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With Roy Williams retiring, college basketball loses an all-time great coach — even if not everyone realizes it

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With Roy Williams retiring, college basketball loses an all-time great coach — even if not everyone realizes it

The most curious thing about Roy Williams’ head coaching career is that he started at the top and worked his way toward the bottom — in terms of public perception — even though he earned more success, more respect and greater wealth with each day since July 8, 1988.

Williams’ work as head coach at Kansas in his first season was applauded widely, and when he reached the NCAA Tournament national championship game at the end of his third season, he was viewed as a rising superstar. And yet somehow, after he’d reached four Final Fours at Kansas and a second national title game, and after he’d moved back home to coach the North Carolina Tar Heels, he arrived at the 2005 title game against Illinois to a chorus of “Talent vs. Team.”

MORE: The 10 best candidates to replace Roy Williams at UNC

His Heels were not the “team” in that equation.

Don’t think he didn’t notice. He was too modest to say anything publicly, but he had every reason to be bothered.

And almost certainly he felt slighted again in 2012, when he was named the nation’s “most overrated coach” in an anonymous poll of college basketball coaches conducted by the staff of CBSSports.com and published on their website. Williams had two NCAA championships and seven Final Fours on his resume at that point, and still it wasn’t even close. He got 23 percent of the vote.

Here’s what is tricky: Although Williams has not appreciated those who dismissed him, he never would want anyone to elevate him above the late Dean Smith, who coached him at Carolina, who hired him to the Tar Heels staff, who recommended to the late Bob Frederick at Kansas that he hire Williams in 1988 to coach the Jayhawks even though Roy was, at that point, 0-0. So we won’t do that.

We’ll let the numbers do that for us: Williams, 70, retired Thursday from college coaching with more career victories (903), more NCAA championships (three), more NCAA Tournament appearances (30), NCAA Tournament wins (79) and regular-season conference championships (18).

To honor Roy’s wishes, we will take the statement no further than to say North Carolina never has had a greater basketball coach.

Williams’ win total ranks fourth in the game’s history, behind Mike Krzyzewski, Jim Boeheim and Jim Calhoun. His nine Final Fours rank fourth, behind Krzyzewski, John Wooden and Smith. His three titles rank fourth, behind Wooden, Krzyzewski and Adolph Rupp and tied with Calhoun and Bob Knight.

You see the names there, the men with whom Williams has kept company, and it’s jarring that none was ever disrespected in the way Williams has been, many times, particularly since returning to Chapel Hill.

The preamble to that 2005 title game is the most obvious example. The “Talent vs. Team” framing was ubiquitous, enough so that The Associated Press referenced it in the game story distributed after the Tar Heels’ 75-70 victory over the Illini.

It had been a ludicrous construct to say that they were not a proper team. Williams and his staff worked hard to make it so. Williams had to convince Marvin Williams, who would become the No. 2 pick in that June’s NBA Draft, to accept a sixth man role because he didn’t want to bench a talented, productive senior, Jawad Williams. He had to get volatile wing Rashad McCants to commit to his role in the offense and defense, and that was no mean feat. He had to build an offense around the overwhelming low-post scoring of center Sean May, when that approach rarely had been the central feature of his teams at Kansas.

MORE: Ranking the Final Four teams’ chance to win it all

Williams went on to win two more titles, in 2009 and 2017, with teams that were divergent in style and personality, and to reach two more Final Fours that did not result in championships. In 2019, his Tar Heels earned another ACC regular-season title and another No. 1 seed but were eliminated in the Sweet 16 by Auburn. His final game was as a No. 8 seed in first round of the 2021 NCAA Tournament, which the Heels lost by 23 points to Wisconsin.

Williams wept after that game, as he often did following the final game of a season. Most were defeats, because that is the nature of the sport, but the champion gets to finish with a win, and he did that more than most.

“The last game is extremely emotional,” Williams told reporters afterward. “I’ve been very lucky; I’ve been in the locker room four times — one as an assistant, three as a head coach, where the last game of the year was really emotional in a good way.

“My club, I didn’t do a very good job. It’s been a difficult year. But everybody’s had the problems with COVID that we’ve had. It’s been a hard year to push and pull, push and pull every other day to try to get something done. But how can you be any luckier than Roy Williams is coaching basketball?”

You could have been one of us, getting to watch him do it. Is that luckier? Who’s to say? Maybe the end of his career, though, will convince those who didn’t truly appreciate him to understand: There goes Roy Williams, damned close to the best there ever was in this game.

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Is Julian Edelman a Hall of Famer? Twitter debates retired receiver’s credentials

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Is Julian Edelman a Hall of Famer? Twitter debates retired receiver's credentials

Julian Edelman called it quits Monday, announcing his retirement after an 11-year NFL career, all of it spent with the Patriots.

Edelman’s final stat line: 620 receptions for 6,866 receiving yards (11 yards per reception) and 36 receiving touchdowns; 58 rushes for 413 yards (7.1 yards per carry); 177 punt returns for 1,986 yards and four touchdowns. His yardage ranks 156h in NFL history, and his receiving touchdowns are tied for 261st.

Zero Pro Bowl selections. Three Super Bowl rings. One Super Bowl MVP. And a member of the Patriots’ 2010 All-Decade team.

Now, the ensuing debate: Are those numbers good enough to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame (which Edelman won’t be eligible for until 2026)? The pure numbers say no, but that didn’t stop Twitter users from making “HOFer” and “Edelman” trend Monday evening as they discussed Edelman’s Hall of Fame credentials.

MORE: Why did Patriots cut Julian Edelman? Failed physical only part of New England roster move

Sporting News’ Vinnie Iyer in May 2019 made a compelling argument that Edelman’s Hall of Fame case isn’t so cut and dry. Working in Edelman’s favor is the fact that only Jerry Rice ranks ahead of Edelman in postseason receptions (151 to Edelman’s 118) and receiving yards (2,245 to Edelman’s 1,442). He was also one of the favorite targets of Tom Brady — himself a first-ballot Hall of Famer — as the two won three Super Bowls together.

But Edelman only led the Patriots three times in receiving yards, and never put together more than 1,117 yards in a season (in 2019, his last fully healthy season). He had three 1,000-yard receiving seasons and never scored more than seven receiving touchdowns a year. People were also quick to point out his stats pale in comparison to other non-Hall of Famers with considerably better stats, including Hines Ward, who in 2021 failed to make it into Canton for the fifth consecutive year.

Regardless of whether Edelman makes it into the Hall of Fame, the fact that his candidacy is so hotly debated — not even 24 hours removed from announcing his retirement — is a testament to his impact on the game.

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Why did Patriots cut Julian Edelman? Failed physical only part of New England roster move

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Why did Patriots cut Julian Edelman? Failed physical only part of New England roster move

The Patriots sent shockwaves throughout the NFL on Monday — tremors, at least — with the announcement that they would cut veteran receiver Julian Edelman.

Multiple reports suggest that New England cut Edelman, 34, because he failed his physical; he would have played his 12th season in the league in 2021 after missing the final 10 games of the 2020 season while recovering from knee surgery.

That said, New England’s decision to cut Edelman was more than just a simple failed physical. Either way, Monday’s decision could put the cap on an 11-year career that saw Edelman catch 620 passes for 6,822 yards and 36 touchdowns and win three Super Bowls.

NFL MOCK DRAFTS 2021: Compare Mel Kiper, Daniel Jeremiah, Todd McShay & other experts

Here’s everything you need to know about the decision, and Edelman’s future in the NFL.

Why did the Patriots cut Julian Edelman?

The initial reason for Edelman’s tenure ending in New England was a failed physical. That makes sense on the surface, considering that the 34-year-old receiver played in the fewest games in a given season since he entered the NFL in 2009. Considering how busy New England coach/GM Bill Belichick was in free agency, it also stands to reason that Edelman would have seen fewer targets in 2021 after the Patriots added receivers Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne, and tight ends Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith.

However, that was only part of the Patriots’ decision. Per Mike Weiss of ESPN, the decision could simply be a formality and precursor to Edelman retiring from football.

Edelman later confirmed rumors that he was, indeed, retiring. Edelman, in a pre-recorded video, announced his decision.

Why is Edelman retiring from the NFL?

In the video, Edelman credited an undisclosed knee injury from the 2020 season as the reason for his retirement. He underwent surgery on Oct. 29 and did not return for the remainder of New England’s 7-9 season.

“Nothing in my career has ever come easy. And, no surprise, this isn’t going to be easy, either,” Edelman said in his announcement. “I always said, ‘I’m gonna go until the wheels come off.’ And they finally have fallen off. Due to an injury last year, I’ll be making my official announcement of retirement from football. It was a hard decision, but the right decision for me and my family. And I’m honored, and so proud, to be retiring a Patriot.

That last line also puts an end to any rumors that Edelman will attempt a comeback somewhere else in the NFL — notably, in Tampa Bay with former teammates Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski.

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Dustin Poirier says Conor McGregor never donated promised $500K to former’s charity

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Dustin Poirier says Conor McGregor never donated promised $500K to former's charity

Dustin Poirier and Conor McGregor are confirmed to be fighting again … on Twitter.

The latest clash between the two UFC fighters stems from a Poirier claim Sunday night that McGregor and his team failed to deliver on a promised $500,000 donation. It would have gone to Poirier’s charity, “The Good Fight,” after their UFC 257 bout in January, which Poirier won via second-round TKO.

McGregor responded in kind, saying that Poirier never said exactly where the money was going and how it would be used.

MORE: Francis Ngannou wins heavyweight title at UFC 260 after KO of Stipe Miocic

All this stemmed from a 2020 exchange between the two fighters where McGregor teased a comeback outside of UFC. He proposed a PPV with Poirier, saying all the money would go to charity. He eventually settled on the $500,000 amount, which would be donated after their January bout. Poirier confirmed in December 2020 that McGregor’s team had begun the process of donating to his foundation.

Poirier and McGregor’s online squabble further devolved from there, with Poirier claiming that McGregor’s team quit responding to emails and McGregor calling Poirier a “brain dead hillbilly” — before canceling their trilogy fight.

Both fighters have reportedly signed contracts to a trilogy fight on July 10 at UFC 264, though that promotion hasn’t been made official. What’s also uncertain is whether McGregor’s claim that the fight is off is him simply letting off steam or retaliation against Poirier.

Just another day in the UFC.

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