UNC's Williams hears some cheers

Mar. 24, 2013 @ 07:49 PM

Roy Williams was stopped at the airport recently by a man who told him he was a big-time Kansas fan.

”I am too,” the North Carolina coach responded.

The fan walked off, but he stopped Williams a few gates later and said the answer surprised him.

“I said, I was there 15 years, had wonderful players that I loved,” Williams said. “It was family and always will be. It’s not immoral to love two institutions.”

Williams, of course, was the Kansas coach before he came to UNC — a fact that probably wasn’t lost on the NCAA Tournament selection committee, which placed the Tar Heels and the Jayhawks in the same region for the second straight year. It certainly didn’t escape the executives at CBS, which made UNC-Kansas the final game of it’s Sunday tripleheader.

“When we saw they were in the same bracket as us on TV, we all looked at coach and he started laughing, because we know it means a lot to him,” UNC senior Dexter Strickland said.

Many Kansas fans were upset with Williams for leaving 10 years ago, but he has received a warm reception this week. There were far more cheers than boos when Williams walked onto the court Thursday and Friday at the Sprint Center, which is about 45 miles from Kansas University. Only one person has heckled him on his morning walks here.

“I do believe that time heals all wounds,” Williams said.

Though if he gets a negative reception from the crowd of 18,500 Sunday, he’s okay with that too.

“First time we went and played at Kentucky, I was booed by 24,000,” Williams said. “Regardless of how bad it is, it’s not going to outnumber that.”



Williams closed Saturday’s press conference by pointing out that he didn’t insult anyone today.

That wasn’t the case after Friday’s win, when he expressed his displeasure with a new NCAA regulation. Prior to this year, the players would speak at the postgame press conference and then leave before the head coach took questions. This year the players and the coach all leave at the same time, when the media session is finished.

“Whoever made that decision, tell them I think it stinks,” Williams said. “So that means now we have to wait around for another half hour while these guys go shower? Tell the tournament committee that’s one of the dumbest damn things they’ve ever done.”



Sophomore forward Jackson Simmons had played just 14 minutes in UNC’s previous five games, but was out there for the final 9½ minutes against Villanova. He had one point and three rebounds but brought intangibles.

“I think he probably does as good a job as anybody we have being down in a stance, screening the ball, usually does the best job of boxing out,” Williams said. “We didn’t get a very good job of boxing out with anybody down the stretch. But he gives me some confidence with what he’s going to do defensively.”



Williams went to one knee and stayed down for a few seconds a couple times during Friday’s game, but he said it was nothing to worry about. The 62-year-old coach said it started happening when he was playing Babe Ruth baseball at 13, and it’s different from vertigo, which he said caused more serious significant problems.

“It’s just a blood rush,” Williams said. “Yesterday I was screaming because I said, ‘Just give me one rebound.’ They kept getting every rebound and scoring.

“It’s usually when I go a little whacko, start screaming, get up and down. It’s never worried me. The doctors at Kansas (and North Carolina) checked me out every way you can. The only unsettling thing is I’m not sure they care that much about me, they just don’t want me to die on their watch.”