An excerpt from Roy Williams' new book, Hard Work
Roy Williams overcame a difficult childhood to become one of nation's top coaches
Williams learned under one of the best, Dean Smith, and never forgot the lessons
Williams wanted to win the 2009 national title badly and felt the pressure
From Hard Work: A Life On and Off the Court, by Roy Williams with Tim Crothers. Copyright Roy Williams and Tim Crothers. Reprinted by permission of Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill. Available for purchase wherever books are sold.
Between my mother and father there was a lot of physical abuse. He would come home drunk and push her around, and my sister Frances and I would try to stop it. I'd try to separate them, but I was too small and my dad, Babe, would just push me away.
My mother and father split for the first time just after I'd finished first grade. My mother took us away and the three of us lived all summer in a single room at the Shamrock Court Motel, which my aunt Doris owned. My mother would go off to work and Frances was off doing odd jobs for somebody, so I would go around with another of my aunts, Leona, who was a maid at the motel. She paid me 25 cents a day to take off the dirty pillowcases and put on clean ones. At lunch Aunt Doris would fix me a sandwich, and then I'd go and work some more in the afternoon. That was it. There was no ballplaying. Nothing that kids do. It was just survival.
When the school year started, we moved in with another aunt. We lived in her trailer because she had an empty bedroom. I slept on the couch and my mother and sister shared the back bedroom. We lived there for four or five months, and then Dad started coming by and my parents got back together again. That lasted a little while before they broke up again. We left again and lived with another aunt. All of these aunts that put us up were my dad's sisters. They were all mad at Babe because they knew that his drinking and carousing was ruining my family. It was difficult for me to understand why my father was doing this to us. My mom and dad got together and broke up, got together and broke up, and the last time we moved out I was 11 years old.
Frances was four years older than me. I know Frances was also upset by our family situation, but she didn't seem to be as bothered by it as I was. She was older, more mature, and just handled it better. During the tough times, she was keeping an eye on me more than I knew she was, but I just wasn't willing to talk about our mom and dad splitting up. I never really talked to anybody about it. I pretended it wasn't there.
During one of the times when my mother and dad got back together, we lived in a house on Warren Avenue in Asheville. That was the first and only house we ever owned. My mother, Frances, and I left and came back, and left and came back, and then one day when we were staying with one of my aunts, my dad said, "Why don't you guys come back and stay at the house, and I'll leave and let you guys live there?"
We'd only been back living in that house for two weeks when these two guys pulled up in the driveway. They were wearing dark sportcoats, white shirts, and ties. I was on the porch, but I ran in the house to tell my mom as they came walking up the steps. I remember latching the screen door, and I wouldn't unlatch it to let them in. It turned out that during that seven-month time period that we'd been gone, my dad hadn't paid the mortgage. So they came and foreclosed on the house. They told us we had three days to get out. I went and packed up my stuff, and we moved back to the motel. To this day I still have a negative feeling about people in dark sportcoats, white shirts, and ties.
Every time my parents got back together, there was a lot of fighting. My dad never hit my mother with his fist, but he went as far as he could go without doing that. I tried to run away from home one time because I just wanted to get away. I didn't get very far; I don't know if I wanted to get very far. I just wanted to shock my dad into stopping. I was always feeling like I needed to escape.
Growing up I always knew my dad was wrong. I hated the drinking. I wanted my mom and dad to be together, but I didn't want them to be together if it was going to be that way.
The summer I turned 14, my parents had been apart for a couple of years. My dad hardly ever paid the child support. He'd pay one month and skip seven, then pay another month and skip nine. My mom talked to a lawyer and they served a warrant for my dad's arrest and said he had to catch up on child support. My dad came by the house. He was drunk and angry. It was the worst time I can ever remember. He went after my mom. I pulled him off of her, pushed him down, and grabbed a bottle and put it under his chin. "Get out of here or I'll bust this over your head," I said. "I'll kill you!"
The whole scene was very nasty, but I didn't care. When he got up to leave, I said, "I never want to see you again. I never want you to set foot in my house again for the rest of my life."
My dad never, ever came back to our house again. After that, I rarely saw him, only a couple of times when my sister made me go with her to visit him. Frances was more forgiving, but I was not. I was mad that he'd torn our family apart.