Williams: ‘Kansas is my second-favorite school’
by Steve Wieberg, Special for USA TODAY Sports
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Roy Williams said he’d given little thought to the reception he might get here, just 20 minutes away from the school and basketball program he left 10 years ago.
Thursday, at least, Kansas City made nice.
A Sprint Center crowd of perhaps 2,500 on hand for North Carolina’s afternoon NCAA tournament practice greeted the introduction of the Tar Heels’ Hall of Fame coach with warm applause, then cheered again as he waved and walked to the edge of the court in front of them.
Folks were less cordial in 2003, when Williams departed Kansas after 15 seasons, 418 wins, four Final Four appearances and two berths in the NCAA championship game. He returned to Carolina, where he’d been a longtime assistant to Dean Smith before Kansas gave him his head coaching break.
“The University of Kansas and Lawrence was a great 15 years of my life,” Williams said before Thursday’s light practice. “I’ve said it this way before: I gave my heart, body and soul for 15 years, and I loved it.
“It’s not immoral to love two institutions. When I was a coach at Kansas, it was my favorite school. North Carolina was my second-favorite school. I happen to be coaching at North Carolina now, and it’s my favorite school, and Kansas is my second-favorite school.”
Eighth-seeded North Carolina meets No. 9 Villanova in a South Regional game Friday night. Win, and the Sprint Center reception might change. Williams and the Tar Heels likely would move into a Sunday matchup with top-seeded Kansas.
They’ve crossed paths in a game twice since Williams left Kansas — first when the Jayhawks stunned North Carolina 84-66 in the Final Four in San Antonio en route to winning the national championship in 2008. Williams took some heat two nights later, prominently sporting a Jayhawks sticker as they played and beat Memphis.
A year ago, Kansas rolled past North Carolina 80-67 en route to the Final Four and ultimately the tournament championship game against Kentucky.
“I realize some people were upset when I left. Hopefully, time is going to cure a lot of those problems,” Williams said. “College basketball, … [For more on North Carolina coach Roy Williams: 'Kansas is my second-favorite school', click here.]