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Mentor Dean Smith, former players pay tribute to Williams

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- Paul Pierce scoffed when he heard it,
an unexpected -- and unnecessary -- apology from Roy Williams during
the North Carolina coach's induction speech into the Basketball
Hall of Fame.

"He feels like he let down his players. That tells you what
type of person he is," Pierce said. "But I feel like I failed him
because we didn't win more."

Williams was inducted into the Springfield shrine in a series of
ceremonies over the weekend that wrapped up on Saturday when the
enshrinees received their members' rings. He thanked his family and
his coaching mentor, Dean Smith, but he also turned to some of his
former players in the audience and said with a cracking voice, "I
failed you, because I didn't get you to the Final Four."

"He didn't fail me, he aided me," said Raef LaFrentz, the
former Kansas forward who is heading into his 10th year in the NBA.
"That's him, man. That's him in a nutshell. He's always thinking
about the players.

"He was the biggest aid I can think of. He got me to where I am
at."

About two dozen of Williams' former Kansas and North Carolina
players posed for a picture with Williams on the dais after Friday
night's ceremony, including Pierce, LaFrentz and Charlotte Bobcats
forward Sean May, a former Tar Heel wearing a Carolina blue suit.

Williams also showed his gratitude to Smith, who presented him
for induction, saying he could never match Smith's accomplishments
and hoped he could merely make his Hall of Fame mentor proud.

"It's genuine," Smith said. "He's tough on himself -- too much
so."

Williams has a 530-131 record and six coach of the year awards
to his credit, with 15 straight 20-win seasons and 18 consecutive
NCAA tournament berths. He took Kansas to the Final Four four
times, but never won it all until 2005, after he had moved to North
Carolina.

He's the third coach in NCAA history to take two schools to the
championship game.

"Just wait: He's going to keep it going," Smith said. "And it
will be within the rules and everything."

Also honored were Los Angeles Lakers coach Phil Jackson; the
1966 NCAA champion Texas Western team; four-time WNBA championship
coach Van Chancellor, the longtime women's coach at Mississippi
recently hired by LSU; former NBA referee Mendy Rudolph; and
international coaches Pedro Ferrandiz of Spain and Mirko Novosel of
Yugoslavia.

Jackson attended Williston High School and the University of
North Dakota, and was given the Theodore Roosevelt Rough Rider
Award, North Dakota's highest honor, in 1992.

Former USA Today, Chicago Tribune and New York Times writer
Malcom Moran and longtime Phoenix Suns broadcaster Al McCoy were
honored with the Curt Gowdy Media Award. Dikembe Mutombo was the
first recipient of the Mannie Jackson-Basketball's Human Spirit
Award, named for the Harlem Globetrotters chairman and given for
using basketball to help the community.

Texas Western was the first team in NCAA history to win a title
with five black players, beating an all-white Kentucky team in the
1966 final. The achievement is considered a turning point in the
integration of college athletics, and it was the subject of the
movie "Glory Road."

"Our only purpose was to be the best team in the country,"
said captain Harry Flournoy, who spoke on behalf of the team. "We
didn't have a social agenda. But God had an agenda, and he chose us
to open doors -- not only for black people, but for all people who
had doors shut in their face."