The Hall-of-Fame coach made the comments to reporters Tuesday.
Williams said, "Massage therapist told me, she said, 'You know, coach, what happened in Haiti is a catastrophe. What you're having is a disappointment.' And I told her that depends on what chair she was sitting in. Because it does feel like a catastrophe to me, because it is my life."
The defending national champion Tar Heels lost to Duke the following day.
According to the News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C., Williams told a similar story during his radio show Feb. 1, but said then that the massage therapist's comments put basketball into perspective. "What those people are having to go through is just unbelievable, and it does put what we're going through in a different light, but it doesn't make it any easier ... but it does make us understand what we're facing."
Williams left out that explanation this week, causing him to come under fire on talk shows and in Internet chat rooms and forums.
In a statement released by the school, Williams said he understood the relative gravity of the problems.
"In no way am I equating the tragedy in Haiti with basketball," he said. "I'm sorry that my statement at the press conference made it seem like I was comparing the two. The people of Haiti are suffering through unimaginably difficult times. I know very well that we are just playing a game."