Two days before the 2021 Final Four in Indianapolis, the college basketball news was almost all about coaches of other teams. The big news of the day on Thursday was the sudden and rather surprising retirement of Hall of Fame coach Roy Williams at North Carolina.
Williams coached 33 years at two blue blood schools, Kansas and his alma mater North Carolina. He won over 900 games and claimed three national championships, all for the Tar Heels.
The 70-year-old spent 18 years in Chapel Hill with a 485-163 record and titles in 2005, 2009, and 2017. He restored the Tar Heels to their glory with their first title since 1993 after a couple of coaching misfires in the wake of Dean Smith’s retirement.
Prior to coaching his alma mater, Williams left UNC in 1988 to be a first-time head coach at Kansas. He spent 15 seasons with the Jayhawks going to four Final Fours but never winning the title. When Williams left Kansas after losing in the 2003 title game, the chain reaction landed Bill Self at Kansas and Bruce Weber at Illinois.
Williams coached in the NCAA Tournament 30 times in his career and last month’s loss to Wisconsin marked the only time he lost in the first round. Williams won 79 NCAA tournament games in his career with nine total Final Fours.
A 2007 Hall of Fame inductee, Williams is the only coach in NCAA history to win 400 games with two schools, and his 903-264 record ranks fourth all-time in win percentage (.774).
Texas Hires Beard
Days after losing head coach Shaka Smart to Marquette, the Texas Longhorns didn’t have to look far for their replacement. They hired Chris Beard from conference rival Texas Tech and introduced him as the new Longhorns leader on Thursday.
Beard graduated from Texas in 1995 and worked as a student assistant with the basketball team before starting his coaching career as an assistant coach with Abilene Christian. Among Beard’s stops as an assistant coach included a decade at Tech under Bob Knight and Pat Knight.
He got his first head coaching job at Arkansas Little Rock and upset Purdue in the NCAA tournament first round. That landed Beard at Texas Tech in 2016, and he went 112-55 over five seasons, including an Elite Eight appearance in 2018 and a title game loss to Virginia in 2019. This season the Red Raiders were 18-11 with a second-round loss to Arkansas as a No. 6 seed.
Beard’s buyout at Texas Tech dropped to $4 million on Thursday, and the Longhorns pounced. Texas lost in the first round to Abilene Christian as a No. 3 seed this year, and Smart left for the Big East days after their elimination.
Cunningham Enters Draft
First Team AP All-American Cade Cunningham is leaving Oklahoma State after one season to enter the NBA Draft. Expected by many to be the first overall pick, the 19-year-old made the announcement with his coaches and teammates by his side at Gallagher-Iba Arena.
A 6-foot-8 guard, Cunningham led the Big 12 in scoring at 20.1 points per game this season. He also ranked top 10 in the conference in rebounding (6.2), field goal percentage (43.8), and free throw percentage (84.6). The scoring tally was the fourth-highest ever by a Big 12 freshman, and he won the Wayman Tisdale Award for the top freshman.
Cunningham scored 24 points as the Cowboys lost to Oregon State in the second round of the NCAA tournament. The NBA Draft is currently scheduled for July 29.