Archive for Wednesday, July 5, 2000

Roy Williams may leave but KU tradition will live

July 5, 2000

It all started with rugby at Springfield College.

Jimmy played the sport during his years there in the mid-1890s. It was a fun, highly competitive game which offered plenty of physical activity. Jimmy was good at the game and loved it.

But something changed in Jimmy.

It might have been that sometimes it was just too cold outside to play rugby. He might have had allergies and wished he could play inside.

Maybe he had a premonition.

But the reason is irrelevant now.

Jimmy decided to make an indoor version of rugby. Instead of tackling, the players would pass the ball. He mounted a peach basket on each end of the field, soon to be known as a court.

And like that James Naismith had invented the game of basketball and changed the courses of millions of people's lives. Soon, he brought the game to the University of Kansas. He joined the faculty in 1898.

A couple years later a young man named Forrest decided to attend KU.

He also decided to learn the new game, so he joined Naismith's team and went on to earn letters in the sport in 1905, 1906 and 1907.

After his playing days were done, Forrest "Phog" Allen returned to KU at the beginning of the next year to take over for Naismith, who finished his coaching career with a 55-60 record.

Allen only held the position for a couple of years, leaving the program in the hands of William Hamilton in 1909.

But Phog wasn't done. He came back in 1919 and took the job back. He kept it until 1956, and is still the most successful of any to coach the Jayhawks. His record was 590-219.

One of Allen's players in that time was Adolph Rupp, who, after leaving KU, went on to coach Kentucky and win more basketball games than any other coach in the history of the game.

Another of his players was Dean Smith. Smith, who was born in Emporia, made two final four appearances while a player at KU. He graduated in 1953 and went on to enjoy a legendary career as head coach at North Carolina.

While coaching at North Carolina, Smith worked with many gifted players, at the top of the list being Michael Jordan.

Somewhere in the middle of that list is a man named Larry Brown.

Brown played for North Carolina and was an assistant under Smith. In 1984 Brown retraced Smith's footsteps to Mount Oread, and the line of coaches that began with Naismith had come full-circle had come back to KU.

By 1988 KU was basking in a national championship with a legacy dating back to James Naismith. Then Brown left.

KU needed another coach, so where did it go? Back to North Carolina.

In 1989, Smith's 10-year assistant Roy Williams came to coach his mentor's alma mater.

In his 12 seasons as KU's coach, Williams has racked up 329 wins and only given up 32 losses. He's taken his teams to final fours and to the NCAA tournament every year except his first, when the 'Hawks weren't allowed to play in the post-season because of an NCAA suspension from Brown's tenure.

And now Williams might leave. If he does, he's going back to North Carolina. We'll find out by Friday.

But why is everybody whining? KU sent Smith to the Tar Heels. In return he sent back Brown and Williams.

Is that not a fair trade?

It is. In fact it's more than fair, and now that Smith and his replacement Bill Guthridge have both retired, it's time for KU to send a coach back to North Carolina.

Especially if Williams wants to return to the state he grew up in, went to school in and played and coached basketball in. His children attend college there, too.

Who can't understand the appeal of such a move? Who can deny his right to leave?

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