|Don't show your face again in this town|
By Jason Whitlock
Page 2 columnist
LAWRENCE, Kan. -- Dean Smith is the only man more disliked here than Roy Williams.
Smith's name is basically a curse word around the Kansas campus, where Smith earned a degree and played on a national championship team, and where Williams built a basketball dynasty.
That's the prevailing sentiment around town since Williams announced Monday that he'd prefer to return to his North Carolina Tar Heel roots rather than complete his Kansas legacy. Williams, the feeling is in Lawrence, caved to Smith's emotional pleas, which included telling Williams that he was the "only one who could salvage" the Carolina program.
"People can't believe Roy has the nerve to show up at the banquet," said Larry Sinks, 40, a Lawrence businessman.
The Jayhawks will celebrate their Final Four season tonight with their annual season-ending banquet. Williams returned to Lawrence yesterday afternoon and plans to crash the banquet. Williams wants to make peace with his players and Kansas fans.
Ike might have a better chance of making up with Tina.
Kansas fans are irate, not just because Williams left, but because of the way he has conducted himself during his Chapel Hill press conference and subsequent national TV interviews. KU fans believe Williams' overzealous praise of recruits David Padgett and Omar Wilkes during interviews is nothing more than Williams trying to subtly suggest to the high school seniors that they ask Kansas for a release from their letters of intent.
"I feel bad for KU's veteran players," said Dru Fritzel, a KU season-ticket holder since 1985 and a Lawrence businesswoman. "Roy talked and talked about those two recruits and hasn't really said anything about the kids who helped him get to the championship game. I feel sad for them."
Sinks has sold close to 5,000 anti-Williams, anti-North Carolina T-shirts out of his Victory Sportswear store since Williams began re-flirting with UNC. Sinks can't keep up with demand for "Benedict Williams" shirts.
"I started at 5:30 a.m. and it was pretty much non-stop business until I left around 6:30 p.m.," said Sinks, a longtime Kansas basketball supporter. "Most Kansas fans are kicking themselves. They're wondering, 'Why did we put Roy on a pedestal like he was God? We were so naive.' "
Jayhawks fans put Roy on that pedestal because they thought he was their version of Dean Smith, who twice rebuffed overtures from his alma mater to return to Lawrence. Now Kansas fans don't want Williams or Smith anywhere near Lawrence.
"I've lost a lot of respect for (Smith)," said Rob Farha, owner of the popular KU tavern The Wheel, where Williams regularly ate lunch. "Dean has shown no loyalty to Kansas. Roy is 52. If he wants to answer to Dean Smith the rest of his life, I guess that's his business. But Roy had his own thing here."
Sinks added: "Dean is the worst guy of the whole bunch. He better never show his face at KU again. I can't tell you the words and the things I've heard said about Dean Smith around here."
Traitor. Selfish egomaniac.
If Roy Williams is telling the truth, and it was indeed another gut-wrenching decision between Kansas and Carolina, then I blame Dean for all the pain that Williams and Kansas fans are experiencing right now.
And Williams is in a lot of pain. He broke down in tears on my radio show Wednesday morning and in a private conversation. He knows there's no explanation for his decision that would provide Kansas fans adequate comfort. He can't even make himself completely comfortable with the decision.
At one point Wednesday morning, he claimed he was no different than any person "on your street who has switched jobs in the last 15 years." The truth is Roy Williams always preached that coaching at Kansas was far more than a job. He asked players and fans to emotionally invest in the Kansas basketball family.
You can change jobs with very little pain. You can't desert your family without creating a lot of pain.
Dean Smith should know that better than anybody. He should've respected the basketball family that Williams built at Kansas and counseled his coaching pupil to stay with his new family. But Smith's ego wouldn't allow that. It wouldn't allow Roy to build a family that rivaled Dean's.
Dean is the only real winner in all of this. Roy flushed 15 years of hard work and damaged his relationship with countless former Kansas players.
"I am very upset," Scot Pollard, a Sacramento Kings forward, told the Lawrence Journal World. "I feel the guy made the choice three years ago, and the reasons he gave three years ago have not changed. ... If he thinks I'm going to North Carolina for an alumni reunion, it will not happen."
KU players accepted Williams' invitation to view him as a father figure. Now those players will be denied enjoying the kind of relationship Williams has enjoyed with his Carolina basketball father for all of these years.
All because Dean Smith wants North Carolina to be a slave to his legacy.
Williams, a good man caught in a horrible situation, will regret this decision for the rest of his life. Even several UNC national titles under his guidance won't ease this pain.
Jason Whitlock is a regular columnist for the Kansas City Star (kcstar.com), the host of a morning-drive talk show, "Jason Whitlock's Neighborhood" on Sports Radio 810 WHB (810whb.com) and a regular contributor on ESPN The Magazine's Sunday morning edition of The Sports Reporters. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.