No week goes by when something new about Roy Williams' character doesn't seep out to give us more insight into why his players feel so warm and loyal toward him, no matter how demanding he is about their athletics and academics.
So what's he done for them lately?
Let's start with the way he tries, barring a nail-biting cliffhanger, to get all the members of his roster into action in tournament games. He learned long ago from mentor Dean Smith how important that is to kids.
Smith, the North Carolina coaching legend, was a reserve on the 1952 Kansas team that won the NCAA title. You check the "official" box score for the 80-63 championship victory over St. John's and you won't find Smith's name. Even the box in the Kansas media guide doesn't list Smith as a combatant.
Wrong! Dean, then a junior, played and says he has pored through the movies to prove he saw about 30 seconds of action. Don't care what the league, the NCAA or any other source says, Smith's name should be inserted into the KU lineup before the next media guide is published. Some Seattle scorekeeper who should have noted Smith's entry into the '52 title game got lazy or careless and the Deaner was ignored. To hell with what the NCAA or anyone else says, KU ought to take care of its own, the way Williams does his youngsters.
It's like the misnomers in captions under some of those early Jayhawk team pictures in the KU press box and Allen Fieldhouse. Keep telling folks about them but they don't seem to change.
At any rate, Smith has won just about every honor a college coach can have -- NCAA and Olympic titles, hall of fame status, on and on and on. As a player, he wasn't All-American, all-league or even a starter. But he was part of the Kansas basketball package that won the 1952 college crown and missed the '53 title by a single point. He's damned proud of that. Admits those were two of the greatest years of his eventful life. It's very important to Dean.
Williams, his protege, knows full well how young men feel about being a part of a team, which is one big reason he wins so often. He knows that some day those guys might want to show a kid or a grandbaby their names in box scores of big games. He busts a gut to get kids onto the court, if only for a short time.
Another Roy-Trait is his declination to jerk a kid from a game after he misses a shot. Roy knows what it is to be embarrassed by a quick yank, which so many coaches are prone to make, so he gives his players a chance for immediate redemption.
``I want to let them have the freedom to shoot the basketball. I've said to players, `If the shot's not going in, give me another reason to keep you in the game, doing something on the defensive end of the floor, or getting rebounds. Give me something else to hang my hat on.' ... If they do that, it's much easier to keep them in."
Most demonstrative I've seen Roy during a game was one time when the regulars were stinking up the joint. Williams inserted T.J. Whatley, and T.J. proceeded to make a key bucket and defensive play, back-to-back. With that, Roy grabbed a couple of starters and let them know doggone well that's what they, not a senior sub, should have been doing.
Then there's the Williams attitude about Ben Davis, the much-traveled Arizona star who played here as a freshman. Roy recruited Ben, could have had him back once, refused. Yet he still considers Davis a part of the KU basketball family and welcomes him back at reunion-time. Ben's probably kicked himself in the butt a number of times for leaving because he felt he wasn't playing enough. But he's got to feel good about being accepted by the coach who knew a lot more about the game and life than Big-Time Ben.
Loyalty begets loyalty, and Williams serves us up regular doses of humanity to reinforce that.
- Nobody's yet come up, for sure, with the names of the two other kids in that 1936 picture we ran of the orange crate goals, Dr. James Naismith and Cliff and Donald McDonald a couple weeks ago. Former Lawrence High athlete Everett Hill, now in Kansas City, thinks the kid on the left with the big ears was a fellow named Joe Fowler, but he's not sure. Dallas Dolan of the J-W who knows zillions of Lawrencians made a couple guesses about the kid on the right, but can't be certain. Help!
Everett Hill, by the way, was a standout football and basketball player at Lawrence High under coaches Elmer Schaake and Chalmer Woodard. Hill was an end and Cliff McDonald a back and they had all sorts of dipsy-do pass plays, end-arounds and such to drive foes nuts. Both Everett and Cliff later played some basketball at KU, but never for long.
After LHS graduation in 1944, Hill was in the Army Air Corps a while, then had a career in KC with Allied Signal and Bendix. He's now retired and getting along fine. Not long back, he took part in a KU old-timers game.
But as Butch Cassidy asked: "Who are those (two) guys?"