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Tuesday, April 8, 2003

Dejected Williams lets emotions show on national TV

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— Roy Williams was in no mood for questions about North Carolina after Kansas University came up three points short in the NCAA championship game.

"I could give a shit about North Carolina right now," Williams said in a live CBS interview after Syracuse defeated Kansas, 81-78, at the Superdome. "I've got 13 kids in that locker room that I love."

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Williams made the comment after a question posed by CBS reporter Bonnie Bernstein.

After talking about the game, Bernstein asked Williams about his interest in the North Carolina vacancy.

At first, Williams was cordial.

"Bonnie, I could give a flip about what those people want," Williams said. "As a journalist, you have to ask that question. I understand that. But as a human being ... all those people that want that answer, to know right now, they're not very sensitive."

Bernstein followed up, however, incurring Williams' wrath.

"I haven't thought about that for one second," Williams said. "Haven't thought about that for one second. The guy in your ear that told you you have to ask that question -- as a journalist, that's fine, but as a human being, that's not very nice, because that's not very sensitive and I got to think that in tough times that people should be more sensitive."

Williams has faced questions about the coaching vacancy at his alma mater since former KU assistant Matt Doherty was forced out as head coach last Tuesday. Since then Williams, a Carolina assistant from 1978 to 1988, has said he would not think about the UNC job until after the Jayhawks' season because he wanted to focus on his players.



During his postgame news conference Monday, he reiterated he hadn't "spent one second thinking about that."

"All the junk that's been going on, it's been hard because people haven't believed me as much I would like for them to believe me," Williams said. "But I felt like I owed everything to those 13 kids. Thanks for not pursuing it any further."

ESPN.com has reported North Carolina would offer Williams the job within the next week and would expect an immediate answer.

UNC sources told ESPN.com Williams would be offered the job and a right of first refusal, just like in 2000. But this time North Carolina won't give Williams a week to go home and think about his decision -- time back in Lawrence in 2000 contributed to Williams remaining at Kansas after he spoke with his players.

Williams had other things to think about after he came painfully close to winning his first national title. KU rallied from an 18-point deficit but missed three potential game-tying three-pointers in the final 24 seconds.

"I've never been one to like moral victories, and I don't like this one," he said. "But I love the competitiveness of my kids. I love the way they fought until the very end -- and things didn't look good at a lot of times during that game -- but they never quit playing."

Williams has the highest winning percentage (80.5) among active Division I coaches with a record of 418-101. He's also won nine conference titles and led the Jayhawks to four Final Fours in 15 seasons, but he left the Big Easy without the big prize.

Making things worse for Williams was the fact it was the final game for All-American seniors Kirk Hinrich and Nick Collison.

"As much as I hurt right now, I hurt even more because I'm not going to be able to coach Kirk Hinrich and Nick Collison anymore," Williams said.

Kansas players were equally disappointed they weren't able to deliver the title for their coach.

"I think any high school kid in the country needs to take a serious look at Kansas if they're recruiting them because you're not going to play for a better man," said Collison, who fouled out with 19 points and 21 rebounds. "You're not going to play for a better staff. You know, I wouldn't trade it for anything. I wouldn't give a million dollars to be on Syracuse right now. They have a ring, but my experience here has been unbelievable.

"You know, you're playing for the best man in college basketball. Regardless of whether we lost ... I mean, I swear we could have made the NIT and I would have felt the same way. It's a great place to be."

Williams appears to have Kansas poised for another solid season next year. Four players with starting experience are expected to return, and KU has signed a highly touted recruiting class.






























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