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Archive for Tuesday, October 15, 2002

Williams winning with words

Coach has plenty of ‘thoughts’ for Jayhawks

October 15, 2002

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"Frighteningly organized" is the way former Wichita State and South Carolina basketball coach Eddie Fogler described his pal, Roy Williams, on July 8, 1988, the day Williams was hired at Kansas.

"I still don't know what that means, but I took that as a compliment," said Williams, who is entering his 15th year as head coach.

Kansas coach roy williams watches his team practice. Williams is
entering his 15th season as coach of the Jayhawks.

Kansas coach roy williams watches his team practice. Williams is entering his 15th season as coach of the Jayhawks.

Oh, it was and remains a compliment. That is for sure.

Organization is a necessity for major college basketball coaches like Williams, who are constantly tugged in various directions by demands of players, media and alumni.

A look at Williams' practices provides an insight into the coach's organization and attention to detail. Williams leaves nothing to chance, chronicling every minute of his day including every minute of practice.

The Jayhawks opened preseason workouts on Saturday.

Their 2- to 212-hour practices are broken down minute-by-minute with no idle time, the head coach's whistle signaling when it's time to move on to a different portion of the day's workout.

Players, coaches, team managers and trainers are first informed of the day's activities via the "practice plan," a typed sheet of paper hung in the locker room.

"At the top of the plan, we have an offensive emphasis of the day it might be offensive rebounding," he said. "We have a defensive emphasis of the day. It could be boxing out and we also have a 'thought for the day.'''

The 'thought for the day' is something the coach puts a lot of thought into.

"Everything in the 'thought for the day' is something the kids can use later on when they get away from basketball," Williams said.

For KU's first practice session of the season Saturday afternoon, the thought for the day read:

"It's amazing how much we can accomplish if no one cares who gets the credit, because we're working toward a common goal."

"For 15 years as a head coach at Kansas, eight years as junior varsity coach at North Carolina, five years coaching the team at Owen High (in North Carolina), it's been our first 'thought of the day,'" Williams said.

"I say, 'Let's start thinking of that now.' I tell our players that players on the winning teams get the awards and rewards. It's what we're striving for from Day One."

It's not just lip service.

Williams is all about a "one for all and all for one" type attitude, which shows in his recruiting.

"One player we recruited this year told one of our players, 'I'm not really interested in winning a conference championship. I'd like to win a national championship, but other than that I just want to go to a place that can get me ready for the next level (NBA) as quickly as they possibly can.'

"We basically stopped recruiting that kid because I told him, 'Kansas is no bus stop,''' Williams said sternly. "He's a great player and is going to a big-time school but is not gonna play for my rear end."

That's because Williams' philosophy the North Carolina philosophy where he and Fogler learned the trade is all about team work and cooperation, honing one's skills to help the college team, not just one's future pocketbook.

"You can't change the wind, but you can direct the sails," Williams says, revealing another 'thought for the day.'

"There are some things you cannot control. You may not be able to control what coach Williams says, but you can control your own effort, your own concentration," Williams translated.

"Persistence prevails when all else fails," Williams said, releasing another of his quotations.

"We will be as persistent as we can possibly be. Every day we will try to do our best," he said.

And another gem:

"Don't condemn thy neighbor until you walk in their moccasins for two full moons."

In other words, don't be so quick to judge somebody without knowing another's exact circumstances.

Players are expected to memorize the 'thoughts for the day.'

"I make the freshmen give it back to me (during practice). Very seldom do I ask a senior for the 'thought of the day,'" Williams said. "This year we'll have to ask some sophomores to give it back. Moulaye (Niang, the team's only scholarship freshman) can't do it every day. Twice this year I'll ask a junior or senior. They don't want to mess it up. They don't have to give it back verbatim, but they have to tell me what it means."

Like one of his favorites:

"Be led by your dreams, not pushed by your problems."

Those dreams include championships.

And to win league titles and vie for national crowns, Williams believes the best way is to play as hard as one can every single day.

Every single practice.

"Every practice we have is physically and mentally exhausting," Williams said. "(Ex-Jayhawk) Jeff Gueldner, I respect him so much ... one practice he screamed, 'I think I'm gonna die.' I've had players come in after the first two days of practice and say, 'Coach, we CAN'T do that all year long.' I'm not smart enough to figure out shortcuts so we practice."

And practice hard.

"The difference between this and high school," says red-shirt freshman guard Jeff Hawkins, "is in high school you might play hard five percent of the time. Here it's giving 110 percent all of the time. Coach tests you physically and mentally every day."

Practice at KU not only means hustling the freshmen are required to sprint after all loose balls; players must run to the top of the fieldhouse if they miss layups in drills but also means paying attention, not nodding off during pre- or post-practice meetings and film sessions.

"We show 'em something on the (chalk)board. We show it to 'em on tape and we show it to them on the court," Williams said of his teaching philosophy. "Then we break it down and go back.

"We'll have freshmen come in who have never had their high school coach diagram a play, or kids who've never seen tape. We use tape."

It all works as is attested by Williams' 388-93 college coaching record.

"I asked Paul Pierce his rookie year, 'Did we prepare you for the NBA?''' Williams said of the ex-Jayhawk now with the Boston Celtics. "He said, 'Coach some of these knuckleheads don't know how to run a play.'

"Paul said in 'Slam Magazine,' 'I could run, jump and shoot before Kansas, but it's there I learned how to play.' Drew (Gooden, Memphis Grizzlies rookie) told me, 'Coach there's nothing they've done in summer league training where I don't know what we're doing.' That's important to me, too," Williams said of preparing players for the next level.

Teaching players to play at both this, and the next, level.

"I do consider this my classroom," he said, referring to the Allen Fieldhouse court.

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