I grew up 30 minutes from Lawrence, KS. Maybe it was proximity, or something else, but from my earliest memories I have loved Jayhawk basketball. My early memories were of Ted Owens and some very good teams. There were the bitter losses to Missouri and Kansas State.
Then, there was the coming of Danny Manning. Larry Brown had come to KU and hired Danny’s father as a coach, moving Danny to Lawrence while he was still in high school. They were in our high school league, so I saw Manning play in our gym our senior year. It was phenomenal. This guy was going to do some amazing things for KU. And he did. There was the magical year of 1988 when “Danny and the Miracles” made the improbable run through the NCAA tournament and beat Oklahoma in the final in Kansas City.
By then I was a senior on college in Minneapolis. A friend and I were from Kansas, so the next day we wore our Kansas sweatshirts to rib a professor we had who hailed from Oklahoma.
Larry Brown left, and with his leaving, he forgot to take his recruiting violations. The NCAA doesn’t bother calling a foul on coaches who leave. They just hammer the program left behind. Larry went to the NBA and KU couldn’t defend its national title because of NCAA probation. This was one of the premier programs in the country, so there were high expectations regarding the next coach.
With all the influence and esteem of KU, Dr. Bob Frederick went out and hired Roy Williams. And everyone went, “WHAT? WHO?” Roy was an assistant on Dean Smith’s North Carolina staff. The only head coaching he had done had been a high school team ten years before. Of course, no one has any doubts about that hire now.
Roy Williams has always been my favorite coach. I have only seen one KU game in person and when I watched Coach Williams I KNEW this was a great coach. It obviously broke my heart when he left KU and went to North Carolina, but I was not going to blame him. He thought he had put that stuff to rest the first time he turned them down. He had no idea they’d fire Matt Doherty so soon. So, he had to return to a place he loved.
When his autobiography came out, it went to the top of my Christmas list, so my wife gave it to me and I just finished it. I am not a fan of sports autobiographies, but this is Roy Williams. His memory is incredible. He has kept notes on all his coaching and recruiting travels from his high school coaching days to now. The book is more than just remembering some good times at KU and UNC. He gives his life’s philosophy.
It’s simple: outwork everyone else. He still does. He coaches in his alma mater, doing something in a place no one ever wants him to leave… and he still outworks everyone else. I know he did that at Kansas, and it is amazing to see him still do it.
He never won the national title at KU. He has won two at UNC. I wish he had done it at Kansas, but KU has done well with Bill Self and pulled in their own national title in 2008. Of course, they ran over UNC to do it. I am a HUGE Roy Williams fan… except on nights he plays KU. I was thrilled with the huge KU win over UNC.
The book is a great reminder of what has made Roy Williams the best coach in college basketball. He is incredibly honest. He still loves KU and he deeply loves UNC. He doesn’t hide it. It’s why I will always deeply admire this coach.
For those who are not familiar at all with Roy Williams, I put the title on this post in honor of him. He rarely cusses. He is full of “dadgummits” and “gosh darns.”
And he is the best dadgum coach in the game.