Roy Williams has kidney surgery

Originally Published: September 19, 2012
By Robbi Pickeral | ESPN.com

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- North Carolina basketball coach Roy Williams remained at UNC Hospitals on Wednesday evening following a 3½-hour operation to have a tumor removed from his right kidney.

Doctors have not determined whether the tumor was malignant or benign, and that may impact whether Williams has to have a second surgery next month to remove a tumor in his left kidney, a team spokesman told ESPN.com.

[+] EnlargeRoy Williams
Lance King/Getty ImagesNorth Carolina coach Roy Williams had surgery Wednesday to remove a tumor from his kidney but is expected to return to the Tar Heels before the start of the season.

A second surgery could sideline him for a few workouts, the school said in a news release, but the 62-year-old Williams likely wouldn't miss any games. He is expected to be back on the court when UNC opens practice next month.

"The surgery went well and according to plan," Dr. Eric Wallen, professor of urology at UNC, said in a statement. "Coach Williams did great. I fully expect him to coach this season and for years to come. He could miss some practice time if we perform another procedure sometime in October, but he would be able to resume his coaching duties prior to the start of the regular season."

Williams is expected to be released from the hospital within the next few days, although it's unclear how much time he will miss leading up to preseason practice. He worked until the day before the surgery, and the only reason he canceled a scheduled recruiting trip Tuesday was due to inclement weather.

The tumors were discovered during a physical exam earlier this month, although Williams had been having "some issues" before that, two of his assistant coaches said.

The team was informed of the surgery during a 10 p.m. ET meeting Tuesday at the Smith Center. Senior guard Dexter Strickland said the news was "shocking" and "heartbreaking."

But Strickland was relieved when he received a text message around noon Wednesday that the operation had gone well, and that Williams was expected to return for preseason practice.

"The type of guy he is, he's very competitive and he has so much passion for (basketball), I think he'll overcome this," Strickland said.

With Williams out, longtime assistant coaches Steve Robinson and C.B. McGrath, new assistant coach Hubert Davis, director of basketball operations Joe Holladay and director of player relations Eric Hoots are dividing up the responsibilities.

"I think all of us are in charge," said Robinson, a former head coach at Florida State and Radford who has coached with Williams for 18 years. "We've all got our duties and our responsibilities, and I don't think we have one single person where we say, 'OK, this guy is in charge of everything.'

"You know who's in charge of everything? Roy Williams is in charge."

However, it will be interesting to see if Williams can throttle back a bit as he recovers.

"He'll find out today, probably, after coming out of surgery ... that he'll have to slow down a little bit," Robinson said. "But I think for the most part, he expects to go at a full tilt, at a fast pace. Coach is Coach, he's going to be anxious and he can't sit still very long, but we just want him to take it slow and make sure he has full recovery."

Williams is set to begin his 10th season with the Tar Heels, whom he has coached to two national titles. He has experienced only a few medical issues -- vertigo, shoulder surgery, back spasms -- during his tenure in Chapel Hill.

The kidney surgery came less than a month before UNC kicks off basketball practice with its annual "Late Night with Roy Williams" on Oct. 12. The Tar Heels will hold an exhibition game with Shaw on Oct. 26, and they open the season against Gardner-Webb on Nov. 9.

The team is preparing for a healthy Williams to be there for all of it.

"He is set on coaching his team and the doctors are set on he's going to be healthy enough to coach this team, and that's what we're going on," McGrath said. "If anything happens other than that, we'll be surprised, too."

"I just know coach Williams always wants to be there with his players," junior guard Reggie Bullock said. "This is what he loves to do and this is a game he loves to coach. I know he'd give anything to not be in that surgery and be here with the players he recruited and wanted to coach. I just know this is the game he loves and he'd do anything to be here with us."