It seemed like a perfectly reasonable option at the time.
Roy Williams was so frustrated near the end of North Carolina’s win over Syracuse on Wednesday in the ACC tournament, he tried to rip his suit jacket. It was Incredible Hulk meets Bo Jackson, except the jacket won.
It was, of course, Theo Pinson’s fault. Pinson did a little bit of everything in UNC’s 78-59 win over Syracuse. Pinson had 16 points, 11 rebounds, six assists and he made one decision which led Williams to unsuccessfully assault his own wardrobe.
“It’s embarrassing to try the sucker and can’t do it,” Williams said. “I thought I was stronger than that, to be honest with you.”
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Senior guard Joel Berry, in the safety of the post-game afterglow joked about Williams’ lack of old-man strength.
“His 7 a.m. workouts must not be paying off,” Berry said. “He might have to change something up.”
Pinson, full-time playmaker and part-time imp, knew he was in trouble after he got an offensive rebound with 4:32 left in the second half. Instead of resetting the offense, and milking the clock with a 12-point lead, Pinson immediately went up with a shot and tried to draw a foul on Syracuse forward Bourama Sidibe. The whistle never came, the ill-advised shot did not fall.
“I just tried not to look over there because I knew that I missed it and I knew that he was (peeved),” Pinson said.
The reason Williams was frustrated to the point that he was actively trying to destroy his own suit requires some backstory. In UNC’s 78-74 win at Syracuse on Feb. 21, Williams wasn’t pleased with how his team played with the lead in the second half of that game.
“You’ve got to play the clock and the other team,” Williams said.
UNC let Syracuse come back in that game to tie the game at 74 before Berry provided the last four points in the final minute.
Fast forward to Wednesday’s game. A sequence at the end of the first half, added to Williams’ irritation. Backup forward Sterling Manley got an offensive rebound with 11 seconds left. Williams wanted his team to take the last shot of the half.
“I swear to goodness, guys, i have looked: it’s not in the Constitution of the United States that just because you get an offensive rebound means you get to shoot,” Williams said.
Manley dunked with 9 seconds left to put UNC up 39-26. He left too much time. Oshae Brissett, who led the Orange with 20 points, hit a 3 to cut UNC’s lead to 39-29 the half. Skip head to the final 5 minutes.
Syracuse, once down as many as 20, had whittled away at UNC’s lead. The Heels were up 66-54 when Pinson rebounded Cam Johnson’s missed 3-pointer — with 20 seconds left on the shot clock. When Pinson didn’t kick out the rebound and use more clock, Williams took off his coat.
The 67-year-old coach turned and walked towards the baseline. Twice he tried to pull the coat apart like a bag of chips.
“I did not do it properly,” Williams said. “I started around the collar, where it’s folded over so the material is twice as strong. If you really want to rip a jacket in half, start at the back at the bottom where it’s already split.”
Williams said he tried to rip the jacket because he couldn’t get his hands on Pinson.
“I don’t love anybody more than I love that boy but I’m telling you what, at that moment, me and his momma both wanted to strangle him,” Williams said.
Pinson, ever ready with a riposte, said: “I thought my All-ACC honorable mention gave me a little leeway on that.”
Turns out it didn’t. Also turned out Williams made his point without actually harming his suit.
“We wanted to dictate our own pace and just attack when we needed to attack,” Pinson said.
About 75 seconds after Pinson’s miss, he was back at the foul line and made two shots to push UNC’s lead back to 71-57. Crisis averted, jacket saved. Williams actually put it back on by the time the final buzzer went off.