- College Basketball - Loyal to the end: Williams' home remains in Lawrence

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 Saturday, October 28
Williams' home remains in Lawrence
 By Andy Katz

DALLAS -- Two months before students marched in front of the house of the Indiana president to protest Bob Knight's firing, Kansas fans packed a football stadium to anxiously hear Roy Williams utter two words:

"I'm staying."

Williams' decision to turn down Dean Smith's offer to come home and replace Bill Guthridge at North Carolina was more shocking to college basketball than Knight's firing at Indiana in the offseason.

Roy Williams
Fans can expect Roy Williams' passion to remain on the Kansas bench for years to come.

Knight's removal was probably inevitable based on the zero-tolerance policy placed on him last May. But Williams' ultimate defection from Kansas to North Carolina had been in the making since he emerged from under the protective wing of his mentor and left Smith's Carolina staff to take over Kansas 12 years ago.

While Knight's absence from the official start of practice on Saturday will seem odd, Williams' presence at Kansas' Midnight Madness on Friday, while Matt Doherty hosts North Carolina's "Mattness," is downright shocking.

Williams to Carolina had been a lock for years. There had even been pages of a book dedicated to the subject.

"I might have lost my house on that one," Oklahoma coach Kelvin Sampson said as the Big 12 coaches gathered Tuesday in Dallas before the start of practice.

"I'm from North Carolina and there has never been a more natural fit than Roy Williams at the University of North Carolina," Sampson continued. "He has great ties to the university. It just made sense. Most in the coaching community assumed he would go. It says a lot that he didn't."

Most importantly, it says that Williams remained loyal to Kansas, to his present players, and, ultimately, to his own legacy in coaching.

Looking relaxed, tanned and at ease with his place in his life, Williams is no longer haunted by the questions of when will he leave Kansas for Carolina.

It's over. He's not going anymore. So, don't ask, or at least, don't bother asking after the Jayhawks' season starts Nov. 9 against UCLA in the Coaches vs. Cancer tournament in New York.

  • Here is a look at Roy Williams' season records at Kansas.
  • 1988-89 19-12
    No postseason bid
    1989-90 30-5
    2nd Round NCAA Tournament
    1990-91 27-8
    NCAA Final Four; runner-up
    1991-92 27-5
    2nd Round NCAA Tournament
    1992-93 29-7
    NCAA Final Four
    1993-94 27-8
    NCAA Sweet 16
    1994-95 25-6
    NCAA Sweet 16
    1995-96 29-5
    NCAA Elite Eight
    1996-97 34-2
    NCAA Sweet 16
    1997-98 35-4
    2nd Round NCAA Tournament
    1998-99 23-10
    2nd Round NCAA Tournament
    1999-00 24-10
    2nd Round NCAA Tournament
    Career 329-82 (.800)
    1990 Coach of Year (USBWA)
    1992 Coach of Year (AP)
    1997 Coach of Year (Naismith)

    "We haven't lost a recruit because of the question, but I have had to answer it," said Williams, who turned 50 in August. "Not having to answer it will be nice. What will be better will be doing the interviews and not talking about what happened this past summer. I'm ready to move on and people are ready to move on."

    Williams would have moved on to Carolina had Smith and UNC athletics director Dick Baddour asked for a decision immediately after Guthridge told them he would retire. But they didn't. They gave Williams a week to think about it, and during that time, Williams did what he was taught: He decided to be loyal.

    "There's no question that at one point I was leaning strongly toward going," Williams said. "When it first happened, if someone had held a gun to my head, I would have gone. It's a place I dreamed of playing at when I was a kid and dreamed of coaching at.

    "But during those six days, the indecision brought up so many positives for staying at Kansas. I couldn't come to grips with leaving. It's not like I had been there two or three years. There were things I became attached to."

    Williams' dream was, and remains, a national championship. He has coached Kansas in two Final Fours (1991 and '93). But somewhere during his decision process he realized that coaching at North Carolina wouldn't necessarily answer his dream. And he could still have it both ways if he stayed in charge of a Kansas program capable of winning a national title.

    Dreams change. Goals are adjusted. Williams heard that from NBA all-star David Robinson during the summer when the two had a brief exchange. Williams' legacy at Kansas is under his control. Leaving after a dozen years to go back to Carolina would have meant he was continuing Smith's legacy.

    "That was part of the thought process," Williams said. "After 12 years my fingerprints are on (Kansas). Coach Smith did convince me that it would have been my program. But I did what he taught me to do and that's to be loyal. I tried to say that and I meant it.

    "I tried to break it down as simple as I could. It was driving me crazy. But I tried to break it down; one reason for staying, and one for leaving. It boiled down to chasing my dream and doing what I thought was right with my players. I felt like I would have been disloyal to them. It sounds corny but that's the way Roy Williams is."

    I've said the grass is greener where I'm standing. There is a lot of movement in coaching, but that doesn't mean it's best for everybody. What was best for Roy Williams was to stay put.
    Roy Williams,
    Kansas head coach

    But Roy Williams didn't hide what his intentions were before he had to make the decision. Oklahoma State coach Eddie Sutton said Williams told him the only place he would leave Kansas for was Carolina. But, when he stayed, Sutton said it was a statement to Kansas and to the Big 12.

    "The statue is probably being built while he's still coaching at Kansas," Iowa State coach Larry Eustachy said. "They really like him there and you want to be where you're liked."

    That's why Sampson stayed at Oklahoma, too. Lost amid Williams' higher-profile decision was Sampson pulling out of the Illinois search in early June.

    "The best time to review what's important is when you have a chance to take another job," said Sampson, sounding the same themes as Williams. "There's a loyalty factor and you realize that you have a great job. You realize how lucky you are to have the job you have."

    And now the Big 12 is reaping the benefits.

    "It says a lot about our league, Kansas and Oklahoma," Williams said. "People have a hard time realizing that because they don't know what we have. I've said the grass is greener where I'm standing. There is a lot of movement in coaching but that doesn't mean it's best for everybody. What was best for Roy Williams was to stay put."

    Andy Katz is a senior writer at

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