Tag Archives: NCAA Investigation

Williams values special bonds with Baldwin, Paige

HOUSTON — Sitting on the stage in the interview room at the NRG Stadium a few days before his team was set to play Syracuse in the national semifinal, North Carolina coach Roy Williams was asked about his relationship with senior Marcus Paige.

Their days together are numbered. After this weekend, their relationship defined in the roles of coach and player will come to an end as Paige finally exhausts his collegiate eligibility.

But just because Paige, Williams’ tough lil’ nut and go-to guy, won’t suit up for the No. 1 seed Tar Heels any more doesn’t mean that their friendship is over.

It’s impossible to predict the future, but in the past, Williams’ friendships have transcended the hardwood, and as Paige grows out of Chapel Hill, Williams hopes that their friendship will grow too.

“Gosh, I hope so,” Williams said, his voice not quite breaking, but already tinged with emotion. “I think it will. He’s one of the most incredible young men I’ve ever been around. Marcus Paige has made me a better coach every day. He teaches me something every day.

“I think you have an opportunity to learn from every player, But Marcus truly has the gift of getting other people to follow him. He has that gift. I hope that our relationship only gets better and better. I think it will.”

Decades ago, Williams was in a similar position with T.C. Roberson head coach Buddy Baldwin. Williams was Baldwin’s point guard in the late 1960s, and even after graduating high school and heading off to careers at UNC and Kansas, Baldwin and Williams have remained close.

Baldwin estimates that he’s come to 141 games at the Smith Center since Williams took over UNC’s reins in 2003. When Williams was at Kansas, Baldwin and his wife picked a weekend every year to drive down for a couple of Big Eight games.

Health permitting, Baldwin goes to as many postseason games as possible, and each time Williams goes the Final Four, Baldwin goes too.

“It’s one of the things I’m more proud of than anything,” Williams said before leaving for Houston. “I say that my teams have taken me to seven — and now I can say my teams have taken me to eight Final Fours — and I take my high school coach with me every year.

“He was in Philadelphia and Washington DC. He’s fought and beat cancer three times. He’s had a kidney removed, bladder removed, he’s been back out on the golf course. It’s a thrill for me. I talk to him a heck of a lot more than I should. I’m a pain the butt talking to him.”

While their relationship started on the court, it’s evolved to the greens and the craps tables. And after so many years, basketball rarely comes up.

“We don’t really talk about basketball,” Baldwin said by phone before heading to Houston. “It’s just something we don’t talk about. In fact, I’ll be honest with you, we don’t talk about basketball at any time because I just, I know he’s all wrapped up in it and I know he likes time when he doesn’t want to talk about basketball. Let’s talk about something else. That’s the way it goes a lot.”

So the pair mostly talk about the Yankees, craps and their golf games. But every now and then basketball sneaks into their conversation. How could it not? With the deaths of close friends, the NCAA investigation and a self-inflicted pressure to give this team a proper sendoff, Williams often confided in his mentor about the stress of it all.

And Baldwin can’t help but worry about his friend and former player.

“Well, he lost three great friends,” Baldwin said. “His best friend in Chapel Hill lived across the street from him. And that has really, that really hurt Roy and affected Roy. I’ll tell you the thing, the NCAA. They never came out with it. They hurt Roy that way because it allowed people to use it against him in recruiting.

“And his knees are really bad right now. He’s going to have to have work done with his knees, probably have to have a replacement. He just had a lot going. Pressure, I think that he put on himself, plus the fact that he wanted these kids to win something so bad. He would talk about that. He wanted them to win something so bad. And when they did, I think it was just like, a big weight off his shoulders. I think it’s great.”

Baldwin is understandably protective of Williams. He’s been by his side for nearly 50 years, and he’s quick to defend him.

And when Baldwin isn’t around, Williams isn’t lacking for gladiators. Paige has filled that role, protecting and praising his coach since arriving to play for Williams four years ago.

While only about a decade separate Williams and Baldwin, the 43 years between Williams and Paige are much greater.

But despite the age difference, Baldwin sees a lot of similarities in his relationship with Williams and the relationship Williams shares with his player.

“I’ll put it this way, Marcus Paige is one of his favorite players, I can tell you that,” Baldwin said. “All time favorite. And he was one of my all time favorite. He was my point guard and very intelligent.

“You tell him something, you don’t have to say it but once, very, very competitive. Played hard. You go play golf with him, hey, you better bring your A game because he will try to beat you. That’s just the way it is.”

Beginning with an annual trip on last weekend in April, Williams and Baldwin make a point to play golf frequently throughout the offseason. And once he graduates, Paige could join that fraternity — but he’ll have to up his game first.

“I took up golf this past summer,” Paige said. “I don’t know if I’m ready to go with coach Williams. I still shank the ball out of play every single time. But I’ll definitely still stay in contact and depending on where I am in the next stage of my life, that kind of determines how much we’ll talk and stay in touch. But I don’t imagine him being a distant part of my life at any point soon.”

Williams, Boeheim and Emmert on NCAA investigations

HOUSTON — No. 1 seed North Carolina and No. 10 seed Syracuse will square off Saturday night in the second national semifinal game, but it might as well be the Hot Takes national championship.

With the NCAA investigating both teams in the last couple of years for serious infractions, it feels nearly every other question directed at coach Jim Boeheim, coach Roy Williams and NCAA President Mark Emmert at the first day of Final Four availability involves the investigations, punishments (or lack thereof) and benefits to cheating.

While the NCAA has yet to make a ruling on the UNC case that centered around long-running academic fraud, it handed down Syracuse’s punishment a year ago. Among other things, Orange head coach Jim Boeheim served a nine-game suspension, and his team was docked scholarships for academic misconduct, impermissible benefits and a university drug testing policy that occurred within the program for more than a decade.

We didn’t learn anything we didn’t already know in today’s press conferences, so rather than rehash all of that for the trillionth time on the interwebs, here’s a couple highlights from asked of Emmert, Williams and Boeheim about scandals and investigations of the two programs.

Q. You’re trying to become the sixth coach of all time to win his third national championship, yet you’ve had this NCAA investigation looming over the season. How have you been able to balance the up-and-down emotions of the season.
COACH WILLIAMS: Well, it really hasn’t affected the coaching part because it’s been my sort of salvation. I go over there and I don’t think about all that stuff.

We have talked about it so much, it’s been such a big story that I’m tired of it. We have, in my opinion, the greatest sporting event there is, the Final Four, going on. It’s about four schools, four teams, four coaching staffs who have worked their tails off to get here.

All that other stuff that sometimes I call ‘junk’ has been talked about too much. I really want to focus on my team, the other guys, their teams, what’s happening. It’s okay to be a college basketball player and it’s a great event to be in the Final Four.

The first part of the question about being the sixth guy. I really don’t think about those things. I’m trying to figure out how in the dickens I can get enough baskets against Syracuse’s zone. I’ve been fortunate to have great kids that make me look very good and I hope they keep doing it for a long time.

Q. The investigation obviously has gone on for a while, like it did with Syracuse, yet you guys are here. How much tangible impact has it had so far?
COACH WILLIAMS: Jimmy and I had to answer this same question together this morning. Hopefully we won’t have to answer it continually while we’re here.

I think it affected us because it was our school. Jimmy went to Syracuse. I went to North Carolina. We’ve always loved those places, perhaps more than any other coach. It had nothing to do with these players. These players were not involved. It affected us as a distraction, as the way people looked at us personally.

Again, our teams are here because they played their way here. They had nothing to do with all the stuff. I’m looking forward to talking about zone defenses and fast breaks, basketball players who have accomplished a great deal.

Q. Mark, the slogan at the Final Four is, ‘The road ends here.’ There are a lot of North Carolina fans, coach, administrators, those outside of their fan base who want to know what’s the end of the road, when’s the end of the road in their investigation?
PRESIDENT EMMERT: Obviously a very complex circumstance. I’m not going to comment on the nature of the case itself. It’s been moving along very well. The university’s been very cooperative, will be at a place where my staff can issue allegations or notice of allegations in the very near future.

Other than that, it is premature to say when that will occur, but they’re certainly getting to the end of the road on it.

Q. The investigation at Syracuse has always been completed. You’ve handed out the sanctions. As you look back on it, that was an investigation that took several years and involved some very serious academic malfeasance, to say the least. Putting them in the field this year, do you have any reservations about that sending a message that says it’s okay to do that because after a brief absence from the tournament, you’ll be right back in?
PRESIDENT EMMERT: Yeah, sure, I understand why optically people have a lot of questions around all that. It makes perfect sense that they might.

The reality is, is that the Committee on Infractions handed down, which is a group of individuals from the membership, as you know, handed down their sanctions on Syracuse University. The university dealt with those sanctions and this group of young men that are playing right now had nothing to do with any of those violations the.

From Joe’s point of view and the committee’s point of view, their job is not to determine who is eligible or not, that’s up to the members to make that determination. They saw Syracuse as having responded appropriately to the allegations that were against them and having dealt with the penalties that the membership imposed on them.

So we’ve got a team that’s playing right now that, again, had nothing whatsoever to do with those sanctions, and they should be allowed to play.

It shouldn’t impact these young men. That’s what the judgment of the membership was. I support it.

Q. Mark, I’m going to quote Jim Boeheim. He said, Cheating to me is intentionally doing something, like you wouldn’t want to get this recruit, you arranged a job for him, or you went to see him when you shouldn’t. You called him and you got an edge in recruiting. That’s cheating. I think if something happens that you’re not aware of that it doesn’t really affect the recruit, I don’t look at it in the same way. He basically was standing up for what he had done, what happened at Syracuse was not cheating. Do you agree with what he has said?
PRESIDENT EMMERT: Well, look, the Committee on Infractions looking at the facts in that case. It was a voluminous set of data. It took far too long for all the information to be collected and gathered. I think everybody agreed with that.

When the data were put in front of a Committee on Infractions — this is a body of members of the association that aren’t paid employees of the NCAA. They’re conference commissioners. They’re athletic directors. There’s a former Attorney General of the United States. A former university president. It’s a cross-section of the membership.

When those folks looked at the facts, they reached the conclusion that, indeed, violations of our rules and bylaws had occurred and imposed sanctions that were consistent with their view and that behavior.

I’ll let Coach Boeheim define that how he wants to. But the committee determined these are clear violations of the rules and that, therefore, it warranted some pretty significant sanctions, and they were imposed.

Q. You’re relying on what the committee did. Are you saying you agree lockstep with what their definition of cheating is? I’m trying to get your opinion on what Boeheim said.
PRESIDENT EMMERT: I have enormous confidence in the Committee on Infractions. I think that process works remarkably well. It’s the closest thing you’re going to see to ‘a jury of your peers’ model for as broad an association as this one that includes a wide collection of institutions and members.

I have complete confidence in what that body did in this case.

Q. A lot of people have talked about the presence of Syracuse and UNC here, noted that the risk of breaking rules seems well worth the reward. I wondered if you think the current penalty structure is at all an adequate deterrent and if it’s a concern of yours?
PRESIDENT EMMERT: It’s always a concern of ours that the rules that the members have put in place strike that right balance between being deterrence from behavior that nobody wants to see, to also being too punitive and impacting students, for example, that didn’t have anything to do with it.

I would disagree with those observations that people have. The fact of the matter is that Syracuse, as I have said several times now, went through an exhaustive process. It went through a hearing on infractions. It dealt with the sanctions that were put in place.

This current group of student-athletes had nothing to do with those sanctions, and they happen to be a very good basketball team.

I think to conclude from that that there was no impact on the university is simply wrong. I think they disagreed at that time, and I think they would disagree today that there were no penalties that were inflicted on them.

Then, of course, the UNC case, as I just said earlier, we haven’t even gotten to a place where there have been allegations delivered to the institution. So we can’t make any comment, observation about them one way or the other.

Keep your fire extinguisher handy, because the stories written in the next couple of days from these quotes will be keyboard melting.