Archive for Wednesday, April 9, 2003

Williams left to ponder painful loss

April 9, 2003

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— Heretofore, Roy Williams was described as a hard-luck coach. After Monday night, he is, as so many of us who were cheering for him hoped he would be, hard-luck no more.

Unfortunately, now he's a no-luck coach.

Give Roy Williams a four-leaf clover, and a petal is going to fall off.

Give him Warren Buffett's stock tips, and the Dow will go to zero.

Hang a horseshoe over Williams' office door, and it'll fall off, strike him on the noggin and render him unconscious.

To be sure, spot him two senior national-player-of-the-year candidates to lead his team into the final game against a club led by two freshmen, and counting heavily on a third, and watch whose guys are going to come up short.

Put him in the championship game against another coach who hasn't won it all in nearly as many trips to this title weekend (three) and watch who is going to lose the big game yet again.

Roy Williams has heartbreak down pat. He ought to hang up his night job and go write for daytime TV.

Given all that, it should not, I suspect, strike as shock that his Jayhawks lost college basketball's title game, 81-78, Monday night in the Superdome to Syracuse.

Given the way Jim Boeheim's Orangemen played, there was certainly no shame in Williams' latest setback. Boeheim's bunch was stupendous in the first 20 minutes and stoic in the second half. The 53 points they scored in the first 20 minutes were a first-half record in a title game. The six three-pointers Syracuse guard Gerry McNamara made in the first half were one shy of the championship-game record. The game record! In the first half!

"We played the best first half we could play," Boeheim said, "then we just hung on."

Just Williams' luck, of course.

The sensational Syracuse freshman forward Carmelo Anthony paced his team by leading all scorers with 20 points and snatching 10 rebounds for good measure. (That was good news for Texas, at least. Anthony lost whatever incentive he may have had to return to college for a sophomore season, all but assuring that the Longhorns will be favored to win it all next April if their outstanding sophomore, T.J. Ford, sticks to his word and stays in Austin.)

Meanwhile, Williams' senior backcourt player-of-the-year candidate Kirk Hinrich played the first 10 minutes of the game like he was a first-year walk-on. He missed the first five attempts he threw to the basket, including one that struck nothing but air. Before the half expired, he had his shot blocked and coughed up the ball a couple of times.

If you can believe it, Hinrich and his teammates for quite a spell in the first half were being outscored by the three Syracuse freshmen: McNamara, Anthony and Billy Edelin. Who would've thought it?

That wasn't the way it was supposed to go. But if you're Kansas coach Roy Williams, it always does, I guess.

Had Roy Williams envisioned this Monday night three years ago, he probably wouldn't have turned down that offer then from his alma mater in Chapel Hill, N.C., to get it back on the championship track. It appeared after this loss that he doesn't have any more reason to stay in Lawrence than Anthony does to stay in college. Departing a place after 15 years would hardly count as turning your back on recruits.

Plus, maybe a change of venue could change Roy Williams' luck, or, more accurately, give him some.

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