Can’t wait for basketball season to begin? Well, Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill has good news in store for you: Hard Work: A Life On and Off the Court, a just-released memoir by Tar Heels coach Roy Williams, co-written by former Sports Illustrated writer Tim Crothers. The book features a foreword by John Grisham and a nice front-cover blurb by Michael Jordan. Bring out the big guns, why don’t you?
At this point, I’ve only been able to sample sections of the book, but I gotta tell you, I’m already drawn in. While the memoir stretches back to Williams’ difficult childhood — an abusive, alcoholic father, a mother struggling to make ends meet — the book itself is framed by the 2009 basketball season. The opening pages find Williams walking down the middle of the road at 4 a.m., worrying about star player Tyler Hansbrough’s injuries and about the demands of the season ahead — how the prospects and expectations were raising the stakes for the entire team. Even knowing about the NCAA tournament win that ultimately ended the season doesn’t lessen the conflict of that nighttime walk or the sense of suspense about the longer path ahead. By the end of the book, when he reflects back on that season as the sweetest because of all the adversity, you really get a sense of what this book is about. The title doesn’t draw solely from that team cheer at the end of each huddle.
As anyone who’s followed his career knows, Williams has made some controversial and much-publicized decisions in his lifetime, not the least of which were his decisions to stay in Kansas and then to leave Kansas. In the book, he reflects on these decisions and offers some behind-the-scenes reasons for them, much of it related to his family and his past: his mother, his father, his sister, each depicted in gripping, poignant scenes and with often surprising candor.
In advance of the season ahead, Williams will be touring several North Carolina bookstores to discuss the book — surely a must for Tar Heels fans everywhere. Catch him on Tuesday, November 3, at McIntyre’s Books in Fearrington Village; on Thursday, November 5, at the Bull’s Head Bookshop in Chapel Hill; on Tuesday, November 10, at Raleigh’s Quail Ridge Books; and on Friday, November 13, at Durham’s Regulator Bookshop.