Roy Williams | Biography 2021

Quick Wiki

  • Full Name Roy Allen Williams
  • Occupation Professional Basketball Coach (Retired)
  • Nationality American
  • Birthplace Marion, North Carolina,
  • Birth Date 1950-8-1


American Basketball Coach

Roy Williams | Biography 2021

In his 18 years of career at Tar Heels (University of North Carolina), Roy Williams led the team to win three NCAA championships at UNC in 2005, 2009, and 2017. He announced his retirement from coaching on 1 April 2021 at the age of 70 with 903 wins during a 33-year career as college basketball head coach.

Roy Williams is an American retired college basketball coach who was a former head coach of the University of North Carolina and the University of Kansas.

Who is Roy Williams?

In his 18 years of career with the North Carolina Tar Heels men's basketball team (University of North Carolina), he led the team to win three NCAA championships at UNC in 2005, 2009, and 2017. Previously, he had led the Kansas Jayhawks to 418 victories with four Final Four appearances during 15 seasons at Kansas.

Williams announced his retirement from coaching on 1 April 2021 at the age of 70 with 903 wins during a 33-year career as college basketball head coach. In February 2021, he had become the fastest coach in NCAA history to win 900 games. He was inducted into the 'Basketball Hall of Fame' in 2007. 

Early Life

Roy Allen Williams was born on 1 August 1950. In South Asheville, he grew up in Biltmore in a family that consisted of his older sister, Frances, and mother. His mother, Lallage Williams, an ex-wife of an alcoholic, raised her two children through all the means she could do to provide for her family. For several years, the children would witness the hardships her mother faced every day to make ends meet. 

After Lallage and the fighter of the kids separated, she took on added responsibility as a maid and a laundress despite already being occupied by her role in a factory.  

“For several years there, I really felt my mom had to battle every day to make things go, so that on Friday she could pay this bill and that and then have enough left for food,” Roy remembered his humble beginnings in an interview. “Some of my worst memories are coming home in sixth or seventh grade and finding her ironing. Ten cents for a shirt, 10 cents for a pair of pants. And this after she had worked all day. You don’t think that was hard to see? I knew that a lot of moms didn’t have to do that, and I didn’t want to watch her, so I’d just leave.”

Williams’ Relationship with his Father

When Williams was 14 years old, his parents had been separated for several years. His father, Mack Clayton (Babe) Williams, was ordered by the court to pay child support, but he rarely did so. His father even used to abuse his mother after separation. In his autobiography titled ‘Hard Work: A Life on and Off the Court’, published in November 2009, Williams confessed that he threatened to kill his father when his drunk father tried to physically abuse his mother, Lallage. Williams said, “My dad came by the house. He was drunk and angry. It was the worst time I can ever remember. He went after my mom. I pulled him off of her, pushed him down, and grabbed a bottle and put it under his chin. 'Get out of here or I'll bust this over your head,' I said. 'I'll kill you.'” He added, “The whole scene was very nasty, but I didn't care.”

Having said that, he also had good moments with his father. Describing the good qualities of his father, he said, “How much fun he had with life, how he could make people laugh so much, and the way that he ended his life and what he said about my mom when she passed away. Those were very strong moments with me.” He added, “I didn't write the book to make my dad out to be a bad guy at all. I just said what was the truth. But I did try to balance it out to make sure that people knew regardless of what happened he was my dad. I think at the end he did a nice job of trying to mend broken fences.”

Early Basketball Career

As a child, Williams used to go to basketball courts at Biltmore Elementary School every day. His friends used to get Coca-Cola from the vending machine, but he couldn’t because he wouldn’t have 10 cents. However, he used to console himself. “I said to myself back then, ‘Someday I’m going to have all the Coca-Cola I want,’” he says.

Later, he went to TC Roberson High School in Asheville, North Carolina. He played basketball for coach Buddy Baldwin and found in Baldwin the father figure he lacked. Baldwin taught him how to play the game and gave him a sense of purpose and a belief in himself.

In 1967 and 1968, he was named in all-country and all-conference teams. He was also named all-western North Carolina in 1968 and served as a captain in the North Carolina Blue-White All-Star Game.

Later, he went on to play on Carolina’s freshman team in 1968-69 under Daen Smith at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hills. During his sophomore year at North Carolina University, he would sit on the stands to note Smith’s coaching. In addition to that, he would keep a record of data and stats of Smith’s games and would work in summer camps for him.

Early Coaching Career

Williams began his coaching career at the age of 23 after Owen High’s principal in Swannanoa, N.C. hired him as basketball coach in 1973. He coached there for five years. 

Later, he was invited by Dean Smith to join the Tar Heels’ as a part-time assistant. He dreamt of working at UNC, Chapel Hill, because of which he left the head coach’s title and started working for Dean Smith at Chapel Hill. During the football and basketball seasons, one of his jobs was to deliver videotapes of Smith’s weekly television shows to stations in Greensboro and Asheville. He served as an assistant coach to Smith from 1978 to 1988 for ten years.

When the sporting season was off, he had to find another source of income. So, he started selling calendars that pictured members of the Tar Heels basketball team.

Head Coach of University of Kansas

At the request of Smith, Kansas athletic director Bob Fedrick hired Williams in 1988 to fill the vacant post of basketball coach at Kansas Jayhawks. Fedrick had already met Williams in July 1988 at the Atlanta airport, and he realized that Williams would be the right fit for the post. As such, Williams started his career as head coach at KU on 25 November 1988. He coached at Kansas for 15 years, and during this time, he led the Jayhawks to 418 victories with four Final Four appearances in the national championship game and nine conference championships.

In 2000, Williams was offered the head coach’s position at UNC, but he turned down the job to stay at Kansas. But he left Kansas University in 2003 after a loss to Syracuse in the national title game.

Returned to University of North Carolina

After spurning the UNC job years earlier, Williams rejoined the UNC on 15 April 2003, signing an eight-year contract. That year, he helped the team reach the NCAA tournament.

In November 2003, he got his first win as the head coach of the Tar Heels when UNC defeated Old Dominion 90-64. In April 2005, Williams' Tar Heels beat Illinois 75-70 in the NCAA championship, winning its first national title in 12 years. By 9 December 2006, Williams became the fastest coach to win 500 games in NCAA history.

Williams won the second national championship on 6 April 2009, after UNC beat Michigan State 98-72. On 4 April 2017, UNC beat Gonzaga 71-65 to win Williams’ third national title. As such, he led the Tar Heels to three national championships.

In February 2021, he became the fastest coach in NCAA history to win 900 games. He needed 1,161 games to get to 900, faster than previous leaders such as Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski, who needed 1,183 games, and Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim, who needed 1,251 games to get to 900.

Furthermore, Williams was elected into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of fame on 7 September 2007. 


After a 33-years career, Williams ended his tenure at UNC at age 70. On 1 April 2021, he announced his retirement. With 903 wins, he became the third-victorious coach in Division 1 history, and he owned the sixth-highest winning percentage (.774) in NCAA history.

Williams decided to leave his job after he no longer felt he was “the right man for the job.” Explaining the reason behind his retirement, he shared, “Everybody wants to know the reason and the reason is very simple. Every time someone would ask me how long I was going to go I would always say as long as my health allows me to do it but deep down inside I knew the only thing that would speed that up if I did not feel that I was any longer the right man for the job." He added, "I'm not going to say the best man because I never thought I was the best at anything. But after 15 years in Kansas, I thought I was the right man. And this time in North Carolina I thought I was the right man. I no longer feel that I am the right man for the job."

However, his retirement announcement took coaches and players by surprise. UNC basketball player Brandson Robinson, who got a group email from Williams, initially thought it was an April Fool’s joke since Williams announced his retirement on April 1. Similarly, the head coach of UNC rival Duke, Mike Krzyzewski, also got surprised by Williams’ retirement announcement. “College basketball is losing one of its greatest coaches and a man who genuinely cares about the game of basketball, and more importantly the people who played it,” Krzyzewski said in a statement. “We have all benefited from his longevity in and commitment to coaching. His legacy is secure as one of the greatest coaches in college basketball history.”

Autobiography: ‘Hard Work: A Life on and Off the Court’

In November 2009, Williams’ autobiography titled ‘Hard Work: A Life on and Off the Court,’ which he co-authored with former Sports Illustrated senior writer Tim Crothers was published. The autobiography was brought out after Crothers interviewed Williams for more than 100 hours. Williams hadn’t thought that the interview for the book would take such a long time. He even missed his gold game due to the interview for the book. “Because it was a lot more time than I really thought it was going to be. I spent so many hours with Tim going over tapes and making sure there was no misunderstanding about how I was saying something. Tim did a great job putting things in order for me. It was so time-demanding. So we have a book and then we go over it again, we change and then we go over it again and make sure everything's right. It was a lot more than I thought. But I told Tim when we started, ‘If I'm going to do this I'm not going to do it halfway.’ What it's really shown is that I'll never do another one!” Williams said.

For Williams, revealing his childhood was the hardest thing while interviewing for the book, but he opened up all. Describing the reason, he stated, “There's a lot of things that went on that I had never shared with many people other than my wife and my own family. But I did tell Tim that if we were going to do this, then let's do it the right way. Buddy Baldwin [Williams's high school basketball coach] told me a hundred years ago that if you tell the truth then you don't have to remember what you said. So that's just what we did. That was by far the hardest part to do.”

The autobiography detailed the life of Williams from his rough childhood to his memories with his family and from the difficult phases of his professional basketball career to becoming a successful and national title-winning coach. The 288-page book was published on 10 November 2009 by Algonquin Book.

Awards and Recognitions

Williams’ career accomplishments earned him multiple awards, recognitions, and Coach of the Year honors numerous times. He was honored with the ‘Henry Iba Award’ twice, in 1990 and 2006. He was named ‘Big Eight Regular Coach of the Year’ four times, in 1990, 1992, 1995, and 1996 respectively. Later, he would become the seventh coach in history to win the ‘Associated Press Coach of the Year’ title twice (1992 at Kansas and 2006 at North Carolina) and the second to receive that honor at two different universities. In 1997, he was named ‘Naismith College Coach of the Year. He was also honored with ‘Big 12 Coach of the Year’ thrice, in 1997, 2002, and 2003. 

In 2003, Williams received the ‘John R. Wooden Legends of Coaching Award.’ He was named ‘ACC Coach of the Year’ twice, in 2006 and 2011 respectively. In 2007, he was inducted into the 'Basketball Hall of Fame.' Two years later, he was named America’s 'Best College Basketball Coach' by Forbes in February 2009. The same year in December, Sports Illustrated’s sportswriter Seth Davis nominated Williams as one of the coaches of the decade. That year, Sporting News also named him ‘Coach of the Decade’ for the 2000s. In 2019, he was named USA Today’s ‘National Coach of the Year’ for his accomplishments in the 2018-19 season.

Players Coached

Williams coached many professional players in Kansas and North Carolina. At Kansas, he served as head coach for top basketball players including Raef LaFrentz, Paul Pierce, Kirk Hinrich, Drew Gooden, and Nick Collison. Similarly, some of the best players who played for Williams at North Carolina included Tyler Hansbrough, Sean May, Rashad McCants, Ty Lawson, and Raymond Felton.

Personal Life

Williams and his future wife, Wanda Jones, both attended UNC. They first met while they were studying at UNC-Chapel Hills. Both of them graduated from UNC in 1992. In 1973, Williams married Wanda Jones right after getting his master’s degree from UNC. The couple together had two children Scott and Kimberly. Both of their children also graduated from UNC. Scott graduated with a business degree and then followed his father’s career path. He served as Tar Heel guard during the 1997-98 and 1998-99 seasons. On the other hand, Williams' daughter pursued her career in dancing. After earning a bachelor's degree in English, Kimberly worked as a dance teacher at Jami Masters School of Dance in Charlotte, North Carolina. She taught jazz, tap, and hip-hop for dancers as young as four-year-old to dancers who were in their 60s. Sharing how she got into the dancing career, Kimberly shared, “I always knew I loved dance. When I went to college I didn’t know if it was a career. After college an old dance teacher asked me to teach, and I fell in love with it! It wasn’t until I was in the class, in charge, and I was like — hey, I kinda like this!”


The active and energetic coach Williams also battled a plethora of health issues. In 2012, he underwent surgery to remove a tumor from his kidney. Doctors had warned him that tumors on both of his kidneys might be malignant. “For 24 days, you think you have cancer,'' Williams was quoted in an article of USA Today in November 2012. “I don't care what the survival rate is. That scares you.” 

The approaching date of surgery panicked him as he remembered his mother who died during surgery. “What did that make me think of?” Williams asked. "I thought of my mother. The surgery scared the crap out of me.”

He also got scared thinking that his toddler grandchildren would not remember him if something happened to him. At that time, he stated, “I have a grandson that will be three years old on January 1, and I have another grandson that's 14 months old. They wouldn’t even remember me. They wouldn’t even remember they had a grandfather.”

However, the surgery determined that his tumors were gentle. A biopsy showed that the tumor on his kidneys was noncancerous. After the biopsy, the tumor from his right kidney was removed during a three-and-a-half-hour operation on 19 September 2012 while he did not require surgery on his left kidney. Later, his wife also underwent two surgeries in 2014.


Williams not only contributed to UNC with his basketball coaching, but he also supported the Carolina Covenant since its inception in the early 2000s, for scholarships and athletic support. In 2016, Williams and his wife donated more than $400,000 to the Carolina Covenant, an initiative at UNC that aids low-income student-athletes to attend and graduate UNC debt-free. They also served as honorary co-chairs of the $10 million campaign to help fund the program. In July 2020, the Williams duo contributed $600,000 for spring-sports seniors whose seasons were cut short due to the coronavirus pandemic. In March 2021, the couple made their largest gift worth $3 million to support multiple scholarships. Williams divided their gift to support scholarships for Carolina Covenant Scholars, student-athletes, and Chancellor’s Science Scholars program. By March 2021, the Williams couple donated more than $5.8 million to UNC.

Net worth

According to Celebrity Net Worth, Williams has a net worth of $12 million. According to USA Today, Williams earned $4.1 million from his contract with the University Of California's Tar Heel and added some from the marketing and media rights. International Business Time Reports that Williams earned an annual salary of $2.3 million at UNC.

Did You Know?

Another famous persona from the American sports industry shares the same first and last name as Roy Williams. American athlete Roy Lee Williams played nine seasons altogether for Dallas Cowboys and Cincinnati Bengals in NFL as a safety after retirement in 2011.

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