Roy Williams left Tuesday night’s game against Boston College after a vertigo-induced collapse on the sidelines. The North Carolina head coach was arguing a foul call with a referee when he got dizzy and momentarily collapsed into the team’s huddle with roughly six minutes gone by in the second half. Williams was helped back to the locker room, where he stayed for the remainder of the Tar Heels’ 68-65 win over the host Eagles. Williams was able to speak with the media afterwards, as reported by ESPN, saying that he’s dealt with benign positional vertigo, which can be set off by sudden head movements, for nearly two decades.
“I’m alive. I’m kicking. I’ve had some vertigo attacks over the last 17 or 18 years. This is the first time I really had one during a game. I said something to the referee. I didn’t respond correctly to his response. I kind of whirled around, and that’s when it hit. Every attack that I’ve had is when I’ve jerked my head quickly.”
The 65-year old Roy Williams was able to come out of the locker room at the conclusion of the game to celebrate the team’s victory, which was an encouraging sign to his staff and players. Williams was even able to add some levity to a situation that was certainly concerning at the time.
“I’ve been diagnosed in Lawrence Memorial Hospital in Kansas, the Mayo Clinic in Rochester and Chapel Hill Hospital. All three. I don’t know that the doctors really care that much about me. I just think they don’t want me to die on their watch.”
Roy Williams and North Carolina were on the verge of losing their third straight game, after trailing Boston College the entire way until just under four minutes remaining. The Tar Heels dropped to No. 9 in the AP Poll after last week’s No. 2 ranking. They hadn’t lost three straight conference games since the start of the 2013-14 season. Assistant coach Steve Robinson took over when Williams exited the floor, and admitted the Heels may have used the incident as motivation to come back and win the game.
“I think we really rallied around the fact that Coach was down. Our team really tried to pick things up with Coach out. Like I told them, it’s not my first rodeo. Things just kind of worked out for us at the end. But we battled.”
Boston College head coach Jim Christian also weighed in on the Roy Williams’ scare. Williams made it a point to shake Christian’s hand after his team suffered a hard-fought loss, but Christian was just glad his counterpart was okay.
“For him to come back out and congratulate our kids on their effort speaks volumes as to why he’s a Hall of Fame coach. He really wanted to congratulate them. And deservedly so. Anybody who saw this game today saw a lot of heart, a lot of character.”
North Carolina forward Justin Jackson did not start for the first time this season, as Williams decided to shake up his lineup following the team’s two straight losses. Jackson responded with a team-high 20 points, capitalizing on the motivation of the benching and then the short-term loss of his head coach.
“We know he’ll be back out there for us. He’s our leader. We’ll rely on him and know he’ll be back out there. We’ve seen it before, not in a game, but we’ve seen it before, and he’s been fine after a little bit. It definitely stinks in the middle of a game to see your coach go down like that. But Coach never quits, so we know he’ll be back.”
Despite dealing with vertigo, back spasms, shoulder surgery, and the removal of two noncancerous tumors, Roy Williams has never missed a game as the head coach for North Carolina or Kansas. He is expected to be back on the sidelines for the Tar Heels’ next game, Sunday at home against Pittsburgh.
[Photo by Chris Covatta/Getty Images]