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October 11, 2012

Williams discusses health issues

Roy Williams conceded his close call with cancer proved to be a life-altering affair, but it has not affected his desire to coach the Tar Heels.

"I really want to coach this team," Williams said Thursday at the annual UNC basketball media day. "And you know what is going to happen next year? I'm really going to want to coach that team. … My plan is what I said before: I hope to coach six to 10 more years."

Williams recently underwent surgery to remove a tumor from one of his kidneys. He said the surgeon told him there was a 95 percent probability it would be cancerous before the surgery.

Instead it turned out to be a benign tumor, which means it was not cancerous. Then the surgeon did a biopsy on the tumor found on Williams' opposite kidney. That turned out to be benign as well, so Williams and his physicians have decided not to do a second surgery as was originally planned.

"They called and said I was a lucky guy," Williams said. "I told them I had known that for quite awhile. I've lived a charmed life. You've heard me say that before.

"But from Sept. 10 until that moment, it was 24 days that had been pretty emotional, had been pretty tough."

Williams said he learned one cannot be prepared to hear the word cancer, and there is no way to escape the wide range of emotions and the effect such news have on a person.

"I'm going to smell the roses a heck of a lot more every day," Williams said. "I really am. It does change you. Anyone who says it doesn't are a lot stronger or more wacko than I am."

Williams said that every ACC coach contacted him with good wishes. He said Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski has called him three times to check on him. He said other coaches from around the country have called as well.

He said he doesn't know if any coaches have used this episode as negative recruiting, but he did say he has been getting new questions from recruits.

"I've had more prospects this fall ask me how much longer I'm going to coach," Williams said. "Recruiting is another world in itself. This is the first year I can remember that being of the first questions asked."

Williams is trying to slow down and make a proper recovery from the surgery. He said he is coming to work later in the day and working four or five hours a day as he continues to recuperate. In the past, he may not have been the best patient when he had some health issues, but the nature of this illness has changed his attitude.

"I think I will try to be a good team member and listen to what the [doctors] say," Williams said. "I'll probably have a little bit of a reduced schedule for the next two or three weeks, until I get to the six-week mark.

"The crazy thing is the surgery was three weeks ago yesterday. It seems like it was about three years ago to me because so many things have happened and there have been so many emotions. … I have tried to do a better job of getting some rest. [His surgeon], he was great. He said, 'Coach, you have to understand, this was major surgery. When you go in and cut things off of your body parts and take those parts out, it's not just a walk in the park.'"

As far as this year's team goes, Williams said there is obviously a change in this team from a year ago.

"We had four of the most talented people who applied for the NBA draft," Williams said. "The talent level has taken a pretty significant hit. I don't think we will have four of the top 17 picks in practice on Saturday morning.

"We have several keys. Guys who were 'complementary players' or role players or whatever name you want to put on there, like James Michael [McAdoo] and Reggie [Bullock], who could score seven, eight or nine points a game because the defense was aimed at John [Henson], [Tyler Zeller], Kendall [Marshall] and Harrison [Barnes], now they have to be able to do it with the defense aimed at them.

"You have some other guys, like Leslie [McDonald] and Dexter [Strickland], who are coming off knee injuries, they need to be able to play. And they need to be successful. Then you have four freshmen, who have to come in, step up and play for us."

In the end, he said this team has to do all it can to utilize the skills that are here.

"This team has got to get as close to their potential as they can," he said.


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