Smith: Roy Williams and Jayhawk Fans

Fellow Turner’s Chapel Church member, and University of Kansas grad, Skip Smith shared with me this column written by his son, Benton, who works for a newspaper in Tonganoxie, Kansas. It was published back in mid-April during the NCAA Men’s Basketball championship and deals with former KU coach Roy Williams’ departure from the school…and Bill Self’s decision (for now) to stay…

Thanks to Skip and Benton for sharing it.

Jayhawk fans, forget these dates
by Benton Smith

July 6, 2000. April 7, 2003. April 14, 2003.

If one, two or all of those dates mean anything to you, then April 5, 2008, was probably a day you won’t soon forget.

For countless Kansas basketball fans all four of those dates serve as watermark moments for their beloved Jayhawks and their relationship with once beloved coach Roy Williams.

It was in July almost eight years ago that Williams famously announced that he would remain at KU and not head to his alma mater, North Carolina, as some media outlets erroneously reported.

Less than three years later Williams had the Jayhawks in the Final Four for the second straight year and came within a few KU free throws of an NCAA title. Meanwhile, UNC was again without a coach and Williams, again, was the Heels’ prime target. Minutes after an 81-78 loss in the final to Syracuse, Williams infamously told Bonnie Bernstein and a national television audience that he didn’t give a (bleep) about Carolina.

Many KU faithful were baffled, others furious, when they found out just a week later Williams in fact did give an expletive about UNC as he left Kansas for a job he had turned down three years before.

While it didn’t take Jayhawk fans long to warm up to Bill Self, the coach KU hired to replace Williams, many still bitterly stewed as their former coach went on to lead his new school to a 2005 NCAA championship.

A Kansas versus UNC matchup was longed for, but the day of reckoning didn’t come until this year, on April 5, at the Final Four in San Antonio.

KU fans got exactly what they wanted in the contest — a showdown with their former coach and a little payback. Kansas beat the Tar out of the Heels, 84-66.

By defeating his predecessor, Self established himself as the coach KU fans of this generation will forever remember and idolize.

The win also should serve as a mind-erasing elixir for Jayhawk fans who still clung to those aforementioned dates from half a decade ago and longer.

The jaded and unforgiving can officially move on — especially because Self coached the Jayhawks to their first NCAA title since 1988 two days after besting UNC. The 75-68 overtime win against Memphis made all those old petty grudges disappear.

When junior guard Mario Chalmers drained the clutch three-pointer that sent the game into overtime, a new moment, memory and date emerged to supersede all those old ones.

Now April 7, 2008, stands as the date to end all dates in the minds of KU fans. Those other dates and the memories associated with them are obliterated, thanks to the fifth-year KU coach who neither dillied nor dallied when his alma mater, Oklahoma State, came calling about its head coaching vacancy. On Thursday, Self announced he was staying at KU.

Just like some other guy did some other time. For some reason I can’t remember who he was or when it happened.


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