From the first time he was introduced as Carolina’s head coach in the spring of 2003, Roy Williams made it clear that he was coming back to Chapel Hill to run a program, not just coach a team. Last week, he provided perhaps the clearest example ever of the distinction between the two.
With the season opener just 10 days away, Williams began a cross-country trek that took him nearly all the way across America and back. Being in the air occasionally had its advantages—for example, he was able to watch an NCAA-mandated officiating video that had a November 1 deadline while on the plane to Phoenix on October 31.
What follows is a detailed look at the itinerary for a head coach who manages to balance taking care of his current players with making the former players feel like they never left. In order to maintain continuity, and to provide a little greater appreciation for his hectic schedule, all times are Eastern.
WEDNESDAY, OCT. 31
2:15 p.m.: Departs RDU for Phoenix.
7:57 p.m.: After a fuel stop in Tulsa, arrives in Phoenix.
THURSDAY, NOV. 1
1:35 a.m.: After chatting with Barnes and Marshall following the game, flight departs for Raleigh.
5:55 a.m.: Arrives at RDU.
Total traveled for Phoenix trip: 3,776 miles.
3:30 p.m.: Tar Heels assemble for the day’s practice.
FRIDAY, NOV. 2
6:30 a.m.: Carolina goes through its one early-morning practice of the preseason. It’s not a player favorite, but it’s designed to make sure there’s plenty of time to go through everything before Williams is in the air again.
3:30 p.m.: Departs RDU for Orlando.
5 p.m.: Arrives in Orlando.
7:30 p.m.: Watches former Kansas point guard Jacque Vaughn in his first game as head coach for the Orlando Magic, which just happens to be against George Karl, Ty Lawson and the Denver Nuggets. Vaughn gets the win, 102-89, but Lawson records 12 points and seven assists.
10 p.m.: In the air again, this time headed back to Raleigh from Orlando.
11:30 p.m.: Arrives at RDU.
Total traveled for Orlando trip: 1,068 miles.
SATURDAY, NOV. 3
5:15 p.m.: After about 17 hours on the ground, the head coach is traveling again, this time bound for Milwaukee.
7:30 p.m.: Arrives in Milwaukee.
8:30 p.m.: Watches John Henson’s Bucks host Tyler Zeller’s Cavaliers. Henson sits out as he continues to recover from a knee injury, but Zeller pulls down seven rebounds in Milwaukee’s three-point win.
11:30 p.m.: Departs Milwaukee.
SUNDAY, NOV. 4
1:15 a.m.: Arrives back home at RDU.
Total traveled for Milwaukee trip: 1,302 miles.
2 p.m.: Sundays are frequently an off day during the regular season due to games being played on Saturdays. But because the Tar Heels were off on Saturday, they gather for an intrasquad scrimmage—the final full scrimmage before the season opens on Friday against Gardner-Webb.
Williams never misses a practice and manages to squeeze in 6,146 miles, three time zones and four states to see six Tar Heels and one Jayhawk play and/or coach three games. The players involved appreciate it. Marshall was visibly disappointed after not playing in the game against the Warriors, and Williams is able to be there in person to offer some advice.
“He’ll always be my coach,” Vaughn tells the Orlando Sentinel on Friday night, “so it’s a great feeling to have him here tonight.”
Williams reflects on the hectic schedule on Monday night at his radio show. "It was a whirlwind last four days," he tells Jones Angell, "but it was great."