Archive for Sunday, November 24, 2002

KU coach not looking forward to facing alma mater

November 24, 2002


Like all true, sky blue University of North Carolina graduates, Roy Williams has memorized the refrain of the schoolâÂÂs alma mater, âÂÂHark the Sound of Tar Heel Voices.âÂÂ

âÂÂ'âÂÂ'âÂÂ'Tar Heel born, Tar Heel bred, when I die IâÂÂm Tar Heel dead.â ThereâÂÂs something to that,â Kansas UniversityâÂÂs 15th-year basketball coach and 1972 UNC grad said after his Jayhawksâ 105-66 rout of UNC Greensboro on Friday at Allen Fieldhouse. The victory propelled KU into Wednesday nightâÂÂs Preseason NIT semifinal matchup against Williamsâ alma mater.

âÂÂI love that place. I donâÂÂt think anybody loves that basketball program like I love it.âÂÂ

For that reason, Williams said, âÂÂNorth 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. ItâÂÂs not just Matt Doherty. ItâÂÂs North Carolina.âÂÂ

Doherty, a former Williams assistant, is in his third year as head coach at UNC.

ThereâÂÂs no doubt Williams sorely wants to defeat North Carolina in WednesdayâÂÂs 8:30 p.m. game at New YorkâÂÂs Madison Square Garden âÂÂ:quot; for the sake of his players.

HeâÂÂs staying

ItâÂÂs 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.

âÂÂThe biggest reason for staying was for 12 years at Kansas I tried to build what North Carolina had talked about âÂÂ:quot; family and loyalty,â Williams said. âÂÂIt boiled down to the fact if I left, those kids could have felt I hadnâÂÂt been truthful with them. The loyalty to my current players and past players ... that was the biggest reason for staying.

âÂÂThat won out over my dream. It was just too difficult to leave my players.âÂÂ

Aside from his own family members, the person who matters most to Williams - former UNC coaching legend and Kansas grad Dean Smith - graciously accepted Williamsâ decision. Some others are hoping Carolina pounds the Jayhawks into submission Wednesday.

In the book, âÂÂDifferent Shade of Blue,â the author says Smith âÂÂonce he got over the initial shock, almost immediately forgave Williams for staying at Kansas. Others didnâÂÂt.âÂÂ

The book says Bill Guthridge, the person Doherty eventually replaced, said Guthridge was âÂÂnot disappointed, but ticked.âÂÂ

Williams has never discussed specifics of who in Carolina is upset with him and who isnâÂÂt, but recognizes while most Carolina supporters wish him well, others remain miffed.

âÂÂIâÂÂm sure there is (resentment),â Williams said. âÂÂIâÂÂve tried not to look back. IâÂÂve 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 hasnâÂÂt been pleasant. ItâÂÂs the only reason I didnâÂÂt want to play âÂÂem in New York (because) IâÂÂve got to answer all those questions again. It is the hard part.

âÂÂCoach Smith has been phenomenal to me. ItâÂÂs impossible for me to have more respect for any single person in the entire civilized world than I have for coach Smith. The way heâÂÂs 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.

âÂÂPeople at Kansas donâÂÂt understand what they have at North Carolina and people at North Carolina donâÂÂt understand what we have at Kansas. ItâÂÂs something I disappointed some people. ItâÂÂs hard for me to handle, but weâÂÂve got to go on.âÂÂ

SmithâÂÂs classy reaction to Williamsâ decision has definitely smoothed some hard feelings in Chapel Hill.

âÂÂRoy knew and I knew that I wanted what was best for Wanda (Williamsâ wife) and Roy and IâÂÂd accept his decision either way,â Smith said at a recent dinner in Kansas City, Mo., honoring Williams. âÂÂI was disappointed though. It demonstrated my weak recruiting efforts,â he quipped.

âÂÂWith Roy it is all about loyalty and caring about the people he coaches. HeâÂÂs a fabulous coach, the best in America,â added Smith who went 1-1 versus his pupil, Carolina beating KU in the 1993 Final Four, KU stopping the Heels in the âÂÂ'91 Final Four.

Still a Jayhawk

Williams will never forget the phone call he made to Smith declining his job offer.

âÂÂIt was the single most difficult phone call and conversation IâÂÂve ever had,â Williams said. âÂÂCoach had flattered me (by) how hard he recruited me and wanted me to come back and take over a program heâÂÂd built into one of the powers, if not the greatest power, in college basketball.

âÂÂI wouldnâÂÂt 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.âÂÂ

Williams, who has a 390-93 record at KU, several years ago began to feel heâÂÂd put his stamp on the KU program.

âÂÂI did consider weâÂÂve 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 thatâÂÂs something you get,â Williams said.

âÂÂI really did not think too much about any legacy. I think youâÂÂve got to be successful a long, long, time before you can think in those terms.âÂÂ

HeâÂÂs successful in the eyes of his players.

âÂÂI 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,â Williams said. âÂÂHe 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.

âÂÂAgain the relationship with my players is the most important factor in the decision.âÂÂ

A monumental decision that pleased the Jayhawk faithful.

âÂÂI am a Jayhawk,â Williams said. âÂÂThat isnâÂÂt going to change.âÂÂ

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