's been one of my favorite schools from Billy Cannon on back. And I know that probably doesn't mean anything to anybody in here, but he was the first professional football player that I really saw and said God, this guy's really good. So following that part of it. I think we had some great games. You know, they made a tremendous run to the Final Four in 1981, I guess, when they were probably the -- I'd hate to guess -- 6 or 7 seed."
Q. That was 1986 you're talking about they were the lowest seed?
WILLIAMS: "I think they're still the lowest seed to ever make it to the Final Four. Weren't they in the Final Four in 1981?. But they were in the other bracket, we played Virginia, and they played Indiana."
Q. Obviously a building can't win you a game and neither can a floor. But a year ago you're at the RBC with all those decals. It became quite the joke among the players in the program after the year. Now you walk on out and you're one of these sites that doesn't have one of those decals everywhere. When you walked out there, how pleased were you with that?
WILLIAMS: "I heard about it several weeks ago. A reporter called and asked for a response, so I gave him a response. But the coolest thing was that last year I told one of the girls that was working with the NCAA, I said, if I look on TV and watch a football game and they show me where the first down line is, you know, and those players don't see it, why can't we super impose any logo we want to on this. But be sure to do one thing. Don't tell them it was my idea because they are not going to take the idea of a coach."
"So I think it was you guys, media, TV people. It was a very unsafe thing. There's no question. I mean, they did some clips on it with guys slipping and sliding around. It was a lawsuit waiting to happen. So I congratulate the NCAA for doing as many things as they can to get rid of it. And I'm glad that we were involved in it, because I do think that it was a lawsuit waiting to happen. Or even more importantly, it was an injury waiting to happen. But it wasn't old Roy that did it, but it certainly got a lot of attention. So I was happy to do it."
Q. I have a Ty question that I don't think is about his toe. Can you talk about his ability to play under control at such a high rate of speed, and what the team lacks when he's not in there?
WILLIAMS: "You know, I've been a college coach 31 years, 21 years as a Head Coach. I've never had a player that can accelerate at that speed. Everybody can accelerate, but there's not a lot of difference in some guy's accelerations and just jogging. He can get it from 0 to whatever, as fast as anybody I've seen with the ball. He can run past people dribbling it when they're running. He puts tremendous pressure on the other team's defense to make sure they get back."
"That, in itself, takes them off the offensive boards a little bit because you have to be worried about sprinting back so you're not going to send people to the offensive boards. So it's a great weapon. It's been part of our philosophy for a long time. It's just that he does it better than anybody I've ever coached."
Q. With a team loaded with All Americans and the tradition, how do you keep everyone happy?
WILLIAMS: "We have really good kids. I know that's probably not the kind of material you want to on answer that question. We really do have good kids. When we recruit them we tell them we're going to try to get other really good players with you. It's not we're recruiting and you you're going to play 35 minutes a game. Today is practice number 83, and tomorrow's game, what are we? 29-4. So it's 33. So we've had 33 games and 83 practices. I tell the kids all the time you get better in practice and have more opportunities to get better there than you do in games anyway."
"When we recruit we tell them we're going to try to get really good players around you. You're going to be challenged every day. If you really want to be the best player you can be, you should accept that challenge. The other thing is that we feel like we've got a chance every year to be one of those teams that's sitting up here, and we try to promote that with the kids, too."
Q. What are your memories of leading and apprehensions of taking such a step forward. I know you decided you wanted to be a college coach. Working with Coach Smith was the ideal scenario for you. What about apprehension or self-confidence, were you convinced you were ready to do that?
WILLIAMS: "I was apprehensive. I think I've been that way in every move I've ever made. I was apprehensive. I got out there and I'm thinking what am I doing? I don't have enough money to feed my family. I had some really good kids that a couple of years later played for the state championship. So it was some apprehension there. I don't know that it was ever a confidence thing. As every coach you always have doubts at certain points. But I've been pretty confident throughout my entire life that I could get kids to play together, and I could get them to play pretty hard."
"Going to Carolina was a big time security blanket named Dean Smith. I thought even if I screw it up he's still going to help me out. I had apprehension when I left and went to Kansas as a Head Coach. Almost backed out of it during the meeting with the committee the night they offered me the job and I accepted. Needless to say I had well-publicized apprehension a couple of times about coming back. So that's my nature."
"But I love to coach in high school. I loved every bit of it except one thing, I wanted to spend my entire day devoted towards a basketball program. And I felt like I cheated all those guys and girls that I had in health and physical education because that wasn't the biggest thing to me. I had to struggle with that. We certified everybody in the American Red Cross standard first aid course that came to the school, so I felt like I helped them with something. But that's about it."
Q. Given that Ty could be just a game time decision, or will you just simply proceed with Bobby being the starter to avoid the uncertainty there?
WILLIAMS: "I maybe not understand you right, let me answer you this way. If Ty can go, he's probably going to start because he deserved that through 30 games. I have to remember what our record is through 30 games. Generally in my mind I've always thought that an injury shouldn't take somebody out of the starting lineup. And if he can go, my guess is he would be better starting as opposed to sitting over there on the bench and letting it stiffen up after the warm-up. Is that where you were aiming?"
Q. Tyler said that J.J. called him last night and congratulated him on breaking the record. I just wanted your thoughts on that. It seemed like a pretty classy thing to do?
WILLIAMS: "I hadn't heard about it. We met for breakfast and went over the clips and personnel. I'm sure I said hello to him, but that's all I said to him. I think it is something that doesn't surprise me. J.J. his senior year was a year we really had a great run. I was fortunate to be involved in some "Coach of the Year" deals and Final Four, and we ended up attending two or three breakfasts or brunches and meetings together because he was the Player of the Year. I got to know him more that time than I had other than competing against him."
"But I always had a great deal of respect for him (Redick) and his own work ethic. I think that's probably what he appreciates with Tyler. But, no, I'll ask him about it later. But I do think that's really nice. That is the kind of thing that you have in college athletics. But I'll say this to you. I haven't told anybody this, and I don't think he'll mind either, but the guy with the worst golf swing in the world, big Charles (Barkley). When Tyler Hansbrough broke the North Carolina record, I got a phone call from my office from Charles saying good luck, and tell Tyler congratulations. So there are some good people out there. That's good for J.J., too."