AARON BEARD, AP Basketball Writer
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina coach Roy Williams apologized to Louisville’s Rick Pitino after the Cardinals coach had a heated verbal exchange with a fan as he came off the court for halftime during Wednesday night’s game.
ESPN video of the incident showed Pitino walking off the court when he suddenly turned back and started shouting toward the nearby stands. Team staff and a Smith Center security official pulled him away and led him into the tunnel. UNC team spokesman Matt Bowers said the fan was ejected after the incident.
“We’re North Carolina — we don’t have to be like everybody else,” Williams said. “You can raise Cain, you can boo, but you don’t have to say stuff that we as coaches have to put up with. I hope that never happens again at North Carolina. I apologize to Rick. I don’t know what was said.
“Cheer like crazy for us. I know some of the junk that I have to listen to on the road is not what I enjoy.”
Pitino brought up the incident in his postgame comments without being asked.
“This was a surprise environment,” Pitino said with a smile. “I’ve always said that this is the classiest place in college basketball — until I met a fan on the way out. It always reminded me of a class place, but they’re getting just like some of the other places now.”
Asked about the incident, Pitino said: “He just got in my face and said something I didn’t like.
“But I take it from the students all the time,” Pitino continued. “You expect it from students. But from an adult? And then turns his back on me like he’s a coward. And he is a coward. But North Carolina is a classy place, and one person doesn’t speak for the rest of the people.”
Asked exactly what the fan said, Pitino quipped with a grin: “Something kind about me. It’s all right.”
The eighth-ranked Tar Heels beat the seventh-ranked Cardinals 74-63.
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