Roy Williams likes familiarity. He's figured out a method that works for him for guiding a basketball program, and unless another choice is indisputably proven better, he's going to stick with the familiar.
That extends to everything from style of play to road accommodations--earlier this year, when Carolina traveled to Syracuse, the Tar Heels stayed at the same hotel where the team stayed during their last road visit to the Carrier Dome, which happened to come in 1983, when Williams was an assistant coach.
There's a mistaken perception that his convictions are unbreakable, but he's been perhaps more pliable this season than any other year in Chapel Hill. After spending some seasons almost exclusively in man-to-man defense, the Tar Heels spent extensive time in a zone this year. And it wasn't Williams' most frequently used point zone, but a combination of a 3-2 and 1-3-1.
So maybe it shouldn't be too much of a surprise that after Carolina's loss to Iowa State on Sunday night, the head coach decided to formally end the season differently than ever before.
The Tar Heels arrived back in Chapel Hill late Sunday night. They were greeted by a hearty crowd of students, which turned into a nice capstone on the 2013-14 season.
The next morning, work began for next year. The Carolina coaches graded the Iowa State game tape and then reassembled the team.
"For the first time ever, we brought them in (Monday) afternoon and showed it to the team," Roy Williams said last night on his radio show with Jones Angell. "I showed them 17 minutes of clips, and it took us an hour to go through it. I did it for teaching purposes."
The lesson was simple: this is how small the margin for error will be in a tight NCAA tournament game. It's not just the last play which, as Williams said, "We screwed up." It's the entire game, the value of every possession, the sense of urgency that the head coach has seemingly been preaching since the opening moments of Late Night.
With Leslie McDonald as the lone scholarship senior, the rest of the core will presumably be intact for another attempt. In fact, soon after that film session, Marcus Paige set the web on fire by announcing via Twitter to signee Theo Pinson, plus everyone else on the internet, that he would return for his junior season.
@tpinsonn I never even thought of leaving, we got work to do fam— Marcus Paige (@marcuspaige5) March 25, 2014
Paige will become just the third Tar Heel in the Williams era to make the first-team All-ACC squad and then return to school the next year (Rashad McCants and Tyler Hansbrough are the other two) and just the fourth Tar Heel in the last 20 years (Antawn Jamison is the other) to return in that scenario.
That immediately started the countdown to next year's team, which should be a talented, experienced group that will also add three highly regarded freshmen.
"The three freshmen coming in are really gifted basketball players," Williams said. "They know how to win. All three won state championships and I love that, and I think they'll really help us. And with the core we could possibly have coming back, I think it will be a fun year."