My 90-year-old mother had a question.
"Why was that gray-haired man crying on TV?'' she asked.
"Because he's Kansas' basketball coach and his team lost,'' I answered. "If I were him, I'd be crying, too.''
"Why?'' Mom asked.
"Because he was supposed to have the best team in all of college basketball.''
"He takes losing kind of hard, doesn't he?'' Mom asked. "I feel sorry for him.''
"Don't feel sorry for him,'' I replied. "He makes more money than either you or I could ever imagine and his team won 33 games this season. "If you want to feel sorry for someone, feel sorry for Kurt Kanaskie of Drake. He makes a heck of a lot less money than Williams, and he's never had his Bulldogs in the NCAA tournament. Kanaskie may cry once in a while, too, but I've never seen him do it.''
Williams wasn't the only guy crying after Kansas was blitzed by Maryland, 97-88, in the semifinal round of the NCAA Final Four basketball tournament. Thousands of Jayhawk fans spread around the world were pretty misty-eyed, too.
Please understand that I am certainly not being insensitive to Williams' crying. This is, after all, 2002, and I think a middle-aged man has every right to display his emotions before a national TV audience without people raising their eyebrows about it.
Professional football coach Dick Vermeil-who now gets his paychecks from the Kansas City Chiefs--cries all the time, and you won't catch me saying anything about him except stuff like, "He's got guts made of steel and has a blue-collar work ethic.''
Football coaches like to be described that way, whether they cry or not.
For all I know, Vince Lombardi cried once in a while. Mike Ditka, too.
Actually, Williams, 51, could have been crying for several reasons after the Kansas-Maryland game.
Obviously, one reason was that the Jayhawks' season was over and Maryland's wasn't. Another was that the loss renewed the feeling among a growing number of people that Williams can't win big games. He knows how to pummel Baylor, Texas A&M and Kansas State, but get him into a must-win game in the NCAA and he flops.
Another reason ol' Roy might have been rubbing his eyes was because Drew Gooden, a junior with wonderful basketball skills, may have played his last game for Kansas. He's acting like he wants to turn pro. (If you think I was going to say Gooden wants to "play at the next level,'' go to Dick Vitale's website or somewhere else on the Internet).
Yet another reason Williams was crying was no doubt because he'd like to have another game so he could prove he actually knows how many timeouts are allowed in major-college basketball. Kansas wiped out any sliver of hope it had to win in the final moments against Maryland when Gooden, Jeff Boschee and Nick Collison signaled for a timeout when the Jayhawks had none left. That produced an automatic technical foul, bringing two Maryland free throws (one of which was made) and possession of the ball.
People will tell you that it was the responsibility of one of Kansas' assistant coaches to make the players aware that they had no timeouts remaining. But, in reality, it was Williams' responsibility. He's the boss. He's the guy who is supposed to know how many timeouts are left. But, as someone pointed out, the Jayhawks are rarely in such situations at the end of games-trailing and frantically calling timeouts to kill the clock. That's left to the Colorados, Penn States and Evansvilles of the world. And they know how to do it. Kansas obviously doesn't. At least Chris Webber is feeling better now. He has some company.
Webber was the first guy to make extra timeouts famous in the Final Four when he played for Michigan. Well, heck, nobody ever said Webber could count anything but the $280,000 he's rumored to have gotten from a Michigan booster when he played what is very loosely referred to as amateur basketball. But Webber, Collison, Boschee and Gooden certainly weren't the only guys to experience the timeout embarrassment in high-profile games. Who can forget how Lute Olson, then coaching at Iowa, took his team out of a final chance to win a 1981 NCAA Midwest Regional game against Wichita State by telling his players to call an extra timeout? Probably asking if he could share a Kleenex with Williams after the Kansas-Maryland game was Big 12 commissioner Kevin Weiberg, who had a lot to cry about, too. Weiberg saw the chance of an all-Big 12 championship game in the Final Four expire when Oklahoma lost to Indiana and the Jayhawks tumbled. I'd better quit writing about all this crying. Now my mother is starting to feel sorry for Olson and Webber.
Indiana's Davis Should Be Coach of the Year
Win or lose in the game against Maryland to decide the national championship, Indiana's Mike Davis is my choice as college basketball's Coach of the Year.To be able to withstand all the doubts and scrutiny he's had to endure since succeeding legendary Bobby Knight as the Hoosiers' coach-and to get his team to the title game-is remarkable for Davis.
However, despite his success, I doubt Davis will stay long at Indiana. He's already making comments that he'd someday like to coach in the NBA and saying that he'd have to listen if some team waved a couple of million dollars in front of him.
The best guess is that Davis still isn't completely comfortable in Bloomington. There's a faction there that will never let him forget that he's occupying a seat that belongs only to Knight. Davis could win consistently for the next 10 years and not satisfy those who doubt his abilities. By the way, Davis said he fully expects 6-10 Indiana sophomore Jared Jeffries to make himself eligible for the NBA draft after this season. Jeffries almost made the leap last year, so Davis figures there's no way he'll stick around for another collegiate season.
Something I like about Davis, but also something that 99.9 percent of college basketball's other coaches will disagree with: Davis, a religious man, doesn't conduct practices on Sundays-including in Atlanta, prior to the Final Four championship game. Davis explained that Sundays are for players to go to church.
Indiana Will Win It All
My prediction for the title game: Indiana 77, Maryland 71.
Iowa, Kansas, Illinois Seek Hotshot Smith
If Gooden should decide to return to Kansas next season for his senior year, Kansas will likely be the nation's preseason No. 1-rated team. But with Gooden's status unknown, Williams continues to hit the recruiting trail hard. Among the prospects he's in strong contention for is Devin Smith, a talented 6-5 player from Coffeyville (Kan.) Community College. Iowa and Illinois supposedly are the other finalists. Jeff Graves, a 6-9, 260-pounder from Iowa Western Community College, signed with Kansas last fall and will play for the Jayhawks next season. Of course, Williams will also still have Iowans Collison and Kirk Hinrich, both of whom are starters and will be seniors. Ron Maly Vol. 2, No. 19 April 1, 2002