DETROIT — The perfect coach for the near-perfect team was in the perfect place. For Roy Williams, it must have felt a bit like the top of the world.
He was standing on a trophy platform, and the platform was on top of a raised floor, and the raised floor was on top of the rest of college basketball.
Say this much for Good Old Roy.
The guy never has been afraid of heights.
All season, people have told Williams how talented his team was, and he would simply nod and smile. They would talk about winning another title, and he would grin and talk about the work ahead. They would speak, of all things, about an undefeated season, and he would shake his head and mention that he didn't think anyone was going to do that again.
Every day, every game, people would push their expectations toward Williams, and none of it bothered him. Williams has heard it all before.
Besides, Williams had some expectations of his own.
He expected the Tar Heels to play like … this.
North Carolina was wonderful in Monday night's 89-72 victory in the national championship game. The game was like watching a Carolina highlight film.
"The first one was sweet back in 2005," Williams said, "but in some ways, this is even sweeter. That's about the most satisfying feeling I've had a coach. These players took Roy Williams on one fantastic ride. It's something I'll never forget."
Every play, it seemed, a different player was doing something flashier than the play before, and by halftime, it was hard not to wonder if they were the best team the NCAA Tournament has seen in a decade.
Oh, the Tar Heels slacked off some in the second half, but it was never a contest. It was the Tar Heels playing name that score and being nice about it.
Yes, they were great offensively. Aren't the Tar Heels usually great on offense? But they also were better than Michigan State on the boards. They were better on defense. They were better everywhere.
Come to think of it, how did this team lose four games?
No matter. They weren't going to lose this one. North Carolina jumped Michigan State from the opening tip, hitting six of its first seven shots, and neither Michigan State's crowd nor Michigan State's cause — to provide a bit of sunshine for the locals who are struggling with the economy — was going to slow it down. Hey, people are out of work in Carolina, too.
Even with all of North Carolina's talent, this didn't figure to be this easy. Michigan State had shut down UConn and Louisville in its previous two games, and there was a growing feeling the Spartans could defend anyone. Anyone else, maybe. This time, the 72,922 inside Ford Field might have been watching a Lions game. It was that lopsided.
Had the Tar Heels been any better in their 55-point first half, they would not only have won the NCAA title, they would have qualified for the upcoming NBA playoffs.
For Williams, this had to be the perfect way to win a title. As these things go, this was a stroll in the park, and after all, Williams had vowed to savor this trip a little more than his 2005 title, back when the thoughtful people around him kept reminding him that he hadn't won one.
Now he has two, which means he has as many as his mentor Dean Smith won. He has reached the Final Four eight times, and five of those have come in the last eight years. In other words, old Roy has a little something going. After all, only three other active coaches (Mike Krzyzewski, Jim Calhoun and Billy Donovan) have more than one title.
"Roy Williams ain't that good," Williams said. "But Old Roy has some big-game players. Roy Williams and Dean Smith don't fit in the same sentence. I believe that. I'm not being humble."
Despite it all, Williams remains a Mayberry sort of guy. Even with all of the pressure, there is a comfortable ease to him. Yes, he has great players and yes, he has high expectations. What sort would you want him to have?
This is why he is such a perfect fit for North Carolina. Whenever fans argue about the best coaches in college basketball, there are six to eight names which are usually brought up. But do any of them fit his university any better than Williams? Do any of them do any better at absorbing the expectations of a program?
Take Monday. It didn't matter when it was 7-3, or when it was 21-7, or when it was 31-11. Williams was still stamping around the sidelines, still contorting as if it were a one-point game.
And then there were 63 seconds left, and the lead was 17, and Williams pulled his starters. One by one, he embraced them on the sideline. He smiled. Finally, he looked satisfied.
Who knows? Someday, perhaps Williams will be as big an icon on the North Carolina campus as Smith.