Originally published October 21, 2014 at 02:39p.m., updated October 22, 2014 at 12:22a.m.

Former KU coach Roy Williams excited for return to Lawrence, Allen Fieldhouse

UNC coach calls KU arena 'the greatest home court advantage in college basketball'

North Carolina head coach Roy Williams pumps his fist as the Tarheels close out the game against Villanova during the second half on Friday, March 22, 2013 at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.

North Carolina head coach Roy Williams pumps his fist as the Tarheels close out the game against Villanova during the second half on Friday, March 22, 2013 at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.


Roy Williams had a special bond with Kansas University’s student body during his 15 seasons as Jayhawk basketball coach, evidenced by the chants of “Roy, Roy,” on game days in Allen Fieldhouse.

“I always heard it when I was coming out before the game and when I was jogging off after the game. I always tried to acknowledge those kids particularly in that (northwest) corner down there. It gave me cold chills every time I went out and came off,” 12th-year North Carolina coach Williams, who ran KU’s program from 1989 to 2003, said Tuesday.

He spoke on the phone about the upcoming “Celebrating 60 Years” event — which will feature former Jayhawk coaches Williams, Larry Brown and Ted Owens and current KU coach Bill Self, set for 7:30 p.m., Monday, in Allen. Williams said it’ll be his first time back on the fieldhouse court since practice before the Final Four in 2003.

“I’ve said this and I really believe this from the bottom of my soul, I think it’s the greatest home-court advantage in college basketball and maybe any sport whatsoever,” said Williams. who used to throw two T-shirts to the students before each game.

“I remember when I first got there, I think they had a couple sheets sewn together: ‘All who enter, pay heed to the Phog’ kind of thing. ‘Beware of the Phog.’ I think we got a little better material up there and remade it a few years later. I still remember when the original one (banner) was up there. There is some mystique in there. We are not Irish by any means but you could say there’d be leprechauns on every rim helping the other team’s shots bounce away,” Williams added.

Of the event, Williams said: “It’s a pretty special day, the 60th birthday of Allen. And coach Self was great. I’m sure he did the same thing with coach Brown (of SMU), try to figure a time to do it that wouldn’t stop us from doing something with our own team. My team has next Monday off. It’s something we’re doing a lot during the course of preseason practice anyway. Coach Self was fantastic trying to find a date that would fit all of us I’m sure.”

Williams chuckled when asked what made him return to KU at this particular time as opposed to other times the past 12 years.

“I don’t know that I’ve had opportunities to come back. You tell me what I’ve missed,” he said. “When there have been celebrations, we’ve usually been playing, ourselves. I haven’t been laying on the lawn chair on the first tee very long since I left.”

He’s definitely looking forward to visiting with Self, Owens and Brown as well as emcee Jay Bilas and the fans. Maybe they’ll discuss games he mentioned as some of his most memorable.

“About 50 of them,” Williams said. “I remember the last game there (of Williams’ tenure). That’s when Eddie Sutton ran down and shook hands with Nick Collison and Kirk Hinrich when I took them out of the game (in 79-61 Senior Day win in 2003). The Indiana game when Jacque Vaughn made the basket (at buzzer to end 86-83 overtime win in 1993). The UCLA game when we were down 20 and came back and won (85-70 in 1995). The Missouri game — the 100 Year celebration (80-70 win in 1998). There were plenty of them.”

This could be another great night for Williams.

“There’s no question it’ll be an enjoyable time, allow me to get away from the focus of all the stress going on right now trying to get a team ready for this season,” Williams said. “I’m sure the memory I’ll have will be of all the people and all the great players and the great wins. Sixtieth birthday is a pretty good number for Allen Fieldhouse, too.”

Tickets for the event are available at 1-800-34-Hawks and


David A. Smith 6 years, 1 month ago

At my age, its still awesome to see that, when it comes to basketball- all roads lead to Lawrence and KU. Its funny- we think of the legacy that KU has in college basketball, but without James Naismith there's no high school basketball, no NBA, no Olympic or international hoops anywhere ever. KU owns basketball.

Joe Joseph 6 years, 1 month ago

While most fans have buried the hatchet, I imagine Roy coming back and saying all sorts of nice things about the Phog and KU will help the remaining fans forgive and forget. Smart move by Roy.

Suzi Marshall 6 years, 1 month ago

When Williams left, I was crushed. I was convinced the Hawks were due for a correction after Harp's .596, Owen's .657, Brown's .754 and William's .805.

Although Self's first year ended in a good NCAA run, they did not win the Big 12 title. Then came the next two years, although we won the Big 12 twice, the first round exists in the NCAAs still had me longing for Williams. Then ...boom...Self becomes a legend with an .827 (324-68) winning percentage, 1 NC, and 10 straight Big 12 titles. (I'm not a huge fan of the Big 12 post season tournament). For me the dramatic turn came in San Antonio.

What next? A John Wooden run?

Jonathan Allison 6 years, 1 month ago

I imagine the fans on this board who have followed KU basketball much much longer than I have saying after Owens, "If we only hadn't lost so many games that we should have won", and then Larry Brown elevates the winning percentage. But Brown leaves after 5 years, and the fans say "if we only had a little more continuity", and Williams stays for 15 years with 4 final fours and wins 80% of his games. But the fans said, "if we only had won a national championship", and then Bill Self comes in and builds his program and wins a national championship, and 10 straight Big 12 titles, and 83% of his games, and now is starting his 12 season at the helm and us fans are talking about how we'd give up wins and we'd give up big 12 championships if we only could have multiple national championships.

We're a spoiled fan base, and eventually we're going to not get everything that we ask for. I only hope that that doesn't happen until after Self wins 1 or 2 more national championships... ;)

Suzi Marshall 6 years, 1 month ago

That's a lot of ifs. I just enjoy the ride with the secure belief Kansas will always be an elite program, even if we have a few down years. Even though Owens had five loosing season, I always knew he'd bounce back, which he did.

Suzi Marshall 6 years, 1 month ago

His last two seasons were two of those loosing seasons. The back to back combined with the sine wave performances were too much. Recall at that time the discussions how Owens was set up for a good bounce back with the returning talent. Brown took that talent and added Manning to comprise that great '85 - '87 team.

It has all worked out for the best. Owens, Brown, William and Self are all well loved by the Hawk fans and players.

Mick Allen 6 years, 1 month ago

You are correct Suzi, all 4 are much appreciated by KU fans and should be. There was a segment of the fan base that was not happy when Ted was hired because purportedly KU grad and former great player, Ralph Miller, wanted the job and was passed over for an OU grad. Miller had an illustrious coaching career at WSU, Iowa and Oregon State.

Suzi Marshall 6 years, 1 month ago

Oh yes, I recall all the talk about Miller. I am sure you clearly recall that Allen wanted Miller instead of Harp. Harp will always be in a tough place. I clearly recall how angry everyone was when Murphy forced Allen into retirement and not letting him coach Wilt on the varsity level. Murphy/Harp will never make my top KU BBall memories.

Mick Allen 6 years, 1 month ago

As you might have surmised, because of my linage I remember quite well when Phog was forced into retirement.

Suzi Marshall 6 years, 1 month ago

Just the thought of all that still burns me up. It really really irritates me the Murphy robbed Allen what should have been his crowning conclusion to his KU BBall coaching years. Murphy was so sanctimonious promoting his ideology through Harp’s Fellowship of Christian Athletes. It seemed obvious Murphy expected exceptional glory with Wilt and wanted Harp, who followed his ideology, to be the recipient of that glory. Instead we got a coach that barely attained a .500 record, even with Wilt for two years! Recall how Owens was looked upon as a savior to KU BBall with those Walt Wesley, JoJo White, etc teams.

I shouldn’t say this because this is really a celebration of KU BBall but nevertheless, I’ll always believe Murphy was a first class jerk for doing Allen.

Andy Hess 6 years, 1 month ago

Unless we go back to a 16 team NCAA tournament and overturn a bunch of NCAA recruiting regulations, I wouldn't expect to see a John Wooden run. Not without some Sam Gilbert-level help, that is.

Mick Allen 6 years, 1 month ago

Good point Andy. Wooden was not as "squeaky clean" in complying with NCAA recruiting guidelines as some would have you believe. Gilbert's "hosting" of players on recruiting visits to UCLA was an attractive inducement to many.

Rodney Crain 6 years, 1 month ago

Heck all I did was mention Gilbert, UCLA and National Championship in a sentence and Sam set me up at the Beverly Hills Hotel comped all the way for a 3 day weekend. I was just 12 years old.... :)

Steve Corder 6 years, 1 month ago

Welcome back, Coaches Owens, Brown & Williams!

Janet Olin 6 years, 1 month ago

Anyone who does not celebrate this homecoming of former coaches is not a true basketball or KU basketball fan. What a fabulous event. Welcome, Jayhawk family members for a remarkable reunion. Don't forget, Roy paid his dues with the flak he got from sitting behind the KU bench wearing a Jayhawk sticker during the 2008 championship game after B. Rush and company dispatched his Heels. We still owe him for 15 great years; I hope the fans embrace his return for this special event.

Jack Jones 6 years, 1 month ago

Well said, Janet!! Absolutely!! Great tradition ~ great basketball record ~ a coaching legacy that will never be matched ~ the finest basketball venue ("the greatest home-court advantage in college basketball and maybe any sport whatsoever") ~ the epicenter of college basketball, beginning with the origin of the sport ~ arguably the best fans, who will more than demonstrate that Monday night. Only regret that I will be 1,300 miles away ~ hopefully, there will be a video made of this incredible evening of celebration.

Freddie Garza 6 years, 1 month ago

I would be truly dumbfounded if somebody told me that they were still sore at Coach Williams for leaving KU and going to UNC. I mean, do those people seriously still exist?!

Gary Bedore 6 years, 1 month ago

Yes they exist but it is beyond belief. It 'might' be different if KU was 0-3 versus Roy's Heels in the NCAA Tournament, not 3-0. Self has actually improved on Roy's success. There's absolutely no reason for anybody to harbor any ill will toward Roy. Like I said, those people if they exist do need professional help.

Nathan Scholl 6 years, 1 month ago

Do Roy Williams and Ted Owens get paid for this event? I don't ask that in an accusing way, just curious how these things work. Is it a charity event? I am all for the coaches coming back. Will be an amazing event, Jay Bilas is awesome. Great lineup.

Gary Bedore 6 years, 1 month ago

All net proceeds go to charities of the 4 coaches. Roy will give his to a cancer hospital in Chapel Hill; Self is the Assists Foundation. Not sure about the other two. As far as fan reaction to Roy, there can't, shouldn't and I'l say won't be anybody in the crowd ignorant enough to boo him. This is a special great event, and Roy should receive a thunderous standing ovation like Larry, Ted and Bill Self.

Greg Lux 6 years, 1 month ago

Gary "All net proceeds"? What costs are we paying? Bilas I am guessing is getting a fee for his M.C. work. Does the Univ charge for the use of the Field House? I am guessing there is setup and take down of the floor tables and chairs. Travel and lodging expenses for the Coaches? What are the "Costs that come out of the Gross"?

Douglas Yetman 6 years, 1 month ago

Thought I asked this yesterday but did not see the comment/question. Will this be televised anywhere?

Greg Lux 6 years, 1 month ago

As I said before I love donating to charities but enough is enough... These great coaches deserve a FULL HOUSE. Open up the remaining seats to anyone who can bring a can of food and get the Field House FULL... They deserve a full house !!!

Robert Brown 6 years, 1 month ago

I hope everyone understands that Roy Williams is responsible for starting what is now considered a college basketball powerhouse. Prior to Roy Williams, KU was rarely ranked and www not always the favorite to win the Big 8 championship. Larry Brown won one Big 8 championship in five years. In the ten years prior to Brown, Ted Owens won three Big 8 championships.

Today, KU fans expect to be ranked in the Top 10 and to be favored to win conference championships and those expectations started during Roy Williams tenure.

When Roy came in, I expected a downturn, thinking, at least I got to see KU win the national championship in my life! I think the inflection point came in Roy's second year when unranked KU beat the #1 and #2 teams (LSU with Shaquile ONeal and UNLV) in the preseason NIT. After that, the status and perception of KU as an elite basketball power was established and has been sustained ever since.

So thank you, Roy.

Suzi Marshall 6 years, 1 month ago

Robert, that is a great summary. I also was saying "Roy who", thinking we were nuts relying of the Dean UNC thing far too much. Then that NIT you pointed out came along .... it was WOW....and the rest is history.

I had nearly forgotten that tournament but your post brought back all those great memories. Thanks for reawakening those great moments. Bilas should make note of that when he MCs.

Kyle Helmer 6 years, 1 month ago

Robert to be fair, Larry laid the groundwork for Roy. I mean, Roy did inherit the defending National Champions. I know Danny was gone, but KU basketball was fully back on the national scene when Roy got there. Now what he did in taking to a level of sustained excellence was phenomenal, and every KU fan should be eternally thankful to Roy for that. As far as anyone who still has a grudge towards, you need to get a life. Roy gave his heart and soul for 15 years, and then the timing of his leaving allowed us to get a coach who frankly is even a step ahead of Roy. It's great to be a KU basketball fan for sure.

Robert Brown 6 years, 1 month ago

Remember Kyle- Roy may have had the defending champions, but he could not defend the title because KU was on probation and prohibited from post season play. And the 1988 team was unranked going into the NCAA tournament. Believe me, when Roy took over in 1988, KU was an afterthought on the national scene.

My point is that while Larry Brown elevated the program, it was not to the level it is today where KU is ALWAYS ranked and are almost always favored to win the conference. That only happened after Roy took over the program.

Aaron Paisley 6 years, 1 month ago

KU was on the short list of title favorites in 87-88 and looked the part early on until injuries decimated the team.

Suzi Marshall 6 years, 1 month ago

"If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants."

Isaac Newton

Brian Skelly 6 years, 1 month ago

I still love Roy. And I agree with a lot of the foundation that Self has built on -- and make no mistake, he has built on it -- was done by Roy. Prior to Roy Id argue that nationally KU wasnt viewed in the same way as it is now. We were always a traditional power. Because of that success, along with a lot of marketing, people who are outside of KU see it as the birthplace of modern basketball now. UK, Duke, UNC, UCLA, Indiana likely do it begrudgingly, but they see it too. Not get complacent is key. And as long as Coach Self is around its hard to envision that happening. Building a fancy schmancy hoops players dorm and Hall housing the Rules of the Game doesnt hurt either.

Cary Ediger 6 years, 1 month ago

I have no respect for how Roy handled leaving, staying, leaving, staying and then leaving. If he would have left the 1st time for UNC I would have respected that... knowing that was his home and his "dream" job.

I have respect for how he came into a program as a rookie coach... KU coming off a national championship and being on probation. He led the program with class.

I think Bill said it the best.. the KU head basketball coach is just a caretaker for the history and tradition of the program.

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