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’Ol Roy urges crowd to join fight against cancer

Roy Williams, Hall of Fame basketball coach, winner of three national titles and resident of Flat Rock, told Women Helping Women attendees they ‘can adjust the sails’ even if they can’t control the wind.

Roy Williams made the short drive from his retirement home in Kenmure to appear as keynote speaker for Pardee Hospital Foundation’s 25th annual Women Helping Women luncheon on Friday and took the stage not in Carolina blue but in a pink sports coat.

Pardee UNC Health President and CEO Jay Kirby introduced Williams.

“He began his coaching career at Owen High School and from there you know the rest: coach of Kansas and UNC, three national championships, coach of the decade from 2000 to 2009 and the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame,” he said. “Today, he and his wife, Wanda, have returned home, residing in Flat Rock, spending time with family and friends, many of whom are here today. I’m told by many, family, not basketball, is his passion.”

Kirby praised Wanda’s role in her husband’s decision to embark on a college coaching career in Chapel Hill.

“When her husband and father of their new son suggested they leave their $30,000 combined income back in the early ‘70s to accept a $2,700 a year coaching job for Dean Smith at UNC, after a brief pause, she said, ‘When do we leave?’

“God bless you, Wanda,” Kirby said. “On behalf of the state of North Carolina and Tar Heel Nation, we say, thank you.”

In his 30-minute keynote, Williams talked about family, returning home, his personal experience with cancer and how his approach to coaching can translate into life outside the basketball arena.

“So I coached 48 years and we always had a thought for the day because I wanted kids to think. I used to tell my guys, ‘I will never get mad at you for missing a shot. I’ll never get mad at you if the other guy just makes a great shot over you. But I will get mad if you don’t hustle and I will get mad if you don’t concentrate because you can control those things.’”

“When I’m thinking about the cancer deal, the thought that comes to mind more than anything is you cannot control the wind but you can adjust the sails,” he said. “You can’t control what that wind is going to do but you can adjust the sails to still get to where you want to be. And that’s what we can do here. … I think that’s what you’re here for today. You’ve done this for 25 years, and we’re asking you to do even more of it now.”


Honoring Women of Hope

The 25th annual Women Helping Women luncheon honored Dawn Creasman, Roxana Dallies and Ashley Hornsby Welch, this year’s Women of Hope. Women of Hope for 2020 and 2021, who had been honored at virtual events, were recognized in person. They were Angela Evans, Ileta Silvia, Leah Gordon, Sydney Bailey, Dawn Brown, Lynn Easley, Virginia Spigener and Sandy Williams.

Williams appearance at a benefit to fight cancer was not unusual. He serves on the national board of Coaches v. Cancer and devotes at least five days a year, he said, “for some cause to raise money for research, for helping people to be screened, tested and everything because that’s a huge stumbling block for a lot of people.

“I lost my mother to cancer, I lost my father to cancer, I lost my best friend in Chapel Hill to cancer,” he added. “It’s going to touch everybody.”

A native of Asheville, Williams closed his remarks with a nod toward his Blue Ridge Mountains background and the obligation of community to “take care of our people.”

“When you’re coming from Chapel Hill, and you’re driving up Interstate 40, or coming up 85 and 74 and you get where you can see those mountains — that’s a pretty special feeling,” he said. “And this morning as we’re leaving Kenmure, we’re pulling out and I’m looking up and it’s a Carolina blue sky. The colors and everything is absolutely beautiful. This is home and it won’t ever change. But the other thing we do at home is we take care of our people. That’s what we’re asking you guys to do.”