As Bulls lose to Jazz, White shocked by Williams' retirement
Coby White's first really good performance in the NBA -- early in his rookie season against the Knicks -- happened with his college coach Roy Williams in attendance.
But White didn't get any advance warning from Williams about his decision to retire from coaching after a combined 33 seasons at North Carolina and Kansas.
"It was a shock, it was a surprise," White said after Friday's shootaround in Salt Lake City. "I'm happy for him and kind of sad at the same time because he will forever be my coach and forever be that role model, that guy, that figure I can go to in my life. But I'm happy for him, he's done this a long time and he's one of the best ever."
White returned to the court after missing two games with a neck injury. The Bulls stayed competitive Friday, but lost 113-106 to Utah, which extended its record to an NBA-best 37-11. The Jazz has won eight straight overall and 21 in a row at home.
The Bulls, meanwhile, dropped their sixth straight and they've yet to win since making the trades to add Nikola Vucevic, Daniel Theis, Troy Brown Jr., Al-Farouq Aminu and Javonte Green to the roster.
Zach LaVine also returned after missing one game with an ankle sprain. He scored 23 points, while Thad Young poured in a season-high 25 and Vucevic added 16. White finished with 4 points off the bench.
The Bulls had a 5-point lead with just over five minutes left in the second quarter, but Utah went on a 20-4 run to turn the tables before halftime. The Bulls came back to tie the score at 62-62 in the third quarter. This time a 16-4 surge put the Jazz back in control. The Bulls got as close as 109-106 when Vucevic hit a 3 with 26.7 seconds left but it was too late.
White said he did hear from Williams on Thursday, but retirement wasn't the primary topic of conversation.
"He called me because he didn't see me in the box score, so he was making sure that I was OK," White said. "He didn't even call to talk about everything that had happened. He called to see what was wrong with me. So we talked for about 20 minutes on the phone and I just asked him how he was doing. And he was doing good he had just finished his press conference."
White credited Williams for convincing him to turn pro after his freshman season at Carolina, and talked about the advice that helped him become the No. 7 pick of the 2019 NBA Draft. Coming out of high school, White was ranked the 23rd best recruit in the country by ESPN.
"One day he kind of took me to the side and said, 'You've got a chance to be great playing this game,'" White said. "But the great ones take on the challenge every day and they come ready to compete every day. He just said, 'You play hard every night, but I've got to get you to see the picture of the greats do it every single day. It's consistent. They don't take any days off. In practice, they're first in sprints, they're first in everything.'
"I think that was the biggest advice he gave me and as a person, that translates to life, attacking every day, being the best you that you can be. When you're not having the best day, being able to turn it around and look at the positive."
That attitude is one reason White never missed a game with the Bulls until Monday in Golden State.
"I take pride in playing games," he said. "If I'm able to play, I play. This is what I love to do. So when I'm not doing it, I wish I was doing it. So any chance I get, I want to play. It was hard sitting out."
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