Williams Excited to Face Kansas

SAN ANTONIO — Roy Williams can't wait for his Tar Heels to play Kansas in the Final Four today. After all, he's been tired of asking questions all week about playing the school he coached for 15 years.

“I hope I didn’t really insult somebody, but there was a camera in front of me on Wednesday night as soon as we got off the bus,” Williams said. “The first question was, ‘Coach, what about this Kansas thing?’ I said, ‘You got to be more original than that. I’ve only answered that about 700 times.’ I’m glad that not only is that question over with, I’m glad that we can get to coaching and play the game.”

Williams, though, said all the Kansas questions haven’t “been a very big distraction. If I go out there (at UNC’s open practice on Friday and) 37 people throw tomatoes at me, that will bother me a little bit. But I’ve been  hit by a rotten grapefruit at Duke (in 1979, which was actually aimed at head coach Dean Smith).”

One reporter at Williams’ press conference on Friday tried to be original with this question: “You gave 15 years of yourself to Kansas. I know you want to have a great legacy there. How do you think the result of (the) game will impact that legacy.”

Williams had some fun with the question.

“Somebody said the other day that if Kansas wins, they’re gonna forgive you,” Williams said, drawing laughter from the media. “Guys, I’d rather them not forgive me. That’s the bottom line. How the game itself will have an impact, I really don’t know. I think time is a good thing.”

Williams obviously has great affection for Kansas, and even the current players. He was “thrilled” that four KU players asked to have a picture taken with him on Thursday night.

“Jeremy (Case), I recruited,” Williams said. “Brady (Morningstar), I’ve known forever. Brandon (Rush), I’ve known for a long, long time. Russell Robinson I think is the most important seven points a game scorer in college basketball.”

Williams admitted it still “hurts“ when “some people still say some (negative) things or do some things. There’s no question. You guys, if you see a bathroom, instead of saying men’s room, it says ‘Roy’s Room,’ that doesn’t make you feel good. If somebody puts your picture up over the commode, that doesn’t make you feel good. But you wouldn’t do it in my house, I can tell you that.

“But I’ve got some friends in Kansas that will be the best friends that I’m going to have for a long, long time. I said, ‘Don’t come to the game. Wait and see. Monday night come and see me. If my team is playing, you can cheer. If Kansas is playing, you can cheer, too.’”

Williams’ players were peppered with the Kansas questions on Friday, too.

“He has handled it well,” said sophomore forward Deon Thompson. “His focus is on the game with his team playing Kansas. It’s not coach Williams vs. Kansas. He is more focused on the game and on his team playing well. He is not letting us lose our focus.”

And the ‘Carolina players don’t feel added pressure because Williams is playing against his old school. They feel pressure enough to perform daily for the Hall of Fame coach.

“Coach Williams expects you to get better every day,” said junior forward Tyler Hansbrough. “I think that’s great because he pushes you on the court all the time. I feel like every day when I go into practice I have gotten a little better. Every day we have to work hard and keep on improving.”

Even the Jayhawks were asked Friday about Williams and Kansas.

“As players, we try not to get involved in all of that talk because (we) didn’t play for him,” said KU junior Mario Chalmers. “He recruited some of us, but we never played for him.”

Kansas senior Russell Robinson has great respect for Williams.

“He did give Kansas a good 15 years, so I hope fans appreciate that,” Robinson said. “Everyone has decisions to make in life, and coach Williams made one that was in his best interests. The main thing I see in his teams is that they always run. At Kansas they ran and now at North Carolina they run a lot, so one of his big things is getting his team out in transition.”

Like Williams, KU coach Bill Self is glad the Jayhawks and Tar Heels meet today so reporters can stop asking questions. And Self hopes, too, that Kansas fans don’t personally root against Williams.

“I think if our fans, which we have as good of fans as anybody, spend all their time rooting against an individual, then their energies aren’t channeled in the right direction,” Self said. “It’s the same way with me. I’m not spending my time worrying about coach Williams. I’m worried about North Carolina.

“Five years is enough time for things to be let go. I’ve said this many times. I have a better job at Kansas because Roy Williams was a coach at Kansas. I am also glad he’s at North Carolina because if he wasn’t, then I wouldn’t be at Kansas. From my vantage point, all the animosity which is portrayed, which I don’t think is quite as great as what some people do is just a backhanded compliment, that they didn’t want him to leave.”

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