Roy Williams prepares for emotionally tough meeting with former Jayhawks program Print
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Tuesday, 01 April 2008 00:06
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 Roy Williams has always known that one day his North Carolina team would have to play the Kansas program he led for 15 years.
And since he will never schedule a game against the Jayhawks in the regular season, it could only happen like this: with both teams chasing a national championship in the NCAA tournament.
Now, with the Jayhawks and Tar Heels meeting in this weekend's Final Four, Williams has only one regret.
``If I was ever going to play Kansas again, this is the only way I would want it to happen,'' Williams said Monday in a teleconference with reporters. ``In fact, I wish it would happen on Monday night (for the title) instead of Saturday.''
Williams led the Jayhawks to four Final Four trips and two title game appearances to go with nine conference championships before returning to his alma mater in 2003. He has repeatedly volunteered how much he still loves Kansas since arriving in Chapel Hill, N.C., where he was an assistant to Dean Smith for a decade. He noticed plenty of familiar fan faces when watching a replay of Sunday's Davidson-Kansas game in the Midwest Regional final, a sight that brought back warm feelings in the notably sentimental Hall of Famer.
``I gave my heart and soul for 15 years. I loved that place, will always love that place,'' Williams said. ``People pass me in the airport and say 'Rock, Chalk, Jayhawk,' and I say 'Go KU.' It should be about the players and this year's players, and I think that as we go along, we'll hopefully be able to make that happen.''
Still, not everyone has forgiven him for the decision to leave, which came three years after he had spurned North Carolina's initial offer and proclaimed ``I'm stayin''' in a news conference that was broadcast to thousands of relieved fans in the school's football stadium. It left plenty of hurt feelings back in Lawrence - where Williams' photo now hangs in the bathroom of the Downtown Barbershop as a resentful display.
``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.''
This won't be the first time Williams has coached against a former program in the Final Four. It happened twice before when he led Kansas against Smith and North Carolina in 1991 and '93. He won the first meeting and lost the second, though the Williams-versus-mentor angle stayed in the headlines each time.
North Carolina sophomore Deon Thompson, speaking after Saturday's win over Louisville to reach the Final Four, said he expected his coach would ``probably get irritated'' eventually by all the Kansas questions this week. So far, he hasn't shied away from them - yet.
``Some of the greatest memories in my life were at Kansas,'' Williams said. ``I'm never going to lose that. I'm never going to lose their appreciation for basketball, their passion for basketball. ... There were some things said or done that hurt at first, but time has a way of healing things and I am hopeful it will heal with some people that still may have some bad feelings.''
AP Sports Writer Doug Tucker in Lawrence, Kan., contributed to this report.

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