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Hard Work: A Life On and Off the Court Hardcover – November 3, 2009

4.7 out of 5 stars 47 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Williams, the men's basketball coach at the University of Kansas (1988–2003) and at the University of North Carolina (2003–present), describes his personal and professional path to a Hall of Fame coaching career and two national championships. Ignored by his abusive, drunken father and raised primarily by a cash-strapped, saintly single mother, Williams paid for his college education at UNC by officiating intramural sports. When Dean Smith, that school's legendary basketball coach, offered Williams a low-paying job on his coaching staff, Williams accepted and sold calendars and delivered videotapes to TV stations to feed his family. As a head coach, Williams's dedication extends to landing recruits and running organized, thorough practices. And he's done all this while maintaining a cohesive family life. (He's married to his college sweetheart.) Well-intentioned and upbeat, the book treads the familiar ground of glossy, inspirational sports biographies. Williams recalls passionate speeches, great players (i.e., Michael Jordan, James Worthy) and various anecdotes from the coaching life, but never delivers consistent insight on the workings of a successful coach at two legendary sports programs. However, the book is redeemed by Williams's genial (and borderline hokey) tone and the forthright revelations of his tumultuous childhood and early days coaching in high school and college. 16-page photo insert. (Nov.)
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From Booklist

Roy Williams is arguably the most successful active NCAA major-college basketball coach. A few more NCAA championships with North Carolina— he has two—and he inserts himself into the greatest-all-time discussion. His life story is a genuine rags-to-riches saga. Born poor in rural North Carolina and raised by a single mom, he was extraordinarily driven and self-sufficient as a child and young man. He received a basketball scholarship to North Carolina but was in over his head as a player. He worked his way through school refereeing intramural sports––eventually overseeing the entire program––keeping statistics for then head coach Dean Smith, and working summers at Smith’s basketball camp. After graduation, he became a high-school coach, married, and was moving along nicely with his career when the offer came to be a part-time assistant for Smith at a fraction of his salary as a teacher and coach. He took the gamble and supported his young family for years with a variety of side jobs, including selling UNC basketball calendars to local merchants. Eventually he became Smith’s top assistant and played a significant role in recruiting a skinny kid named Michael Jordan. Later he accepted the top job at Kansas and was very successful there before coming home to North Carolina. Fans view Williams today through the narrow prism of success, but they most likely have little concept of the sacrifice and hard work it took to get there. A thoroughly enjoyable memoir related with humor, compassion, and intelligence. --Wes Lukowsky
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Algonquin Books; 1 edition (November 10, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1565129598
  • ISBN-13: 978-1565129597
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (47 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #920,363 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I'm a KU fan who was heart-broken when Roy Williams went to North Carolina. Now, after reading his book, I find his decision easier to understand and wish him the successes he so richly deserves. I really enjoyed reading this book and recommend it highly.
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Format: Hardcover
Hard Work traces the improbable story of Roy Williams, now legendary head coach of Kansas and North Carolina. Roy's family had no money but his mother instilled values that would serve him for a lifetime.

What made this story fascinating was the way Williams planned his career trajectory. Knowing he wanted to be a great basketball coach, he turned down a scholarship at Georgia Tech so he could apprentice with Dean Smith of UNC. He worked all sorts of jobs to get through college. Later he worked all sorts of jobs to be on the staff with Dean Smith first as a volunteer, then as a part-time assistant.

After becoming a full time assistant coach at UNC, Roy still thought carefully about his career moves. He turned down several well-paid jobs till the right athletic director came calling from Kansas. Once established at Kansas, Roy rejected UNC's first offer to return as head coach. .

I got a little bogged down in the details of some games, because I am not a follower of these teams. My only quibble is that we don't get a sense of Coach Williams's coaching personality. He talks a little about what he said to teams in specific situations. But we don't get the same sense of personality as we do with the stories of other coaches, such as the legendary Pat Summitt. She also talks about hard work and she shows how she integrates her philosophy into the teams.
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Williams's story can be viewed as a fable for career planning. Start early and stay fixed on your goal" is the message we get.

Williams found that his gambles paid off. Could he have become a big-time college coach another way? Possibly. But this path makes a great story. Recommended as a life story even if you're not a die-hard basketball fan.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I was one of the Roy-boys for a long time. When Coach left KU for UNC, I was mad. I can't begin to explain how upset I was, along with 2 million others. Williams was KU to me. In 89 I was 10 and never really knew Coach Brown. Williams was all I had every known of KU.

After reading this book, I have a different outlook on what Coach was going through and why he wanted to leave. I think with a couple more years, he would have taken us to a NC, but it all worked out for a reason. Good luck to Coach Williams and UNC. Thanks for taking the time to write this book.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is one of my favorite books ever and I am not. Even a UNC or Kansas fan. Roy's journey into coaching is a great story. If you are a basketball fan you will love this book. It is not so much about his philosophy (although there is some of that in the book) as much as it is about how Coach Williams made it.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Although Roy Williams has had a great career as a coach he has not been very articulate in explaining why his teams failed. The story of his hard life as a young man was interesting and revealing but you never really feel like you find out what happened or what went wrong with some of the great teams he had. I felt like I was reading a book written for a 5th grader but maybe that was the intended audience.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Coach Williams is a throw back to a different era when North Carolinians were actually from NC with deep roots to the state. He gives us his perspective on recruiting, playing, and learning under Dean Smith--as well as the agony of leaving Kansas. Thanks Coach for coming home, saving Carolina basketball, and continuing the legacy of Coach Smith.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I've always enjoyed watching Coach Williams' coaching style, first with Kansas and then with UNC. I think he exudes the confidence, humility, knowledge and character that a coach should have in abundance. He has an amazing story in these pages and his self deprecating sense of humor shines through every page. He is not hung up on his accolades, he just enjoys the heck outta the journey.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
If you love Roy and Carolina basketball, you're gonna love this book. It's honest and funny and made me really excited for basketball season. I almost missed 2 flights because I was so wrapped up in reading :)
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