Calendars and fried shrimp.
And, of course, golf.
Those are the things beyond basketball that Michael Jordan thinks of first about Roy Williams, who is retiring as North Carolina’s basketball coach Thursday.
Williams was an assistant coach at North Carolina when Jordan was blossoming as a high school basketball player in Wilmington in the early 1980s. Williams supplemented his income back then by driving around the state, selling calendars in the summer. One summer, he drove 9,000 miles, to sell about 10,000 calendars to make $2,400.
Along those routes, Williams became close with Jordan’s father, James.
”Seeing him sell those calendars all around the state — he had a backseat full of them — demonstrated a work ethic that really registered on my father,” Jordan, now the owner of the Charlotte Hornets, said in an exclusive interview with The Observer. “They ended up with a bond that lasted for years.
“It’s important to talk about the passages these coaches go through to get where they are. He certainly earned his success.”
Jordan went to North Carolina and played for Dean Smith, with Williams as an assistant, winning the national championship in 1982. Jordan hit the go-ahead shot with 15 seconds left in the victory over Georgetown and went on to be a five-time NBA Most Valuable Player.
Jordan was caught off-guard by Williams’ decision to retire, after winning national championships in 2005, 2009 and 2017. He said he has mixed emotions about the decision; mostly happy that Williams, 70, gets to leave on his own terms.
“To choose your own path, to walk away from the game when he wants,” Jordan said of Williams’ decision. “It’s great he now gets to spend more time with his children and grandchildren.
“I’m sad that he’s leaving because he has meant so much to basketball,” Jordan said. “He and my father formed an unbelievable bond that meant so much to me.”
Jordan and Williams share a passion for golf and Jordan expects he will get to spend more time on courses with Williams now. But that’s not the most distinctive personal link Jordan has to the Williams family.
It’s Wanda Williams’ fried-shrimp recipe. No one does it better.
“His wife made me fried shrimp all the time!” Jordan said of his favorite recollection. “No one makes fried shrimp better, and she constantly fed me.”