Two days prior to his team's showdown for first place in the Atlantic Coast Conference standings with arch-rival Duke, North Carolina head coach Roy Williams addressed reporters. Williams discussed Wednesday night's huge matchup in addition to a few other topics.
"Needless to say, this game is getting a great deal of attention. It's a rivalry that we're proud to be involved in. Our club in parts of the game against Virginia this weekend really did some nice things. We felt much better about our play on the defensive end, and it was just the opposite in the Maryland game (last Tuesday). We couldn't make a shot (against Virginia), and Maryland, we made everything we looked at but we didn't play any defense. This one (Virginia) we did pretty well on the defensive end and didn't make some shots, and so that tells you what we have to do Wednesday."
"We've got to play well on both ends of the floor. We have no chance of winning if we don't play well on both ends of the court against Duke."
How confident do you think the team is after winning seven straight ACC games?
"You know, I think we are confident. When we were 0-2, everybody acted like they wanted me to go jump of the top of the building, and I told them, 'Hey, it's a long season.' I think the consistency that we treated that negative period, the consistency with the coaching staff about our confidence in our team, I think that was important."
"The fact that we've won seven (ACC games) in a row, we're not saying that we're going to be declared national champions and they're going to cancel the rest of the season. We're not there either. I think the approach we have taken with our team and what they have accepted was good for us when we were 0-2, and then I think that they understand now that we've got some things right in front of us that are more important---which is that next game---and regardless of who it is. It just happens this time that it's Duke. I think the consistent approach is something that has been good. The sky's not falling and yet, we haven't won the lottery either."
How vital is it that Bobby Frasor starts making some open outside shots?
"Well, we'll have to wait and see. I think that nobody wants it to go in more than Bobby other than maybe his mom and dad. I still have a great deal of confidence in him. I'm still putting him out there because of what he does in other areas, and yes, if a couple of shots goes in it's an added bonus. He's struggled to put the ball in the basket all year."
"The guy missed two-thirds of the season last year and half the season just about the year before. It's been difficult for him to get back to where he was, but yet I do think he adds so much to it. It's whether or not I would use the word 'vital' or not. I don't know if I would go that strong (to say it's vital he makes shots), but I know one thing---it would make me smile a heck of a lot more and him a heck of a lot more, and his mom and his dad, too."
What do you think are the benefits of coming back an extra year to college instead of leaving early for the NBA?
"I think every kid benefits, because you just get more mature. You enjoy your college experience. I have yet to have a player---and I've had a few that go to the NBA---to come back and say, 'Boy, the NBA is so much more fun.' I've never had that happen. I've always had players come back and say 'payday' is really a lot of fun."
"Let's put it in the right perspective here. It's a dream for them. It's a way to set up their family for life if they're fortunate enough to get to the NBA level and do very well. But the bottom line is that I think anybody can benefit from being allowed to mature, being allowed to enjoy the college experience and work on your game."
I think all of our kids have benefitted from it (being in college longer), just like I think that Marvin Williams and Brandan Wright would have. But I still think that those decisions (for Williams and Wright to leave after their freshman year) were the best because that's what those two youngsters felt like they should do. With Danny (Green) and Ty (Lawson) and Wayne (Ellington), I thought the decision to come back was best because that's what they wanted to do."
Are you going to pound it inside against Duke because of the perception that the Blue Devils are most vulnerable in that area?
"Well, I don't know who perceives that. It may not be what our staff perceives. I think that we're always going to try to get the ball inside first, but we've got a pretty good shooting team, too. We're not going to just say, 'Okay, you guys cannot shoot.' We're going to try to play basketball and have balance. In my opinion, that's the best way to beat Duke is to have balance, shoot the ball in the hole, and play defense. If you do all those kinds of things you have a better chance, but it still doesn't mean you're going to win."
What's the key to improvement over the second half of the ACC schedule?
"I'd like to have more consistency. Against Maryland, as I said earlier, we shot the dickens out of it but didn't sprint back and pick people up (defensively), and then Saturday (against Virginia) I thought we guarded much better but couldn't make a shot, so I'd like us to get more consistent on both ends of the court, and which you should. As you get later in the season you have more practices, and the more you practice the better you should get."
What kind of personalities are you looking for in your assistant coaches, and during games, how open is the dialogue between you and your assistants?
"Work ethic, organizational skills, personal role models, knowledge of the game---I think all those kind of things (are factors) but the number one thing has to be my comfort level with them, because I think as a head coach when you hire as assistant, you're hiring somebody that's going to have a great deal of responsibility for your career and your life. So I think that's extremely important."
"My assistants are allowed to speak at every time out---every time out I'll let each one go around and they just say something, say it quickly, and then we move on and I close it up. The team leaves the huddle, and we probably stay in the huddle less than any other team in college basketball, because we just don't like to talk that much. In the huddle (during the game on the court), we all like to talk probably too much. Our guys have a tremendous amount of say to me, into my ear, during the course of the game, and then also have an opportunity to give feedback instructions to our team at every timeout."
How do you stay focused on a huge game such as Duke on Wednesday without forgetting about another big conference game Sunday at Miami?
"It's a good question. I think sometimes if you're not careful, you could get caught up in that. We have been able to do that pretty well since the time period we came back (from the two losses). It's not the end of the world if you lose. They don't give you a trophy if you win. The best example is in '05. It was an extremely heartbreaking loss over there (at Duke), and then the next game was at Connecticut. It was a huge game for us, and we came back and played very well (in a win) at Connecticut. Last year we lose here (in Chapel Hill to Duke), and then we have a couple of key road games and then we played very well in those."
"We're going to try to treat it as it's an extremely important game because it's the next game. On Wednesday, I'll say this is the biggest game because it's today's game, but in saying that, we do tell our team and emphasize to them, 'Hey, they're not going to give us the trophy or they're not going to cancel the season regardless of the outcome of this game.' I think if you let your players know that you're better off, because you don't have to promote the game. Everyone else is going to do that for you. I think the rivalry being what it is, our kids will be extremely enthused, and so will Duke's kids."
UNC has won three in a row in Durham and Duke has won two out of three years in Chapel Hill. Why has the home court not been such a big deal in the Duke-UNC series the last couple of years?
"I think it's just on that particular day, we've played better or they've played better. I think as big as the rivalry is, and as close as the teams have been matched, we could have played again the next day in Cameron and they would have won, and we could have played the next day here in Chapel Hill and we might have won. I just think the kids are enjoying the competition and they enjoy the rivalry. They're able to focus on the game. They don't focus on the fans. They don't focus on what the media people are saying. I think it's a credit to the kids that they've been able to do that in both directions."
What have you liked about the team's play over the past several games?
"I think the approach when we started out 0-2---everybody didn't panic---is something I've been proud of. I've been proud of the way we've consistently tried to work each and every practice to try to get better, particularly on the defensive end of the floor. There's been a lot of things that I've really liked with this team. To come back from 0-2 to where we are right now says a lot about the kids' character. We've got good players. We've had our share of adversity. We've lost three of our top nine players basically for a stretch of the season, and two of them (Marcus Ginyard and Tyler Zeller) really haven't played all year for us. There's been some adversity there, and I like the way the kids have handled that."
What concerns does Duke pose for UNC?
"They're an extremely good basketball team. I said it before the season started, and I was still saying it in December and January, and I'll say it now that it's February. Mike Krzyzewski knows more about their team than anybody, but from a distance, Roy Williams thinks this is the best Duke team since I came back five and a half years ago. Again, Mike knows more about his team than I do, but that's just an outside opinion."
"I think they're one of the teams that has to be talked about that can win the whole thing. They're having a great year. The ACC is tough. Everybody acts like when you lose a game in the ACC, its woe is me. They (Duke) lost a couple of games. We lost a couple of games. This is a fantastic league and you've just got to understand it's a marathon."