- Robbi Pickeral, College Basketball
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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- I caught up with North Carolina coach Roy Williams for a few minutes before he addressed fans at the Rams Club’s Triangle Tour stop on Tuesday night. A few notes:
COACHING TREE GROWS: Williams said he plans to hire a person with UNC ties to replace assistant coach Jerod Haase, who left earlier this month to become head coach at UAB. But it won’t be last season’s assistant strength and conditioning coach Jackie Manuel, who is now an assistant coach at UNC Greensboro under former Tar Heels guard Wes Miller. And it won’t be assistant video coordinator Bobby Frasor, Haase’s new director of basketball operations.
Williams thought it would be good for the former Tar Heels guards to gain more coaching experience outside of Chapel Hill.
“I asked Wes to take Jackie, and it was an easy sell. I asked Jerod to take Bobby, and that was an easy sell. Because I thought those were great spots for them to start their coaching career,’’ Williams said. “They were wonderful kids, but I wanted them to understand that not every place is like North Carolina.
“I think it was great for me that I was a high school coach for five years; I was an assistant coach for 10 and I had two practices for eight. I realize that somebody’s got to flip a switch to turn the lights on, somebody’s got to mop the floor; it doesn’t just happen magically. And when you coach at North Carolina, you think that all those things happen magically, and they don’t. Somebody has to do that.”
TEAM LIKELY SET: With three underclassmen leaving early for the NBA draft and ACC Player of the Year Tyler Zeller graduating, the Tar Heels lose four-fifths of the starting line-up that led UNC to the NCAA regional finals. A four-man freshmen class arrives in June, but it sounds like Williams doesn’t expect any late additions to next year’s team.
“We always keep our eyes and ears open; I’m never going to say that we wouldn’t be interested," he said. “But there’s nobody out there. There was all this stuff in the paper about one player, that we were doing all this stuff. I talked to the kid one time, period.
But, he added, "we’ll always keep our options open."
Although he didn’t give that player’s name, Williams was referring to his call to Connecticut forward Alex Oriakhi, who chose instead to transfer to Missouri. Oriakhi won’t have to sit out a season because the Huskies are barred from playing in next year’s NCAA tournament, and he would have added an experienced big body to a Tar Heels team that loses both starting forwards (Zeller and John Henson).
Williams told fans Tuesday night that sophomore forward James Michael McAdoo (who will slide into one of those starting positions) “has a chance to be a big-time, big-time player; he’s got to step his game up.”
Wing Reggie Bullock, he added, “will have to take his game to another level."
Meanwhile, “Dexter [Strickland] and Leslie [McDonald] have to come back in and be healthy, and then the freshman group we have coming in, they’ve got to show us that they’re strong players, as well.”
With so many veteran players on the perimeter and so many younger ones in the post, it will be key to see whether Williams opts to go with a smaller, guard-heavy line-up compared years past. Even he doesn't know -- yet.
“It will be interesting to see how my thought process goes over the summer,’’ he said.
MIGHT-HAVE-BEENS: Not surprisingly, it’s been a difficult few weeks for Williams, after his team -- which began the season ranked No. 1 and had national title goals -- lost to Kansas in the NCAA tournament in the Midwest Region final.
“It’s been really hard, because it was a great, great year with a sad, sad ending. … Our last regular-season game, when we played at Duke, I thought we were pretty doggone good. And I said on the bus, just to our coaching staff, that for me, if we played like that, then we have a chance to win the whole thing.
“Then the very next game, John gets hurt [sprained wrist] -- and John was never the same. And then the second game in the NCAA, Kendall [Marshall] gets hurt, and that’s about as unlucky as I’ve ever been, I guess, too.”
Follow Robbi Pickeral on Twitter at @bylinerp.
58dJeff Goodman and Jeff Borzello