UNC’s Williams gives McGrath advice: ‘Just be yourself,’ at basketball tip-off dinner

The dinner marked the beginning of another basketball season in Wilmington


Brandon Sans/The Seahawk

Hundreds of fans and boosters of UNC Wilmington Athletics gathered in Burney Center during the UNCW basketball tip-off dinner on Thursday, Sept. 22.

Brandon Sans, Assistant Sports Editor

Three years ago, UNC Wilmington men’s basketball was a 9-23 team searching for a consistent level of respectability in the Colonial Athletic Association. On Thursday night, the Seahawks hosted a three-time national championship-winning head coach.

UNCW welcomed North Carolina coach Roy Williams to the Port City as its guest speaker for its second annual tip-off dinner for the basketball program.

Footage by Brandon Sans/Produced by Noah Thomas

“Where do you start? Where do you end?” said UNCW coach C.B. McGrath while introducing Williams. “I believe he is the best college basketball coach at running a program.”

Williams’ relationship with McGrath dates back to 1994 when McGrath played for Kansas. After graduation, McGrath spent the next two decades as an assistant coach at Kansas and North Carolina before taking the UNCW job on April 3.

It was bittersweet for Williams to see his longtime assistant and friend leave his bench, but the Hall of Famer expressed nothing but joy for McGrath earning his first head coaching job.

“It’s hard to lose someone like C.B. He’s part of my family and that’s hard to lose,” said Williams. “At the same time, it’s a great opportunity for him and I think he’s going to do some great things at UNCW too.”

The evening was filled with laughs at McGrath’s expense as Williams spoke of his longtime assistant, sharing stories and providing insight about McGrath with the UNCW community.

As a player, Williams recalled McGrath was the first on the team bus to away games and would continue to return to Lawrence for pickup games despite rarely playing.

He also recalled the environment at Kansas’ Allen Fieldhouse (not the Dean Smith Center at UNC) as the bar for crowds at Trask Coliseum. At UNC, Williams often listens to fans voice complaints about tip-off times, but told the dinner guests, “Don’t worry about the tip-off times, get there and be invested.”

When another longtime Williams assistant, Jerod Haase, was hired by the University of Alabama at Birmingham, he went to one of Haase’s first games. He vowed to do the same for McGrath, whose only advice from Williams was to be himself.

“I said you know what you’re doing, you’ve been through it. Just be yourself, don’t worry about anything, just be yourself,” Williams said. “He’s been in some big games. He’s been in those big moments where you have to make decisions. He’s been there, just 24 inches over is all it was.”

Williams capped the evening by stating North Carolina’s support for the Seahawks by pledging $5,000 to the men’s basketball program.

Assistant Sports Editor Brandon Sans can be found on Twitter @Bsans10. Any tips or suggestions should be forwarded via email to njt8879@uncw.edu.