The last game of a season, for most coaches, doesn't involve confetti raining down on a scene filled with players jumping for joy and hoisting a championship trophy into the air.
If a coach is lucky and good enough, his team will have made the NCAA Tournament and been given a chance to make that aforementioned scenario a reality but the cold hard truth is that reality only happens to one school every season.
For every other team in America, the actual events more closely resemble what UNC coach Roy Williams saw Sunday night in his team's locker room after a heartbreaking loss to Iowa State eliminated them from the brackets and put their basketball team's activities on ice
until next season.
Williams hosted his final radio show of the season Monday night and took the time to describe what it was like after the game when meeting with his players who had just gotten done leaving it all on the court against the Cyclones, but falling short in the process.
"It was probably the most emotional locker room I've ever had in 26 years as a head coach. It was not easy. I've said that the most inadequate feeling you can have as a coach is what do you say to the kids in the locker room after the last game?" said Williams. "I'm not brilliant enough to come up with anything that's any good. It doesn't erase the moment. It's not a mulligan that you can get in golf, a do-over or anything like that, it's just a tough scenario for the kids. It's tough for the coaches, it really is. I really have, really, really enjoyed this team and they've been so important to me. Making me enjoy my life this year. It's just been, it's been a really, really neat group."
Williams, even during a difficult moment, used the pain his players were feeling as a chance to teach them about how valuable every moment on the court is. He used an example from a fellow ACC school to drive home the point just how precious each possession of a basketball can be and urged them to use the experiences they've gone through and the experiences of others to get better going forward.
"Every game is important and we tell them every play is important. Clemson is in the NIT, if they get the basketball in-bounds against Pittsburgh, two seconds to play, they would have been in the NCAA," said Williams. "So every game has big-time plays, swings that go from one way to the other and we definitely had that one yesterday. Friday night we made some plays and Providence helped us by not making some plays.
"Yesterday we didn't make some plays, Iowa State did not help us because they did. They made seven of their last eight shots and the only miss, J.P. blocked it and they laid it up and so they scored the last seven times they had the basketball," said Williams. "It was a difficult time for us and it wasn't one guy, it wasn't one thing, it was just North Carolina didn't play quite as well in the last five minutes as Iowa State did."
Asked if this is the type of team that will take this type of loss to heart, there was no doubt in Williams' mind about that one. He also took a moment to express how much this team has meant to him during what has been a difficult and trying year for him and the UNC program.
"Yeah, they cared. There's no question about and yet I'll say this again, we didn't play as well as we wanted to play. So you've got to invest more, there is no question about that. I told them, the way to describe the game is, we were right there but Iowa State made more plays down the stretch than we did," said Williams. "But, I said this to them, and you know it's hard sometimes, I get emotional over opening an envelope sometimes but, Iowa State's locker room, it was a lot of fun. Freddie Hoiberg enjoyed his locker room a lot more than I did, but I wouldn't trade my kids for the feeling that those guys had in their locker room."
What will probably be remembered most by fans about the way the game ended isn't that UNC didn't execute the way they should have, but rather, that they weren't given the chance to put up one final shot that could have changed their fate.
Williams wanted to make it perfectly clear that it wasn't the official's fault that UNC essentially ran out the clock with the score not in their favor, it was their own. He also gave incredible insight into the final moments of the game, what their strategy should have been and gave a play-by-play of the difficult news the officials had to deliver to the Hall of Fame coach in the end.
"We screwed it up first. Let's get this, it's not against the officials. We screwed up. We have five players on the floor, we coach, we talk, we teach and they'll tell you this, I'm not jumping on them. You're supposed to call time out. Supposed to have five guys signaling a time out. If it's seven seconds or less we call a time out. If it's over seven seconds we're going to attack you," said Williams. "Not a single player was calling a time out. I was calling a time out and the referee ran right by me and even Jay Williams this morning on SportsCenter, I was in the barber shop getting a haircut, I didn't want the dadgum thing on TV but it was. He said he couldn't believe the official ran right by me and I'm sitting there signaling time out.
"Granted, they scored with 1.6 seconds to play. We should have called time out. That was our mistake, OK? That was us. We didn't call a time out, we got the ball in, Nate starts bringing it up, he gets to the center line and calls time out. When I looked up, the clock was zero and that's what I felt it would be because I thought it took us longer than 1.6 to get where he was," Williams continued. "But I said, do we have any time left? They were going to go to the monitor. So they go to the monitor and you see them talking, then they go back to the monitor and you see them talking. Then I think they went a third time."
Most fans could tell from the television broadcast what the officials were about to tell Williams once they finally walked over to him, but there were probably a few people in Chapel Hill would blunder it in favor of the Heels. Williams made sure everyone knew that they got the call right Monday night.
"When they call us up there, Tony Green says, Coach this is a really, really hard situation. This is really hard but no one saw a time out being called until the very end and we went over to see if we needed to put any time back on the clock," said Williams. "I didn't see your players calling time out, pointed at one of the officials, he said he saw you signal time out and your players at the end, because Nate was calling time out at the end, so when the time out was granted there was no time on the clock. We went to see if we should put any back on the clock. In doing that we also realized that the clock started late, that the clock should have started sooner and if it had started sooner, your time out was granted, the time would have already been gone. So basically what I'm saying is the game is over with.
Williams displayed a level of class that can be hard to muster in a situation like the one he was in Sunday night but he handled like a coach that has seen more than his fair share of adversity this season and wasn't going to let this moment define him or the season UNC had.
"You can stand there and act like an idiot if you want to, rant and rave and scream and holler but the bottom line is, the game's over with. So, that's what it was and it didn't bother me. Blaming anybody, blaming the officials, that's not what you should do but also we made the mistake and I felt like it had taken us more than 1.6 seconds to get to the center line anyway," said Williams. "So, if I'd gone wacko or anything, I would have been begging and pleading and didn't have a leg to stand on. So I just turned to Fred and told him congratulations and shook his hand and hugged him and went on down the sideline."
Just like that, the season was over.