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Archive for Sunday, November 10, 2002

KU’s Williams empathizes with penalized Michigan

November 10, 2002

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An innocent basketball coach and 17 innocent players will be penalized at the University of Michigan this season because of the crimes committed by parties no longer associated with the program.

If that sounds familiar, it should.

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That's exactly what happened to Roy Williams and his Kansas University Jayhawks in 1988-89 when Williams' first KU team was held out of the NCAA Tournament because of violations committed by Williams' predecessor, Larry Brown.

"Right now my emotion is not, 'What about those blankety-blank bad guys.' My emotion is feeling sorry for Tommy," KU coach Williams said of Michigan coach Tommy Amaker, who worked at Duke when booster Ed Martin paid several Wolverines in the 1990s.

As a result of Martin's actions, Michigan - under a self-imposed penalty - will not compete in the postseason this year.

The NCAA could issue additional penalties down the line.

"I really feel for the players there. It's just a sad scenario that some people allowed that stuff to go for such a long period of time. That is just bad," Williams said.

"There's no way people who did the wrong (will be punished). There's no way for them to be feeling the way Tommy's going to feel. That's what's bad."

Amaker's players no doubt will feel miserable come NCAA Tournament time.

"The penalty of not going to the tournament this year is a difficult penalty," Williams said. "Hopefully for Tommy's sake there's no more than that. You can live through that. You start adding other things to the program : this is just the school's proposal. The NCAA can come back and do more things.

"It's one of the really tougher things - that what went on Tommy is paying for 14 years later."

Martin testified in court he laundered money from illegal gambling activities by showering more than $600,000 in cash and goods on several athletes, including Chris Webber and other members of the famous Fab Five who beat KU in the 1992 Rainbow Classic Finals.

"What went on there is not what went on here, understand that," Williams stressed. "That is as big of a thing as I've ever heard of."

Former KU coach Brown was penalized for allegedly paying improper benefits totaling at least $1,244 to an unnamed transfer student, believed to be Vincent Askew. Also, the NCAA found improper entertainment provided to one other prospective player.

Three "representatives of the school's athletic interests," who were not named by the NCAA, but may have been boosters, were told to disassociate themselves with KU's program.

Williams always has tried to keep boosters away from his players.

"You can't control everything," the 15th-year KU coach said. "You have heard my stance on boosters and alumni. I love 'em to death, but I do try to keep 'em at arm's length. I do try to keep our program under wraps. I do try to keep people away because I can't watch every move. I can't see everything that goes on."

Sometimes he just has to believe his players are doing the right thing in not accepting gifts from boosters.

"You have to have a great deal of confidence in your players. You have to have a great deal of confidence in your players' families. You have to have a great deal of confidence in the alumni and everybody else to help you keep an eye on things," Williams said.

"Some people would probably say I'm too protective or too dominating or whatever terminology you want to use, but that is a concern for every college coach in the country. Yet you are not with them 24 hours a day. You do not know what's going on."

What he does know is the pain probation can cause. NCAA sanctions prohibited KU basketball from paying for recruits' visits to campus for one calendar year.

"It's the most difficult penalty the NCAA has handed out to this day. They realize how difficult it was (and haven't handed out one as severe since)," Williams said.

At the time he knew the penalties were harsh.

"We had a staff meeting because I wanted our coaches to hear it from me before they read it in the paper. I was really emotional speaking to my assistants," said Williams. "Steve Robinson came from a good situation at Cornell; Kevin Stallings at Purdue; Jerry Green had been a head coach. Mark Turgeon was starting his career and I got them into something I wasn't positive I could get them out of. I had tears on my face and Jerry said, 'Man this bleep is getting serious.' His accent is a little more southern (than Williams'). He was able to lighten the mood."

Also bolstering Green's spirit was Adonis Jordan, who signed with KU despite the probation.

"People have short memories. Somebody wrote that Adonis was a recruit of Larry Brown's who stuck with me when I got the job or something. That's not it," Williams said. "We recruited Adonis at a very difficult time. For him to stick with us made him special to the coaches and to basketball people that love Kansas who know how difficult it was at that time. It was dark days at that time."

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