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Roy Williams, North Carolina men's basketball coach, retires

Roy Williams, the University of North Carolina men's basketball coach, is retiring after leading the team to three NCAA championships, the university announced Thursday. Williams, 70, spent 33 seasons as a head coach, including 18 at his alma mater, North Carolina, and 15 years at Kansas.

"Thank you for all you have done and meant to everyone who plays and loves our game," the school said in a statement.

Williams graduated from North Carolina in 1972 and took a coaching job at Charles D. Owen High School a year later. In 1978, Williams took an assistant coaching position at North Carolina head coach Dean Smith.

He spent 10 years under Smith and helped the university win its second NCAA championship in 1982. Williams helped coach influential players like Michael Jordan, Al Wood and Larry Brown.

NCAA Championship Game: Michigan State Spartans v North Carolina Tar Heels
Roy Williams in 2009. Streeter Lecka / Getty

In 1988, Williams became head men's basketball coach at the University of Kansas where he coached 15 seasons and averaged 27.9 wins per season. He coached some of the best players in the program's history, including Mark Randall, Adonis Jordan, Raef LaFrentz and Paul Pierce.

By 2003, he returned to North Carolina and took the reigns as the men's basketball team's head coach and cemented his legacy among the best college coaches by winning three titles in 2005, 2009 and 2017.

As a head coach, Williams reached 900 wins in fewer games and seasons than any coach in NCAA history. He's also the only coach to rack up 400 wins at two schools. In 2007, he was inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame for his contributions to the game.

"What makes Coach Williams one of the great coaches isn't just his extraordinary record, but his dedication to his players," former President Barack Obama said when the champion Tar Heels visited the White House in 2009. "He's just as serious about making these guys into men and into leaders as he is into making them champions."

Roy Williams
Roy Williams in 2015. Kevin C. Cox / Getty

In his final season, North Carolina finished 18-11 and entered as the No. 8 seed in the NCAA Men's Tournament before losing 85-63 to Wisconsin. While he was upset at the loss, Williams told reporters he was proud of how well his players handled a rough year amid the coronavirus pandemic.

"When you coach kids you have a special bond with them and this year was really hard on young people and I was really proud of them," Williams said. "Basketball can be the greatest game in the world, but when you lose it's like somebody reaches in and grabs your heart and shakes it right in front of you."

Justin Carissimo contributed reporting.

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