St. Louis — North Carolina men's basketball coach Roy Williams had been in this position before. More times than he would care to count, in fact.
But this time was a little different. Instead of crying alone at the podium after another heartbreaking NCAA Tournament loss, the always-emotional and ever-sappy Williams had company following Sunday's 80-67, Elite Eight loss to Kansas University at the Edward Jones Dome.
His name was Stilman White, Carolina's freshman point guard who never in his wildest dreams imagined he would be playing this kind of role on this kind of night. And White's tears flowed just as hard as his head coach's.
"It hurts," said the UNC guard, who was forced to start back-to-back games because of a wrist injury to sophomore Kendall Marshall. "This was a great team and we had great goals and it doesn't feel like we quite achieved them. But we played as hard as we could and just came up a little bit short."
Williams said after the game he thought Marshall would be able to go.
"(On Saturday) I thought he was (going to play)," Williams said. "And I really got a little excited at that point."
But Marshall donned a dark suit instead of Carolina's argyle uniform on Sunday and that gave Kansas' guards the freedom to outshine UNC's backcourt 32-9 in points, 6-1 in steals and 10-9 in assists.
That advantage proved huge in the outcome, as the big men for both sides put on one heck of a show.
KU junior Thomas Robinson finished with 18 points and nine rebounds and center Jeff Withey added 15 and eight. For the Tar Heels (32-6), James Michael McAdoo (15), Tyler Zeller (12) John Henson (10) all reached double digits, but the KU bigs out-rebounded UNC's towers, 25-14 and 41-35 as a team.
"This is the most disappointing feeling I've ever had in my life," McAdoo said. "It really hasn't hit quite yet. It hurts a lot ... It's the end. It's over. It kills me on the inside."
Throughout his 24 seasons as a head coach — 15 at Kansas and now nine at UNC — Williams has become known for his outpouring of emotions in the postseason. After all but two of those seasons, Williams capped off the year on a podium trying to articulate why his team lost while at the same time explaining the reason for his tears. He did it again Sunday.
"Yes, I'll play (Sunday's loss) over for a long time," Williams said. "I'll say, 'What if,' for a long time. But we still had a chance. We just didn't play as well as we needed to play."
Kansas did, and Williams was more than happy to praise the Jayhawks for that.
"Give Kansas credit for guarding us better," he said. "I think that the emotions the last four minutes or something like that, I think that took over a little bit, too. Kendall's a security blanket and he's trying to coach on the bench. But he's a lot better player than he is a coach. And please don't try to take that as I'm saying that's the only reason we lost the game. It's just that we did panic and (KU's) Elijah (Johnson) made a big shot."
That shot, a three-pointer with the shot clock winding down and 3:07 to play, put KU (31-6) up by four points and sparked a 12-0 Kansas run to close the game.
"You have to congratulate Kansas and wish them good luck," Williams said. "Because it was a great basketball game for about 34, 35 minutes. And the last four or five minutes, they played much, much better than we did, and their coach coached much better than I did. It was a game of runs, and we didn't answer the last one."