|5 years after Roy Williams left Kansas, Jayhawks get their shot|
|Written by Admin|
|Monday, 31 March 2008 13:15|
Packed with sketches, portraits and memorabilia, the Downtown Barbershop is a Lawrence landmark and a virtual shrine to Kansas athletics.
Want to see a picture of the first game played in Allen Fieldhouse? Just take a look there on the wall. Wondering what football helmets were like in the 1950s? There's one right there.
Need to go to the bathroom? Then walk over ancient wooden flooring past the row of rickety old stadium seats and do your business in the Roy Room.
A couple of feet from the toilet seat is where Roy Williams ' sketch hangs. It was moved there in 2003, the day Williams left for North Carolina and went, in a matter of minutes, from being beloved in this basketball-crazed community to being reviled.
``We figured if Roy had stuck around, they would have named a building after him,'' said John Amyx, owner of the Downtown Barbershop. ``So we decided to name a room after him. That seemed to be the best place to see his picture, too.''
Do not be fooled by statements leading up to Saturday's Final Four clash between Kansas and North Carolina that Jayhawks fans have let bygones be bygones.
Some have, to be sure. But feelings still run strong among many Kansas faithful who felt abandoned, embittered and betrayed when Williams climbed aboard that private jet five years ago and flew away without even saying goodbye.
What made it hurt so bad was that only three years earlier, he had turned down his alma mater and vowed his everlasting allegiance. Thousands of relieved fans gathered in the football stadium that night to watch the news conference live on the video board. They still remember the famous quote - spoken in that familiar North Carolina drawl that once charmed but now grates on so many Midwestern ears - ``I'm stayin'.''
``It's not so much that he left. Coaches change jobs all the time,'' said Chris Debacker, a second-year law student. ``It's the way he did it. You can't blame him for wanting to go home and coach his alma mater. But he said he was staying, and then it felt like he betrayed us. That's why so many people are still upset with him.''
Kansas fans who so love their basketball had reason to love Roy Williams and the Roy Williams era. He was personable and likable and from 1989-2003, his teams went 418-101 for a spectacular winning percentage of 80.5. They made four trips to the Final Four, twice advancing to the title game. They won nine conference championships.
He was probably the most popular man in the state.
``Everybody loved him,'' said Jerry Neverve, who owns the Red Lyon Tavern just up the street. ``When Roy would walk down this sidewalk and wave at you, you just felt great.''
Now the moment Kansas fans have hungered five years for is at hand. It'll be Bill Self's Jayhawks vs. Williams' Tar Heels on Saturday in the Final Four. For five years, every time the NCAA bracket was announced, Kansans have hurriedly looked to see when they might meet up with ol' Roy.
Until now, it never happened.
With apologies to Mark Mangino's highly successful football program, this will be bigger, much bigger, than January's Orange Bowl victory over Virginia Tech.
``This is as big as it gets in athletics,'' said Monte Johnson, a wealthy Kansas alum who played on the Wilt Chamberlain teams in the 1950s.
Johnson was also the athletic director who hired Larry Brown as coach in 1983. He always was, and is to this day, one of Williams' most loyal Kansas friends.
``We should all be grateful to Roy for the 15 magnificent years Roy gave us,'' Johnson said.
He reflects the view of some, but probably not most, Kansas fans.
``I want Roy to have success in every game he plays except when he plays against us,'' Johnson said. ``I know there are a lot of people who would feel different. We do have some people who will never forgive Roy for leaving, and for the way he did it. Maybe those people don't know all the facts, all that was going on at the time.
``But then, people don't always seek the facts before they get emotionally involved.''