Williams takes over hungry program

Updated: October 16, 2003, 7:51 PM ET

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- Roy Williams doesn't know his new team like he should because of summer recruiting and time spent as an Olympic assistant.

But North Carolina's coach now has the pulse of the Tar Heels heading into the first practice this weekend.

"I'm really hungry, but it's human nature that I can't be as hungry as those kids are," the former Kansas coach said Thursday. "Nobody on our squad has ever played in the NCAA tournament.

"I've got to think they are going to do anything that I ask them to do to see if it's going to work," he added. "I want them to pull the nails out of the floor if that's what I ask them to do."

After a turbulent three seasons under Matt Doherty, including an Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season championship and a player revolt last season, Williams is a calming influence for one of the nation's top college programs.

He also returns to Chapel Hill as a former Dean Smith assistant with quite a resume.

"He brings everything," point guard Raymond Felton said. "He brings inspiration, pride, confidence. He's a great coach, he's a great man. I can't wait. This is exciting to me."

North Carolina, which reached the third round of the NIT last season, returns five starters and can go nine or 10 deep.

Most preseason publications list the Tar Heels in the top 10. However, Williams said that may be rushing things a bit.

"I don't know if it's realistic or not because I really haven't watched a single tape from last year until last Saturday because I wanted to start everybody with a clean slate," he said. "I am looking forward to this Saturday so I can form my own expectations.

"The strange thing to me is we've lost 36 games the last two years. We only added one freshman and he was second-team all-state. The fans need to understand that old Roy ain't that good. They think some miracles are going to happen. Those 36 losses were not Matt Doherty's, it was the North Carolina team."

Williams said practice at the Smith Center on Saturday will be quite a bit different than when he took over the Kansas program 15 years ago as an unknown commodity.

"Let's be honest, my first year at Kansas I brought nothing," Williams said. "They didn't quite know what my JV record was.

"But those kids from Day One trusted me and gave me a chance. Sometimes I would sit back and sometimes wonder why they did. This year's group knows we've been pretty successful at Kansas. It's not going to be my first practice or first game. They've given me a chance already by the respect that they appear to have."

What Williams also gives the Tar Heels is a fresh start, players said.

"We're ready to put last year behind us," center Sean May said. "But I know a lot of people have a lot of concerns about what happened and why it happened and what's going to happen from now on. We're all sick of talking about it and after seven or eight games no one will say much about it any more."

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index