Kansas moves past Roy Williams

Originally Published: March 24, 2012
By Jason King | ESPN.com

ST. LOUIS -- Four years ago, before he faced his former team in the 2008 Final Four, North Carolina coach Roy Williams received word that a barbershop in Kansas had removed his picture from its display wall and hung it in the bathroom.

Right above the toilet.

Thousands of fans -- many of them sporting "Benedict Roy" T-shirts -- flooded Massachusetts Street in Lawrence when the Jayhawks defeated the Tar Heels a few nights later. The victory came in the NCAA semifinals -- not the championship game.

[+] EnlargeRoy Williams
Shane Keyser/Kansas City Star/Getty ImagesThe Roy Williams hate seems to have subsided among Jayhawk Nation.

Still, beating ol' Roy was more gratifying to some than the win over Memphis two days later. Williams said the game was the worst experience of his life.

"A lot of emotion," Williams said. "A lot of pain."

Four years later, Williams is again preparing to play the school he coached for 15 years, the school he led to four Final Fours while winning 80.5 percent of his games.

Only now, things are different.

This year, Roy and Kansas aren't the story.

The teams are.

Twenty-four hours before Sunday's tipoff between the Jayhawks and Tar Heels in the Elite Eight, the buzz was less about Williams and more about Kansas' recent shooting woes. A few reporters asked Williams the obligatory questions about his time at Kansas, but most posters on KU message boards and chat rooms seemed more curious about the status of injured UNC point guard Kendall Marshall and how his absence could affect the game.

Finally -- thankfully -- the Roy Williams hate seems to have subsided among Jayhawk Nation.

There is no more need for venom, no more cause for insecurity. Kansas has done more than move on since a private jet whisked Williams away to Chapel Hill in the spring of 2003. It's easier, after all, to recognize the excellence of your former coach when you realize your new one is just as good.

Or maybe even better.

[+] EnlargeBill Self
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty ImagesBill Self is speaking out about the controversy surrounding his friend and former assistant.

Bill Self has only been to one Final Four, which is significantly less than Williams' seven. He's not in the Hall of Fame like his predecessor and he hasn't coached nearly as many NBA lottery picks.

Still, anyone who has paid attention to what Self, who is 12 years younger than Williams, has done at Kansas realizes that similar accomplishments are likely in store. Ask any KU partisan, and they'll tell you there's no one they'd rather have as their head coach, especially considering Self brought the one thing to Lawrence that Williams couldn't.

A national championship.

"Bill is a tremendous coach," Williams, who has won two NCAA titles at North Carolina, said Saturday. "And I'm not saying that lightly. He's a tremendous coach."

The numbers don't lie. No coach in America has won more games in the past five-plus seasons than Self. It really isn't even close, with Self's record of 195-28 topping Williams' mark of 182-44 by 13 wins.

Self's teams have also won eight consecutive Big 12 titles, a feat that hasn't been accomplished by a school from a power conference in more than three decades. John Wooden's UCLA teams won 13 straight from 1967-79.

Even though he has a long way to go to match Williams' overall resume, it's clear Self has taken Kansas' program to an even higher level. Self said Saturday that a lot of the credit for his success in Lawrence should go to a certain person.

Williams.

"I took over a healthy program," Self said. "A lot of times, when you want to change the culture, it's because you took over an unhealthy program. There was nothing wrong with our culture. It was great.

[+] EnlargeRoy Williams
AP Photo/Kevork DjansezianRoy Williams left a healthy program at Kansas, according to Bill Self.

"Coach Williams and his staff did a remarkable job for the 15 years that they were there."

Self was asked about the negativity that was showered on Williams when he left for North Carolina.

"It was a backhanded compliment," Self said. "If they didn't care so much for him, why would they care if he left?"

That was the theme during Saturday's news conference. When Kansas and North Carolina met in 2008, things were awkward and tense and even unsettling for Williams, who lamented having to play the game all the way until the opening tip.

But this year both coaches appeared more at ease as they showered one another with compliments.

Even though he was unable to attend, Williams seemed touched that Self invited him to KU's alumni game last fall. Self praised Williams for creating a culture in KU's program that stressed pride and discipline and strong academics.

They never grasped hands and sang "Kumbayah," but in a situation that could've been all about them, it was refreshing to see that this time, the story was more about the game, more about two of college basketball's most historic programs going head to head for a shot to go to the Final Four.

"Time will heal a lot of things," Williams said. "It's over with now."

Well, almost.

At the team hotel Saturday morning, North Carolina's Harrison Barnes saw a KU fan wearing a T-shirt that read: "Why play with Roy when we can play with our-Self."

Hours later, toward the end of his news conference, Williams was asked if he'd ever consider scheduling a home-and-home series with Kansas. Self indicated he was all for the idea, but Williams answered with an emphatic "No."

"Too emotional for me," Williams said. "When somebody says Allen Fieldhouse to me, I think about all those positive thoughts. I don't want to go in there as the coach of the opposing team."

Jason King covers college basketball for ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter @JasonKingESPN.