Kansas, Kansas, Kansas (Ugh!)

It had to be Kansas. Kansas. Kansas.

Roy Williams may be over the heartbreak and heartache his leaving Lawrence caused in 2003, but it’s just getting worse with me. The tweets, emails and blog posts are already out there, claiming that Bill Self has built a better program at KU than ol’ Roy has at UNC over the last 10 years.

Statistics don’t show that (they’re pretty damn even, in fact), but the fact that Tar Heels have now gone home at the hands of the Jayhawks in three of the last six NCAA Tournaments makes it seem that way to a lot of basketball fans.

Both programs have been great all the way back to the Phog Allen and Frank McGuire eras, each having blip periods that caused them to change coaches. But the last 10 years have been basically even-steven, certainly close enough to disavow any notion that one guy has out-coached the other.

Kansas and Self have won more games and have a better record (300-58 for 84%) than Carolina and Williams (282-79 for 78%), but that is largely due to several factors over that 10-year span.

One, Self took over a Kansas team that Williams left in sounder shape than the one Roy inherited from Matt Doherty. Two, the Tar Heels had one dreadful season in the last 10 years, the 20-17 debacle that followed losing four starters off the 2009 national champions. And, three, Carolina’s overall pipeline to the pros has been better than Self’s at Kansas, which ironically has made it worse for UNC.

Thirteen players have been drafted in the first round during the Williams era, 11 of them who left a total of 17 seasons on the Tar Heel table. Compare that to Kansas under Self, which has produced nine first-round picks,   one who left after one year, two who left after two and another two who left after three seasons. If you add Mario Chalmers, the MOP of the 20008 Final Four who was drafted in the second round, the Jayhawks have lost 10   seasons of eligibility in the last 10 years.

As for the NCAA Tournament, Self and Kansas have been there all 10 years but with less results than Carolina and Williams in nine trips. KU has one national championship (’08) and reached another Final Four (2012) and could still improve on those numbers this season. The Jayhawks have gone out in three regional finals, one Sweet Sixteen (and counting), one second round ouster and two embarrassing first-round upsets (Bucknell and Bradley in 2005 and ’06).

Carolina under Williams has those 2005 and ’09 NCAA titles, one other Final Four and three Elite Eight game goners. Sunday’s loss to KU was the third second-round ouster for UNC and Williams, who holds the record of 23 consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances with at least one victory. Both Self and Williams have won three national Coach of the Year honors at their current schools.

Their conference records are pretty close, with Self winning a few more regular-season and tournament titles in the Big 12 than Williams in the ACC. But, over that 10 years, the ACC has been the better league top to bottom and won three national championships to KU’s one for the Big 12.

So don’t give me that hoo-ha that Kansas has a better program than Carolina. They are both great. What skews the pooch are those three losses to KU in the three NCAA match-ups, and each one has a story to itself.

At the 2008 Final Four at San Antonio, the Tar Heels were a slight favorite over Kansas after winning both the ACC regular season and tournament and losing only two games all season. But this was the first time Williams faced Kansas, the still-angry KU crowd and all the storylines took away from the game itself.

The Heels played horribly, fell behind by 40-12 in the first half and made a late push that fell short in the 84-68 crusher. Williams (wearing the infamous KU sticker) stayed to watch the Jayhawks win the national championship two nights later, only after Memphis did not foul Kansas with a three-point lead and Chalmers’ dramatic bomb sent the game into overtime.

When the 2012 NCAA brackets came out, Carolina was on another collision course with Kansas in the Midwest Regional, hoping to have John Henson back at full strength from the wrist he sprained in the ACC Tournament. Of course, it got worse after Kendall Marshall went down in the second-round win over Creighton. With back-up point guard Dexter Strickland already sidelined by a knee injury, the Tar Heels were left with freshman reserve Stilman White, who played admirably in the 13-point loss to the Jayhawks in St. Louis.

The committee did it again this season, when it was an even worse scenario for Carolina, which lost two sophomores, one junior and one senior from its 2012 starting lineup that when whole was the only serious threat to Kentucky’s national championship. And the suits sent the Tar Heels to Kansas City (which is like playing Carolina in Greensboro).

By then, UNC had made the NCAA Tournament only due to perhaps Williams’ best coaching job of his 25-year career. Reluctantly, in early February, he scrapped his two low-post offense for a small lineup of four guards and little presence in the paint. The Heels launched and made enough three-pointers to turn their season around and get another NCAA bid, but they went to the Dance living by the long bomb, which was enough to give Williams the hives.

And, yes, they died that way, shooting barely 30 percent for the game and giving in to Kansas’ best half of the tournament thus far. So Carolina under Williams is 0-3 against KU and Self. And, since they will never play in the regular season by mutual consent, it will stay that way until the next time they meet in the NCAA tournament.

With at least five guys 6-9 or bigger next season, Williams will go back to the way he likes to play and, sooner or later, he’ll see his old school again. The NCAA committee seems to like that kind of theater for TV.

Even though, as of this moment, we hate it.


All photography in Hoop It Up is provided by Todd Melet.


Seeing Red

This Saturday morning found me as most have in recent weeks: huddled with my friends in a line outside of the Dean E. Smith center. Congregated under my roommate’s oversized golf umbrella, the half-dozen of us waited beneath a gray Chapel Hill sky and watched as puddles encroached. It was cold and my bed was much too far away for my liking. But everyone present knew that foregone sleep in a dry bed was simply the going rate for a much sought after commodity: revenge.

The Heels had an ax to grind on Saturday and certainly played like it, finally bringing a level of intensity worthy of the name on the front of their jerseys. Though it was far from a perfect performance, the boys in blue made further strides along what has been a steady learning curve as of late.

Freshman Marcus Paige continued to show improvement at the point, notching 8 assists against 0 turnovers and putting up 14 points. Paige looked comfortable running the show in the game’s closing minutes and once again proved himself to be a valuable asset at the charity stripe, knocking down 4 late free-throws to keep the wolfpack out of striking distance.

Of course, Paige’s progression seems to have been expedited by Roy Williams’ decision to go with a smaller lineup. With fewer big men crowding the paint, both Paige and Dexter Strickland have excelled in finding open driving lanes to the basket. Also of note is the sudden reappearance of the fast break. In the 4 games since P.J. Hairston was inserted into the starting lineup, the Heels have fought their way to a 77 to 38 advantage in points off turnovers, indicating that Coach Roy’s four guard experiment has not only paid dividends in the half-court, but in the transition game as well.

The most noticeable transformation on Saturday, however, took place off the court rather than on. Carolina played in front of an absolutely electric crowd that was hungry for payback. For the first time this season the risers behind the basket were filled to the brim, each step stacked two people deep. Student turnout was so high that the cheerleaders (who were somewhat surreptitiously implemented in the front row of the risers during Winter break games and who have, much to the chagrin of the students who wait in line hours before each game’s tipoff, remained there throughout the conference schedule) resumed their original post along the sideline to make room for the horde of blue-painted and, in many cases, rain-soaked undergrads.

The capacity crowd was voracious, exploding with each Tar Heel bucket and making its presence known during each crucial defensive stand. When James Michael McAdoo picked off a lazy pass by Lorenzo Brown at the top of the key and took it the length of the floor for a reverse jam late in the first half, the Dean Dome shook at its foundations. It was the loudest I’d heard the Smith Center since witnessing Harrison Barnes throw down a filthy put back dunk against Kentucky two years ago.

And the noise wasn’t limited to the regular die-hards found along the home baseline. In fact, one of the game’s loudest moments occurred midway through the second half when a “Let’s go Tar Heels!” chant erupted from the student general seating behind the home end-zone and was echoed by just about every Carolina fan in the building.

Stay focused, but stay angry. I like us when we’re angry.

image by todd melet


'We're Getting On The Same Page!'

I was so impressed and inspired by the first half of our game against Maryland. It showed what kind of a team we can be. We finally got Reggie and James Michael on the same page. Imagine what we can do if P.J. and Marcus get on that same page, all at the same time.

In the second half you have to give Maryland most of the credit; they’re an ACC team and capable, they just beat N.C. State. The way we took them out of their offense in the first half and the number of balls we deflected shows what we can do on defense.

If we keep improving we have a chance. There is no dominant team in the country, like last year with Kentucky. We’re going have to keep riding who’s hot in that game. It was Reggie vs. Maryland, at Florida State it was PJ, the next game it might be James Michael. But if we keep improving, I think our potential is off the charts.

You know I watch the point guards very closely, and I really like Marcus (Paige). He’s getting the job done with young players around him. And I’ll say it till the cows come home, he’s a good shooter. I’ve seen him at practice and I watched him before the season. He can shoot.

Six assists and no turnovers against Maryland, that’s pretty good. The players they have around them have a lot to do with the point guard’s success.

I hope we can handle Georgia Tech, and then comes State Saturday in Raleigh. That’s gonna be a toughie, but Carolina teams have done well over the years when nobody said we had a chance.

I remember my freshman year, we HAD State with David (Thompson) and Tommy (Burleson) and Monte (Towe) late in the game in Reynolds Coliseum before it slipped away. Then we finally beat them at Carmichael and again in the ACC Tournament.

And our team that year wasn’t a whole lot different from this one. I was a freshman, Walter (Davis) and Johnny Kue(ster) and T. LaGarde were all sophomores. We even had a guy named Mickey Bell who came off the bench to give us a lift like Jackson Simmons has done.

We DID have Mitch Kupchak, who was a junior and becoming one of the best big men in the country. But Mitch struggled as a freshman and sophomore. If we had legitimate juniors and seniors like it used to be, a kid could afford to come along more slowly . . . but now they have to play earlier in their careers.

We have pretty good big people – young, but they have size and length and are being taught well. Remember, we went to the Final Four in 1977 with three freshmen rotating at center – Rich Yonaker, Jeff Wolff and Steve Krafcisin.

So if the other four guys around them do what they’re supposed to do, you can get it done with young people inside.

Phil Ford was a three-time All-American at UNC, 1978 ACC Player of the Year and went on to be the NBA Rookie of the Year and an NBA all-star.

image by Todd Melet


Your Boys Are Playin' Scared

And it wasn’t even halftime. In fact, we were only down 22-0 at this point. This observation came from a head shaking, sympathetic UL fan as I rode up an elevator in Papa John’s stadium amidst the Tar Heels’ first half from Hell versus Louisville.
My elevator partner wasn’t being a smartass; he seemed genuinely disappointed that his Cardinals weren’t getting tested. Once the first half ended, I tried to imagine what he might have said to me had I climbed aboard that same elevator with my team down 36-7? “Why did you bother to make this trip?” or “This is ACC football? Really? Are you Serious?” or “Your boys aren’t just scared, they are whupped!”
Stuff like that. And he was right. The level of domination was staggering. 19 first downs. Louisville had kicked off eight times in the first half. Eight!?! The Cardinal offensive line was opening up holes large enough to fit a Churchill Downs starting gate and Louisville’s quarterback, Teddy Bridgewater, looked like the second coming of Johnny Unitas.
As I sheepishly strode to the concourse at halftime in my low-key Carolina hat and subtle blue/dark blue shirt, I glanced around at the joyous red faces around me. It was as if I had walked out of a wake and into the wildest, bestest afternoon party ever…“Hey buddy, sorry for your loss” (all the while shaking head trying to hide a grin) “…uuh how ‘bout them dadgum Cards? That was some kinda whuppin’ wasn’t it?”
“Yessir, yes it was.”
Fortunately, Papa John’s stadium sold beer. And lots of it. And by halftime, the Cardinal-red faithful had put a significant dent in the supply. No doubt, the Tar Heel loyalists, who decided to make this trek to Kentucky, could also drown their sorrows with multiple $6 brews…and certainly that was my plan.
(BRILLIANT IDEA OF THE DAY: I’d like to propose that the North Carolina state legislature make beer sales legal during UNC football games when the home team either falls behind or jumps ahead by 20 or more points; hereafter called, “The Papa John Rule.” Imagine the crowd involvement! “They kick this FG and it’s Papa John time fellas” Think of the potential revenue! And all for a good cause…to calm the nerves of the Carolina faithful and to benefit higher education; everybody is a winner!)
As I staggered back to my seat for the second half, still numbed by 36 points and multiple cold Bud Lights, the Cardinal “drive to 55” (points, that is) continued as the offense methodically marched into Tar Heel territory on its first possession. Somehow, someway, the Heels managed to stop UL on a 4th down with nary a point.
To the surprise of many, including this writer, the Heels proceeded to put together a very respectable touchdown drive to make it 36-14.
For me to claim that I could sense a Tar Heel comeback brewing would be an out-an-out lie. Honestly, I was just glad to see that Coach Fedora and boys had decided not to “mail it in” for the second half.
On the Cards’ second possession, the Heel defense assumed a “bend-but-don’t-break” strategy (as opposed to its first half “bend-and-keep-on-bending-‘til-they-score-a-TD-so-we-can-get-the-ball-back” strategy) and gave up only a morale boosting field goal.
Even when the Heels managed to put together another solid touchdown drive and “narrow” the gap to 39-21 early in the 4th quarter, I could not let myself jump on the “I had better quit downing these tasty cold Bud Lights or I am not going to fully appreciate the greatest comeback in Carolina football history” bandwagon.  Not yet.
And yet, the defense held (again) and, lo and behold, with 8:36 seconds left in the game, UL had to kick its first punt of the game, and wouldn’t you know it, the good guys in light blue blocked it. Next play we scored. And, uh-oh Cards’ fans, who were now thinking that they might be witnessing the greatest collapse in UL football history, it was 39-28.
Hmmm…well, now…you know, if we could just… (no, no…don’t do this to yourself. Just be thankful the Heels didn’t embarrass themselves and are making a respectable showing.) I know, I know, but if we could just stop ‘em one more time, kick an onside kick and…(no, don’t do it!)
BUT, it did happen. UL forgot how to run, Carolina remembered how to tackle and the offense scored…again. All of a sudden we were down by five measly points and going for two to pull within a field goal.
Conversion missed and down 39-34 with the time dwindling…”oh well, it was a nice comeback, wasn’t it?” Carolina deserves a lot of credit for making such a great comeback. They have nothing to be ashamed of with this effort and – what? They did what? UL fumbled the kickoff? Carolina’s ball? What the…?!?! We could win this thing? Are you kidding me? Any room on this bandwagon?
Well, all I can say about the rest of this game is that if God were truly a Tar Heel…
  • Highsmith would have held on to that fourth down pass from Renner,
  • I would have witnessed the greatest comeback in Carolina football history, and
  • My grandkids would have heard how I was there to witness the dawning of the Fedora era that would eventually result in those two consecutive National Championships of 2017 and 2018.
Instead, I was left with another “what could have been” game…albeit one that was one of the more remarkable near-wins I have watched.
Some losses are certainly better than others, and judging by the fans leaving Papa John’s stadium, some wins are worse than others. If our boys can build on a game like this and walk into enemy territory without playing “scared,” then perhaps it was a “good” loss.
We shall see. We shall see.

The Name Game

Sorry, sports fans, it’s no longer about the name on the front of the uniform. It’s about the name on the back. That has been the case in professional sports since free agency began, but now it has become endemic to college basketball as well.

And who can blame the kids? Look at the numbers for the first round of the 2011 NBA draft:

Selected Guaranteed Rookie Salary Selected Guaranteed Rookie Salary
No. 1 $5,305,080 No. 16 $1,696,920
No. 2 $4,746,480 No. 17 $1,611,960
No. 3 $4,262,520 No. 18 $1,531,440
No. 4 $3,843,000 No. 19 $1,446,440
No. 5 $3,480,120 No. 20 $1,404,000
No. 6 $3,160,800 No. 21 $1,347,320
No. 7 $2,885,520 No. 22 $1,293,840
No. 8 $2,643,480 No. 23 $1,242,240
No. 9 $2,563,320 No. 24 $1,192,440
No. 10 $2,308,320 No. 25 $1,144,800
No. 11 $2,192,880 No. 26 $1,106,880
No. 12 $2,083,320 No. 27 $1,074,840
No. 13 $1,979,160 No. 28 $1,068,240
No. 14 $1,880,280 No. 29 $1,060,560
No. 15 $1,786,080 No. 30 $1,052,760

For that kind of jack, few 19- or 20-year-olds are staying in school, even if they spent a year or two or three with NORTH CAROLINA written across their chests. The two Tylers at Carolina might, as did Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler at Duke. For them, the college experience may have been too rewarding to leave early, or maybe they didn’t need the money as much as most young stars and their families.

But, clearly, the game is changing and only those programs that change with it are going to stay strong or get stronger. Right now, Carolina and Duke look like they are using obsolete plans.

Both have lost one-year players – Carolina Marvin Williams and Brandan Wright, Duke Corey Maggette, Kyrie Irving and probably Austin Rivers. But neither is now restocking fast enough to keep pace, and the Tar Heels or Blue Devils may not be picked to win the ACC next season for the first time in a long time. N.C. State, with young talent already on the roster, is adding more next season.

And it’s not about where a player may be drafted this season; it’s also about where he might go next year if he stays in school.  The domino effect forces some kids to go before they may really want to.

In 2005, Sean May and Roy Williams did not have the conversation that Raymond Felton, Rashad McCants and later Marvin Williams had with their coach during the regular season. They were all dedicated to winning a first national championship for Coach Williams, but Felton and McCants particularly knew that was also their best route to being high first-round draft picks. Though he never started a game as a freshman, Marvin’s talent and potential were obvious to the pro scouts who had him rated as a first-rounder all season. Meanwhile, May insisted he was staying in school.

Then May got on a roll in late February and March, finishing the regular season with 26 points and 24 rebounds against Duke in the nationally televised finale at the Smith Center. His pro stock kept rising through the NCAA Tournament, where he won the MOP in the Final Four after Carolina beat Illinois.

THEN May and his coach had a conversation. Considering he had come off his first completely healthy season in college and he would be returning to a team without a proven point guard and no other incumbent starters, May wondered how his pro stock could possibly be as high as a senior. So he went out, too, and made Carolina the first team to ever have four lottery picks in the same year.

The Tar Heels recovered quicker than expected after losing their top seven players, mainly because they had an incoming freshman named Tyler Hansbrough, and a top-rated recruiting class the year after. An Elite Eight season (2007) was followed by a Final Four (2008) and another national championship (2009).

Carolina lost four starters from 2009 and the next season missed the NCAA Tournament completely. Fortunately, Williams followed up with two more good recruiting classes and only untimely injuries kept the 2012 team from getting back to the Final Four and perhaps winning another NCAA title.

It may not be as quick of a recovery this time, because the model is changing. Kentucky has proven it can compete for a Final Four berth every season with virtually a new team. The so-called one-and-done high school stars, who only go to college because they have to, are no longer labeled as bandit outcasts.

They are simply basketball players who are not revered because they make good grades, but are star ballers. So that is making it okay for players to watch their draft status through their careers and go when it looks like they can maximize their guaranteed first-round money.

Maybe Kendall Marshall doesn’t go out this year if all three of his fellow starters weren’t leaving, threatening his perceived value on a less-talented team next season. Marshall is this year’s May, climbing the draft board late to the point where he almost had to go.

Harrison Barnes stayed a second season and probably hurt himself, because his limitations were exposed as a sophomore and, despite making first-team All-ACC, leaves as a widely considered overrated player compared to his enormous expectations coming in to college. He needs to be careful about his pre-draft workouts or perceived weaknesses could leave him sitting in the green room until late in the first round. According to the chart above, that could cost him a couple of million bucks.

John Henson could have stayed and perhaps improved his current top 20 draft status next season, but debilitating wrist and ankle injuries during the tournaments surely gave him pause. If he got hurt again, he might have been branded as too fragile for the rigors of the NBA.

Carolina now waits on what would be the most devastating loss, freshman forward James Michael McAdoo, who got to shine ironically due to Henson’s injuries. Many pro scouts think he has the most upside of any Tar Heel player already declaring for the draft.

McAdoo’s departure, which could be announced next week, would leave Carolina with zero experienced big men and a front court of raw sophomore Desmond Hubert and incoming recruits Joel James and Brice Johnson. The Tar Heels may be all right at point guard with incoming freshman Marcus Paige, not quite the passer but a better scorer than Marshall, and Dexter Strickland returning to back him up.

But, clearly, UNC is not seen in the same light as Kentucky, where it’s become a haven for one-year stars on their way to the NBA. Coach John Calipari gets them to play together and showcase their talent, which are both assets put toward winning a national championship and getting drafted early.

Two still-unsigned players who fit that mold eliminated Carolina from their consideration – Las Vegas 6-5 forward Shabazz Muhammad and 6-11 center Nerlens Noel from Connecticut, the top two high school stars in the class of 2012. They will wind up at Kentucky or another school that not only supports one-and-dones, but now actively recruits that path.

Carolina and Duke may have to rethink their recruiting strategy or start overstocking their rosters. Because, in the short run, it’s no longer about the name on the front of the uniform.


Roy's New Digs

Roy Williams’ “lamp story” best illuminates how much in need the UNC basketball offices were of expanding and upgrading.
“When we moved into the Smith Center,” Williams said of his days as an assistant in 1986, “I carried a lamp into Coach Smith’s office and put it on his desk.
“When we moved out to begin the renovations,” said the man who had ascended to the head-coaching job in 2003, “I picked up the same lamp and carried it out of the office.”
Williams and his staff moved to temporary quarters and immersed themselves in turning the inconsistent 2010 NIT finalists into a squad that won the 2011 ACC regular season and reached the East Regional championship game before losing a close one to Kentucky. Williams walked through the construction site one time, saying, “Just tell me when we can move back in.”
They returned to their enlarged and renovated suite a few months ago, and it is difficult to imagine any nicer coaching digs in the country. A majestic outside entrance has replaced non-descript glass doors from the 1980s. A bust of Dean Smith sits outside the luxurious, welcoming main lobby with a large front desk and a giant acrylic interlocking NC behind it, high definition flat screens on the walls to the left.


A 70-inch screen is the center piece of the lobby, which is more like a mini-museum. On game days and recruiting weekends, it shows hi-def highlights of recent Carolina basketball teams. Along the right side of the lobby are monuments to each of UNC’s six national championships, from 1924 through 2009, overlooked by a magnificent photo collage of Tar Heels heroes of the last 40 years. 
It cost more than $7 million to push out the glass exterior wall into the walkway between the Smith Center and Koury Natatorium and turn the once cramped coaching space into a palatial state-of-the-art suite in every imaginable way, from that front lobby to a wide hallway with assistant coaching offices on the right, kitchen and meetings rooms and more offices to the left.
The head coach’s headquarters, about three times the size of Smith’s original office, is at the end of the hallway. It has couches, comfortable chairs, a large desk, pictures and memorabilia galore, and opens to a patio with grills and tables, where Williams can entertain players, his staff, recruits and their families.
The patio looks out over the narrowed walkway between the basketball arena and natatorium. A brand new bricked pathway has replaced cracked concrete squares and has been renamed “Lettermen’s Lane.” Each decade of Carolina Basketball since 1910 is honored by Alexander Julian-inspired, argyle-covered columns and silver metal weather-proof plaques with the names of every Tar Heel player and manager during those years. 

The office suite, renovated locker room and training facilities downstairs, plus the Carolina Basketball Museum in the adjacent Williamson Center that opened three years ago, cost about $12 million dollars and are the major work done to the basketball complex in the last 25 years. Compare that to the $100 million spent on the so-called “de-emphasized” football program since 2007, during which the Tar Heels posted a losing ACC record while the basketball team won five ACC regular-season and/or tournament championships and Williams’ second NCAA title.
One could hardly blame Williams for thinking that, under such a comparison, anyone claiming football at UNC is being deemphasized only embarrasses his basketball program.
Inside the arena, since Williams arrived, many of the baby blue seats have been replaced, the four video boards upgraded from the old screens that had broken panes, murals added over all four entrances and the lighting and sound system enhanced, but there remains a lot to be done with the most visible aspect of UNC Basketball.
One LED board is on each side of the fascia to the upper deck. These are single panels unlike full ribbon boards that encircle most new or renovated arenas. Instead, UNC has two that show amateurish messages like “Make Some Noise” along with the graphics of UNC players after they do something special on the court. The Smith Center’s version of the “office lamp” still remain — two outdated, washed out blue University of North Carolina signs alongside each LED panel. Like the lamp, they’ve been there from Day One and have got to go.
But at least the movement into the 21st century has begun with the extreme makeover of Williams’ suite, which by all reason should impress visitors and recruits as much as Duke’s six-story basketball tower, where Coaching King Mike Krzyzewski sits at the top in his glass-enclosed office, accessible only by a pre-programmed thumb-print outside the elevator, as he surveys the courtyard in his name below, the next-door practice facility in his name and the entire campus, which some day may be also in his name (kidding, I think).
“I don’t know,” Williams said when asked what impresses young recruits and their families these days. “Everyone knows how I feel about Coach Smith, but he was reluctant to make major changes everywhere but on the court.”
The protégé wonders how Smith could have handled it today, with the Internet tracking recruiting flights, instantly reporting what questions coaches ask during supposedly private home visits, and generally everyone who follows it knowing something about everyone else’s business.
Williams, who turned 61 this month and maintains the same rigorous recruiting schedule he has always kept, has what is expected to be another “big-time team” with all five starters back bolstered by a deep bench, the near-consensus pick for No. 1 in the preseason polls.
As a reminder to an ever-bright future, walking into his Star Wars style suite every morning must make him feel like a Jedi Master. May the force be with him, especially when taking on the dark side from Durham.

Roy To Face KU's Self In Skins Game

Everyone knows that Roy Williams’ favorite off-season past time is golf, chasing that little white ball around his favorite courses all over the country and the world. Williams keeps a list of the top 100 golf courses in America and at last count ol’ Roy had played about 65 of them.

While he is never a phone call or thought away from his basketball team and the latest recruiting target, Williams strategically schedules his golf games from April to October in basically three categories: regular matches with his closest cronies wherever and whenever they can tee it up; carefully planned trips for his so-called Foxhole Gang of long-time friends (sometimes they even bring their wives!) and a few of the hundreds of charity events he is invited to play in.

In the last month, after completing his 2011 high school recruiting class and learning happily that Harrison Barnes, John Henson and Tyler Zeller will return for the 2012 season, Williams has been executing all three of his golfing missions. He will occasionally meet three of his local buddies early in the morning at the Chapel Hill Country Club and, riding carts quickly between shots, try to complete a competitive match in record time. His goal is to always be at his office three and a half hour after they tee off (which if you don’t play golf is considered a very fast round).

In the last month, Williams went on a “boys’ golf trip” to Cabo San Lucas in Mexico and a “wives’ trip” to Palm Springs, California. This weekend he is headed back to Kansas, where most of the hard feelings from his emotional departure in 2003 have subsided. He will participate in a Skins Game at the grand opening of the Firekeeper Golf Course at the Fire Brand Casino and Resort outside of Topeka. It is to support the Notah Begay III Foundation, which benefits Native Americans all over the country. Begay, the professional golfer who was Tiger Woods’ roommate at Stanford, designed the Firekeeper course and will play in the Skins Game with Williams, head pro Randy Towner and current Kansas Coach Bill Self, who is a 12 handicap compared to Williams’ 10.

“Trust me, he is a better golfer than me. When I played with him before, he was (better),” said Self, who recalls playing two rounds with Williams when Self worked at Oral Roberts and Williams was at KU.

“It’s a nine-hole Skins match with two pros, one really good player and one hack,” added Self, referring to himself as the hack. “I’ll definitely be the weak link in that group. It should be a lot of fun playing with those three. Of course, Roy will add so much to it. Everybody respects the job he did at KU.”

Self succeeded Williams at Kansas and has had the Jayhawks highly ranked in the last eight years, including the 2008 club that hammered the Tar Heels in the Final Four semis in San Antonio and won the national championship two nights later over John Calipari’s Memphis team. (Williams, lest we forget, has won two NCAA titles since coming home to Carolina).

The following week, Williams is scheduled to be paired with Calipari, who has since moved to Kentucky and has played UNC three times already. Kentucky won in Lexington in 2010 and the Tar Heels returned the favor in Chapel Hill this past December. Then, of course, the Wildcats won the rubber match in the 2011 Elite Eight game in Newark for a trip to the Final Four.

Self and Calipari are the last two coaches to take Williams’ teams out of the NCAA Tournament. The Tar Heels will face the coach and team they beat in between – Tom Izzo and Michigan State for the 2009 national championship – in the first annual (aircraft) Carrier Classic in San Diego on Veterans Day.

So far, no golf game is scheduled with Izzo this summer.

Any suggestions for golf or basketball tips Roy should offer Self and Calipari?