Like all true, sky blue University of North Carolina graduates, Roy Williams has memorized the refrain of the schoolÃ¢ÂÂs alma mater, Ã¢ÂÂHark the Sound of Tar Heel Voices.Ã¢ÂÂ
Ã¢ÂÂ'Ã¢ÂÂ'Ã¢ÂÂ'Tar Heel born, Tar Heel bred, when I die IÃ¢ÂÂm Tar Heel dead.Ã¢ÂÂ ThereÃ¢ÂÂs something to that,Ã¢ÂÂ Kansas UniversityÃ¢ÂÂs 15th-year basketball coach and 1972 UNC grad said after his JayhawksÃ¢ÂÂ 105-66 rout of UNC Greensboro on Friday at Allen Fieldhouse. The victory propelled KU into Wednesday nightÃ¢ÂÂs Preseason NIT semifinal matchup against WilliamsÃ¢ÂÂ alma mater.
Ã¢ÂÂI love that place. I donÃ¢ÂÂt think anybody loves that basketball program like I love it.Ã¢ÂÂ
For that reason, Williams said, Ã¢ÂÂNorth Carolina is harder to play than anybody else because I have those feelings. My entire life I dreamed of playing there and dreamed of coaching there. ItÃ¢ÂÂs not just Matt Doherty. ItÃ¢ÂÂs North Carolina.Ã¢ÂÂ
Doherty, a former Williams assistant, is in his third year as head coach at UNC.
ThereÃ¢ÂÂs no doubt Williams sorely wants to defeat North Carolina in WednesdayÃ¢ÂÂs 8:30 p.m. game at New YorkÃ¢ÂÂs Madison Square Garden Ã¢ÂÂ:quot; for the sake of his players.
ItÃ¢ÂÂs been well chronicled that on July 7, 2000, Williams declined an offer to coach at North Carolina because of loyalty to KU players past and present.
Ã¢ÂÂThe biggest reason for staying was for 12 years at Kansas I tried to build what North Carolina had talked about Ã¢ÂÂ:quot; family and loyalty,Ã¢ÂÂ Williams said. Ã¢ÂÂIt boiled down to the fact if I left, those kids could have felt I hadnÃ¢ÂÂt been truthful with them. The loyalty to my current players and past players ... that was the biggest reason for staying.
Ã¢ÂÂThat won out over my dream. It was just too difficult to leave my players.Ã¢ÂÂ
Aside from his own family members, the person who matters most to Williams - former UNC coaching legend and Kansas grad Dean Smith - graciously accepted WilliamsÃ¢ÂÂ decision. Some others are hoping Carolina pounds the Jayhawks into submission Wednesday.
In the book, Ã¢ÂÂDifferent Shade of Blue,Ã¢ÂÂ the author says Smith Ã¢ÂÂonce he got over the initial shock, almost immediately forgave Williams for staying at Kansas. Others didnÃ¢ÂÂt.Ã¢ÂÂ
The book says Bill Guthridge, the person Doherty eventually replaced, said Guthridge was Ã¢ÂÂnot disappointed, but ticked.Ã¢ÂÂ
Williams has never discussed specifics of who in Carolina is upset with him and who isnÃ¢ÂÂt, but recognizes while most Carolina supporters wish him well, others remain miffed.
Ã¢ÂÂIÃ¢ÂÂm sure there is (resentment),Ã¢ÂÂ Williams said. Ã¢ÂÂIÃ¢ÂÂve tried not to look back. IÃ¢ÂÂve tried to focus on Kansas people hopefully being happy I stayed here, that kind of thing. It was not an easy decision. Part of it since then hasnÃ¢ÂÂt been pleasant. ItÃ¢ÂÂs the only reason I didnÃ¢ÂÂt want to play Ã¢ÂÂem in New York (because) IÃ¢ÂÂve got to answer all those questions again. It is the hard part.
Ã¢ÂÂCoach Smith has been phenomenal to me. ItÃ¢ÂÂs impossible for me to have more respect for any single person in the entire civilized world than I have for coach Smith. The way heÃ¢ÂÂs treated me since that ... he knew because he knew what we had at Kansas. Larry Brown (ex-Jayhawk coach and UNC grad) knew. He said he was one of the few people who knew the problem I was going through.
Ã¢ÂÂPeople at Kansas donÃ¢ÂÂt understand what they have at North Carolina and people at North Carolina donÃ¢ÂÂt understand what we have at Kansas. ItÃ¢ÂÂs something I disappointed some people. ItÃ¢ÂÂs hard for me to handle, but weÃ¢ÂÂve got to go on.Ã¢ÂÂ
SmithÃ¢ÂÂs classy reaction to WilliamsÃ¢ÂÂ decision has definitely smoothed some hard feelings in Chapel Hill.
Ã¢ÂÂRoy knew and I knew that I wanted what was best for Wanda (WilliamsÃ¢ÂÂ wife) and Roy and IÃ¢ÂÂd accept his decision either way,Ã¢ÂÂ Smith said at a recent dinner in Kansas City, Mo., honoring Williams. Ã¢ÂÂI was disappointed though. It demonstrated my weak recruiting efforts,Ã¢ÂÂ he quipped.
Ã¢ÂÂWith Roy it is all about loyalty and caring about the people he coaches. HeÃ¢ÂÂs a fabulous coach, the best in America,Ã¢ÂÂ added Smith who went 1-1 versus his pupil, Carolina beating KU in the 1993 Final Four, KU stopping the Heels in the Ã¢ÂÂ'91 Final Four.
Still a Jayhawk
Williams will never forget the phone call he made to Smith declining his job offer.
Ã¢ÂÂIt was the single most difficult phone call and conversation IÃ¢ÂÂve ever had,Ã¢ÂÂ Williams said. Ã¢ÂÂCoach had flattered me (by) how hard he recruited me and wanted me to come back and take over a program heÃ¢ÂÂd built into one of the powers, if not the greatest power, in college basketball.
Ã¢ÂÂI wouldnÃ¢ÂÂt be where I am today without coach Smith, coach Guthridge and Eddie Fogler, the knowledge they showed me and the guidance they gave me. Coach Smith continues to guide me ... to call him and tell him I was not coming it was very emotional and very difficult.Ã¢ÂÂ
Williams, who has a 390-93 record at KU, several years ago began to feel heÃ¢ÂÂd put his stamp on the KU program.
Ã¢ÂÂI did consider weÃ¢ÂÂve got a new practice facility, new offices ... that I raised money for helping build some of the things. I did have a feeling of possession of the Kansas program. I guess thatÃ¢ÂÂs something you get,Ã¢ÂÂ Williams said.
Ã¢ÂÂI really did not think too much about any legacy. I think youÃ¢ÂÂve got to be successful a long, long, time before you can think in those terms.Ã¢ÂÂ
HeÃ¢ÂÂs successful in the eyes of his players.
Ã¢ÂÂI had an unusual phone call the morning I made the decision (to stay at KU) from a youngster I coached in high school 24 years ago,Ã¢ÂÂ Williams said. Ã¢ÂÂHe works in North Carolina. He said whatever decision I made is never going to change the feelings of my former players. They were concerned about me.
Ã¢ÂÂAgain the relationship with my players is the most important factor in the decision.Ã¢ÂÂ
A monumental decision that pleased the Jayhawk faithful.
Ã¢ÂÂI am a Jayhawk,Ã¢ÂÂ Williams said. Ã¢ÂÂThat isnÃ¢ÂÂt going to change.Ã¢ÂÂ