Everybody's been talking about Roy Williams' 10-year tenure as assistant basketball caoch at North Carolina University.
Largely ignored, however, has been hsi five-year stint as head coach at Charles D. Owen High in Swannanoa, N.C., a small town on the outskirts of Asheville in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
How, you may be wondering, did Kansas' new head basketball coach fare at the Class 3A school (there are four classes in N.C.) in the Western part of the state?
Well, in five full seasons, his preps compiled a 45-69 record.
"He was an excellent high school coach -- extremely professional," said Owen athletic director Bob Washel. "He was a great motivator, able to get the most out of his players. Everybody in our community appreciated his efforts. He was well-liked by all.
"In fact," Washel added, "I haven't talked to anyone who disliked him. Roy made a lot of friends while he was here. Most he maintained when he went to North Carolina, and now, even though he's taken a step further, I'm sure he won't forget where he was, and the people here. People mean a lot to Roy."
Apparently, Williams juventated interest in Owen High's basketball program. His first team went 2-19 during the 1973-74 season. In '74-75, things improved just a tad at 6-16. In '75-76, the squad went 14-8.
That was a watershed season.
"It was the first time Owen High made the district playoffs in 10 years and the school's best overall record in 15 years," said Washal, who was a girls basketball coach at a neighboring school. He's completed his first year as AD at Owen. "Roy led them to a 10-4 conference record that year. He was picked to coach in the country's Blue-White all-star game and his team won."
In '76-77, Williams' team went 13-10 and again qualified for district play. His season prior to leaving for Carolina -- '77-78 -- Owen went 10-16.
"The big thing is," said Washel, "is Roy was starting at 2-18 his first season and in two years, he turned the program around. Three straight years, he had his team in the district playoffs. That's what everybody shoots for. His teams played good defense and had an exciting fastbreak offense."
Owen is so indebted to Williams, they are going to honor him by showing off some of the trophies his teams won. The display will be located in an area honoring other Owen standouts.
"We've had some excellent people here," Washel said. "Brad Daugherty of the Cleveland Cavaliers is a graduate. At 22 years of age, some are calling him a star. We had Sammy Stewart, the former Baltimore Orioles pitcher. Plus a man who graduated two years ago, Brad Johnson, who is currently at Florida State University. He was the North Carolina athlete of the year. He's an interesting story. He signed to play football and was a red-shirt his first year. He was a walk-on in basketball and started by the end of the year.
"We attribute a lot of it (athletes' success) to the fine coaches here," Washel noted. "Our varsity girls (basketball) coach will win his 600th game the coming season. People like Roy and the others are hard to come by."
Washel likes to point out the fact that Williams apparently is a man of impeccable character.
"He is loyal. I think that is a true reflection of his five years here and 10 at Chapel Hill. The comment that appeared in our paper is that Roy said he's been married 15 years, had the same golf clubs 17 years. He said Kansas wins a national championship every 37 years and he'd like to be Kansas' coach head coach in 37 years. I thought that statement was great.
"I think the Kansas job was an excellent reward for somebody who stays at one place and gets the job done. Working with coach (Dean) Smith certainly worked out for Roy.
"Everybody I've talked to here wishes him the best. I think you people will find he's fantastic. Hopefully all will work out with the (NCAA) probe. Even if it doesn't, Roy will stick with it. He likes to establish roots. You're going to to love him like we do here."
Washel knows why Roy loves North Carolina so much.
"People come here, fall in love with the mountains, and the weather and the lifestyle that is here," Washel said. "It's not hectic, but not the old country backwoods lifestyle, either. It's a good mixture."