“That’s kind of ridiculous, honestly,” Paige told reporters at the Smith Center. “There’s no chance that’s even remotely close. I guess I might be a little biased, but no way.”
Despite a Hall of Fame resume consisting of 724 career wins, seven Final Fours and two national titles, Williams was isolated from his true peers, such as Rick Pitino (No. 5), Mike Krzyzewski (No. 4), Tom Izzo (No. 3) and John Calipari (No. 2). As it turned out, Williams’s UNC squad topped that entire quartet of Hall of Famers last season.
The most difficult comparative ranking to calibrate is between Izzo and Williams, as the UNC head coach is 7-0 against his counterpart with victories ranging from Chapel Hill to East Lansing to the national title game to a large boat off the San Diego coast.
Brad Frederick, UNC’s director of basketball operations, provided a mocking response of ESPN’s ranking last week.
ESPN's 16th ranked coach was 4-1 against their Top 5 last season. Imagine if he was just a Top 15 coach.— Brad Frederick (@BFrederickUNC) July 3, 2014
Paige, who will headline a 2014-15 UNC team with lofty expectations, credited Williams with his understanding of the game.
“I was lucky enough to be recruited by a lot of the guys that are probably ahead of him on that list,” Paige said. “I can say in my three years I’ve learned more about basketball since I’ve been here than I would have ever imagined knowing. I think his stats and his former players can attest to that.
“Everything pretty much speaks for itself.”