Late Game Philosophy – Calling Timeouts – Roy Williams

Andrew Carter, News Observer (

Roy Williams’ use of timeouts – or how he doesn’t use them, to be more accurate – has become a topic of discussion again, after North Carolina’s 93-83 loss against Duke last Friday in the ACC tournament semifinals.

The Tar Heels led the Blue Devils by 13 points, twice, before Duke turned the game midway through the second half, after Joel Berry, UNC’s junior point guard, committed his fourth foul. As Williams noted on Tuesday, he did actually call a timeout during Duke’s run.

It came with about 11 minutes to play, after UNC’s once-commanding lead had dwindled to two points. The Tar Heels led 63-61 then. Williams called a 30-second timeout, which turned into the full, under-12-minute media timeout.

From there, though, Duke’s charge continued and Williams did what he normally does. Which is to say that he didn’t call a timeout – at least not until about 90 seconds remained in the eventual defeat. By then the Tar Heels trailed 86-77.

Williams addressed his timeout philosophy after the game on Friday. He spoke about it again during his radio show on Monday night. And then he received another question about timeouts (full disclosure: that question was from yours truly) on Tuesday during his pre-NCAA tournament press conference.

“It doesn’t bother me, guys,” Williams said at first, asked again about his use of timeouts.

And then: “Find something damn original to think about. I’ve been criticized for 29 years for not calling timeouts and I’m still 5-10 ½. That part ain’t changing, either.”

But no, really – what would it take for Williams to call a timeout? What is his philosophy that dictates his decision to say, ‘You know, I should probably call a timeout here?’”

Williams began to answer that question and then didn’t stop talking for about six minutes or so.

Here’s his answer in full (edited only slightly, for clarity) in all of its Ol’ Roy glory:

“What my philosophy is the same dadgum philosophy I’ve had for 29 years. I call ‘em when I want to. And I don’t care what the blankety-blank-blank anybody says. I’ll give you an example. Before half of you were born, 1991, we’re playing in Madison Square Garden against Vegas. And I jumped up to call a timeout and Kevin Stallings says, ‘Well coach, we get one in 40 seconds.’ I said, ‘I don’t care, we could be down eight more.’ Because we had, like, a 20-point lead and all of a sudden Vegas had it to 12, and they were scary. And my guys looked like they were panicking.

“What I base it on is, is it more important to call it then or more important to save it? And, you know, my high school coach said, yeah, dang, he says, ‘If you weren’t so stupid, you’d call a few more timeouts, you’d have won a few games.’ You know, I’m going to call it the way that I always have. I called it at 11 (minutes left against Duke) … 11 – there were two (media) timeouts during the course of their run, anyway. I mean, timeouts are overrated, I believe. Godalmighty, we take a timeout every time the referee gets a heartbeat. You know, 12, 16, 8, 4. I don’t talk to them – why do we leave the huddle? Watch me. I keep my guys in the huddle less than any coach in basketball. I send them out. I’m tired of talking to them. There’s only so much I can say.

“So my policy, philosophy, thought process – I’m going to call a timeout when I think it’s the right thing to call. I mean, seriously, one of the coaches said, ‘You want to call a timeout?’ Justin Jackson got the ball on the wing and Isaiah Hicks is posted low with a little guy behind him. I like that. So I’m not going to take that away. But I did – 1991, go look at it. Called one with 12 minutes to go in a half. Will I call one Saturday? Friday. It’s Friday when we play … But I called a timeout at the 11, there were two timeouts in there. So I’m not going to change. Because we’ve been pretty damn good.

“And I think that I had a player, and this is more important than any of you guys or any fans or any all that Internet crap, I had a player one time tell me, coach, you call a timeout, I’m going to panic. I don’t want my players panicking. Every day we practice. I put ‘em down six with three minutes to go – or up six with three minutes to go. Almost every day. So am I wasting all my time to call them over there, put our hands together and sing Kumbaya? So I’m going to call it when the hell I want to call it. I don’t care what you guys say, what anyone else says. Makes no difference. You hadn’t been on the bench 1,000 games, and I have. So that’s my philosophy. Talk all the hell you want, it makes no difference to me.

“We’ve won some games, by not calling timeout. One player said if you call timeout, I’m going to panic. And that’s a hell of a lot more important to me than anything you guys say or any plumber that’s putting something on Facebook. Just think of it, guys, I’ve coached 1,000 games. We’ve been in some tight situations. We’ve won some games. I have never – I said, hey, maybe this will work again … that’s the whole thing, we talked already, twice (against Duke). And then I call one with 11, because I didn’t like the good look on our guys’ face. That’s your answer. If I don’t like the look on my guys’ face, I’ll probably call a timeout. But we’ve been there before.

“Really. Every day – 86-80. Before we play Virginia, I’ll tell Tony this, he changed my practice, because I’ll make it 66-60. I swear to God – that’s the truth. We’re getting to play Virginia, a late-game scenario, it’s 66-60 … us behind. Everybody else, it’s 86-80. One year we played Billy Tubbs when he was at – maybe it was TCU. Yeah, I think it was … so I made it 96-90. And we beat the dog crap out of them. They were the leading scoring team in the country. So if my guys look nervous or if they look confused or panicky, then I’ll call it at that point. But I’m doing this for my benefit, not yours.”

So, uh, there you have it: Roy Williams’ timeout philosophy. Print it out. Keep it handy. Refer to it whenever you wonder why UNC isn’t calling a timeout when the other team is going on a run. And remember these words, which will undoubtedly endure the cold, harsh passage of time: “I call ‘em when I want to. And I don’t care what the blankety-blank-blank anybody says.”

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