Roy Williams: A Successful Coaching Philosophy

Articles | Online Master of Coaching Education


Roy Williams, head basketball coach of the UNC Tar Heels, is a man of commitment with a simple philosophy – hard work. That philosophy has guided him through his life and career, and Williams drives it into every player he has worked with. When he decided to share his life and experiences by writing a book, he even titled it “Hard Work: A Life On and Off the Court”. Williams is acknowledged by his peers and team as one of the most successful coaches in the nation, and his winning record supports his philosophy.

His quotes, filled with ‘dadgums’ and passion, reflect his preference for action rather than discussion. Williams has never been afraid to play the game his way, even when it goes against common coaching practices. When broached about his infrequent, random use of timeouts – a coaching quirk he is famous for – he replied, “I’ve been criticized for twenty-nine years for not calling timeouts and I’m still 5-10 ½. That part ain’t changing, either.” Sticking to his guns, he went on to add, “Timeouts are overrated, I believe. God Almighty, we take a timeout every time the referee gets a heartbeat…I keep my guys in the huddle less than any coach in basketball. I send them out. I’m tired of talking to them. There’s only so much I can say.”

Roy Williams’ record speaks for itself with eight NCAA National Championships, nine Final Four appearances, and seventeen regular season conference championships. His philosophy coupled with his impressive stats have made him a respected role model for other coaches.

Work Hard: A Life On and Off the Court

For coaches who want to gain an in-depth look at Roy Williams philosophy and life, they can read his book. Published in 2009, it takes the reader through his childhood all the way to the 2009 championship. They can read about his earlier years in western North Carolina where he found his passion for basketball, and how he was the first Williams to attend college. Following his coaching dream, he graduated from UNC and became the University of Kansas head coach. After building a reputable basketball program for UK, he returned to his alma mater to repay them for their education and tutelage.

In his book, he reveals four keys to his “hard work” philosophy. He openly shares how he built two prestigious basketball programs with his philosophy so other coaches may do the same.

Choose to Work Hard Everyday

According to Williams, both the pro and con of working hard is choice. Working hard doesn’t happen unless someone chooses to commit every day. If someone has a goal, they can choose to focus and make strides toward it without excuse. However, working hard includes consistency. The choice to work hard every day has to be consistent, or else the goal will stay out of reach. Roy Williams has demonstrated his choice to work hard, and the UNC basketball program success is the result.

Be a Fierce Competitor

Williams wants to be the best. He doesn’t want to triumph over his opponents because he dislikes them, he just wants to win. Additionally, he instills his competitive spirit within every player for maximum effort. Fierce competitors meet every game or life challenge head-on. They are proactive and control their actions instead of reactive to their situation. Fierce competitors, like Williams, make opponents play on their terms. The ceaseless drive to be the best helps overcome obstacles and deal with losses instead of letting them hinder performance. He believes full commitment will take anyone to the top.

Win On and Off the Court

Coach Williams doesn’t stop trying after practice. His connection to the team isn’t exclusive to the basketball court. He discusses assisting athletes with their studies and their decisions as young men. He mentors and prepares them for life outside of basketball so they can succeed regardless of their career path. He pushes his athletes to volunteer in the community and study so they learn the value of helping others and expand their mental performance. Coaching basketball is his career, but he teaches that it isn’t life.

Character Counts

“If he’s a great player and a 4.0 student but he’s going to be a pain in the rear end, I want it to be somebody else’s rear end.” – Roy Williams

As quoted by Williams himself, athletics and academics are not the only factors he cares about. In his book, he advises coaches to recruit athletes who are more than just grades and talent. Williams takes recruitment seriously and chooses prospects with strong character. He says athletes with character uphold the program reputation and can be trusted to make good decisions. They will look out for the team instead of their own interests which results in a successful team.

Learning from Roy Williams

Any coach can benefit from Roy William’s philosophy – particularly students that share his dream of becoming an impactful coach. Young men and women searching for the competitive edge can learn from Williams by watching his interviews, studying gameplay, and reading his book. They can choose to live by the hard work philosophy and fiercely pursue their goals. He adamantly spreads his philosophy so others can benefit from it like he has.

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