UNC coach: I apologized to players

Updated: January 19, 2012, 12:36 PM ET
By Robbi Pickeral | ESPN.com

North Carolina coach Roy Williams said he apologized Monday to the five players left on the court for the final 14.2 seconds of his team's 33-point loss to unranked Florida State.

The coach said on his radio show that he was not aware that he had left the quintet of reserves and walk-ons on the Tucker Center floor Saturday -- while he and most of the rest of the team left early to avoid the court-rushing crowd -- until he watched the game-tape of the loss.

[+] EnlargeNorth Carolina Tar Heels
Phil Sears/US PresswireRoy Williams said Monday he only pulled his players off the court Saturday due to safety concerns relating to Florida State fans rushing the court.

"I said, 'Guys, I apologize. There was a miscommunication between (assistant) coach (Joe) Holladay and myself. I would never have left you out there to play the game,' " he said. "I was trying to get my entire team off the court, apologize to Florida State, make sure they weren't interpreting it the wrong way; I was just doing it for safety."

Williams, whose team fell to No. 8 in both polls after the most lopsided loss since he became coach at UNC in 2003, said he started to become concerned about the raucous crowd toward the end of the game. At the end of UNC's loss to UNLV in Las Vegas earlier this season, a female manager got pushed to the ground by rushing fans, and Williams said he was trying to avoid a repeat of that.

"Coach (Holladay) said, 'We're going to have problems getting off of this court. Because they're already in the aisles, we're going to have problems,' " Williams said.

Williams says he tried to explain the issue to an official standing in front of the team's bench, but said the referee responded with,"I don't know what to tell you."

During a dead ball timeout, Williams said he spoke with Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton about his concerns and Hamilton agreed that Williams should take his players off the court.

"He's always sensible on things like that," Williams said Monday. " ... So I turned to Joe Holladay, and I motioned and said, 'Come on.' And I took about three steps -- and you can see it on TV ... Leonard says something, he says, 'Roy, your players.' And I turned around and said, 'Come on.' You can see me motion my arm again. And I take off, but I stop and I try to congratulate as many (Florida State) players as I can. ... I said to every player, 'Congratulations on the win.' I said to the assistant coaches, 'Please don't be offended by this.' And everybody said, 'Coach, we understand.' "

UNC assistant coach C.B. McGrath, strength and conditioning coach Jonas Sahratian and two managers stayed on the sideline to help the remaining Tar Heels players get off the court when the game ended. Williams said he waited outside his locker room for all of his players, and when it took awhile for Holladay and walk-on Patrick Crouch to arrive, Williams asked Holladay what took Crouch so long.

"He said, 'He got caught up in the crowd,' and I didn't know what the crap he was talking about," Williams said Monday.

Williams, angry at the game's outcome, said he didn't talk to his team about the game immediately afterward, or during Sunday's clinic with the Special Olympics. He said he didn't realize what had happened with the five remaining players until he watched the game tape.

"Every prospect, every walk-on I have ever had -- if I eat steak, you're going to eat steak; whatever happens to every scholarship player, you have to do. I would never leave five kids out there," Williams said. "If I was going to do that, why wouldn't I stay out there? I saw it happen one time on TV, and I thought, 'Why would they leave those kids out there?' "

Robbi Pickeral covers North Carolina for ESPN.com and can be reached at bylinerp@gmail.com. Follow Robbi on Twitter: @bylinerp.

ALSO SEE