When North Carolina coach Roy Williams talked to Coby White pregame Tuesday, he sensed his former player was a bit down.
“I just told him to relax,” Williams said. “How many years is a talent like that going to play? A decade? Ten games doesn’t define him.”
White’s 11th NBA game, however, will live forever in his and Williams’ hearts.
White authored a shooting performance for the ages, sinking seven 3-pointers in the fourth quarter of the Bulls’ much-needed 120-102 victory over the Knicks and scoring 23 of his game-high 27 points in the final period.
The Bulls and Knicks entered the fourth quarter tied. White became the youngest player in NBA history to make seven 3-pointers, set a franchise record for 3-pointers in a quarter and tied the franchise mark for 3-pointers in a half. He fell two 3-pointers shy of Klay Thompson’s NBA record for 3-pointers in a quarter.
And Williams, who joined the standing ovation and chants of “Coby! Coby!” that boomed throughout the United Center, soaked it all in.
“It was a blessing to have him come all the way out here during his season. That explains the type of relationship you have when you go to North Carolina,” White said. “Our relationship goes beyond basketball. I love him.”
A touching moment played out on the game broadcast as Williams crashed White’s postgame on-court interview to hug him. Asked by NBC Sports Chicago’s Leila Rahimi what he would say to Williams, White smiled.
“Coach, can you come to more games?” the rookie said.
Alas, Williams can’t. He’s a little busy coaching North Carolina.
But perhaps White’s magic can carry over and help extract him from a slump that produced 3-for-26 shooting from 3-point range over his previous five games. White sank 7 of 11 from beyond the arc overall against the Knicks, scoring 18 points in the game-changing 22-0 run. At one point, White sank three 3-pointers in 54 seconds.
“I told him, ‘I’ve had 20-point quarters and I’ve seen duels with big players. I’ve never seen somebody hit seven 3s in a quarter,’” Zach LaVine said. “I’ve been telling you guys from the get-go. Coby is special. He can score the ball. He got hot. I don’t know how many he had going into the 4th. But it seemed like he had 30 in the fourth. That was as impressive as any of the (fourth quarters) I’ve ever seen.”
This is the second time this season White has taken over a fourth quarter. He scored 11 fourth-quarter points in the road victory over Memphis.
“I thought the beauty in Coby’s game was he let it come to him,” coach Jim Boylen said. “But we found him and we honored what he was doing by keep feeding him. That group did a helluva job.”
Indeed, Ryan Arcidiacono finished with eight assists and one turnover and Kris Dunn posted 13 points with three steals as the oft maligned three-guard lineup came through. White’s performance just screamed the loudest.
“He’s a gamer and he’s a worker,” Boylen said. “It bothers him when he doesn’t play as well as he thinks he could play. He cares.”
That’s evident in White’s off-day routine, which hasn’t changed whether he’s playing well or not.
“Just stick to my craft and what got me here, which is working hard and getting up reps in the gym,” White said. “I know to shoot your way out of a slump, you gotta shoot the ball and stay confident. If you’re not confident, you’re never going to hit shots. I just try to stick to my plan. Get in the gym, get up extra shots and stay level-headed and confident.”
White said Williams told him “to be Coby and use a little more legs on my shot.” And as for where this scoring barrage ranked for the most prolific scorer in North Carolina high school history?
“That’s No. 1,” White said.