Roy Williams Born: August 1, 1950 (Marion, North Carolina)
Graduated: T.C. Roberson High School, 1968 / University of North Carolina, 1972.
The University of Kansas men’s basketball program has, without a doubt, one of the richest histories across all sports, especially when you account for the top tier coaching that has led the program to be the winningest in college basketball.
With names like James Naismith, Phog Allen, Dick Harp, all of whom are inductees of the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame, there’s still one more person that has cemented himself as a legend for the Jayhawks: Roy Williams. Growing up in North Carolina, it was only fitting for the coaching legend to get his start as an assistant coach for the Tar Heels under Kansas alum and Kansas Sports Hall of Fame inductee Dean Smith from 1978 to 1988. Williams helped lead North Carolina to the school’s second national championship in 1982. Williams was also instrumental in recruiting that team’s best player to North Carolina: Michael Jordan.
Following Kansas head coach Larry Brown’s departure after the 1988 national championship season, Williams was brought in to lead the Jayhawks. With big shoes to fill, Williams certainly succeeded in his fifteen seasons at Kansas. Outside of his first year as a coach when the team was on probation, Williams led the Jayhawks to the NCAA tournament every season as head coach, including taking the team to four Final Four appearances and two national championship game appearances. Kansas won nine conference titles during his tenure, and overall, garnered a .808 winning percentage across his fifteen seasons as a coach. At the time, he was second to only Phog Allen.
Nothing lasts forever, so though it eventually came time for Williams to leave the Jayhawks, he still continued to make his mark on basketball after accepting the head coaching position right where he got his start at North Carolina. In the grand scheme of things, it’s safe to say that Williams was somehow able to go beyond his success at Kansas.
While leading the Tar Heels, Williams brought the squad to five Final Four appearances, and took three national championships back to Chapel Hill in his eighteen seasons, posting a .784 winning percentage with North Carolina. Williams retired from coaching in 2021 after 43 total seasons in the industry, with 33 of them in the head coaching jobs at Kansas and North Carolina. When it was all said and done, Williams put together an astonishing 903-264 head coaching record and has earned several career accolades, including two-time AP Coach of the Year, two-time ACC Coach of the Year, three-time Big 12 Coach of the Year, and four-time Big Eight Coach of the Year.
Above all else, though, Williams retired as a three-time national champion as a head coach, and sits as sixth winningest coach in college basketball history.
After previously being elected to both the Basketball Hall of Fame and College Basketball Hall of Fame, he’s now adding a third to the list, which is fitting for the amount of titles that he’s won.
Please welcome Roy Williams to the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame.
Biography by: Madelynn Hartley
Photos Courtesy of KU Athletics and North Carolina Athletics.