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Different roles for different folks

College coaches have to get job done on and off court

Posted: Monday April 4, 2005 12:22PM; Updated: Monday April 4, 2005 12:42PM
North Carolina
Roy Williams' biggest contribution to North Carolina has been cultivating a great deal of talent.
Elsa/Getty Images

In the final minutes of the North Carolina-Michigan State game, Jim Nantz lobbed Billy Packer a verbal softball. "Billy, are you surprised Roy Williams was able to turn this program around so quickly?"

Turn around? Packer began to wax poetic about the job Williams has done, mentioning that Carolina hasn't won a National Championship since 1993.

Well, boo-hoo.

Yes, Roy Williams has done a superb job, molding their five -- count 'em, five -- McDonald's High School All-Americans (Jawad and Marvin Williams, Rashad McCants, Sean May and Raymond Felton) into a terrific team that has played like they only have two or three All-Americans.

The Tarheels are loaded with talent, probably moreso than any other team in the country (except Duke, which also has five). And yet, all we hear about is how amazing Coach K and Coach Williams are. It should be noted, though, that some of Coach K's publicity comes from his own American Express commercials.

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Wouldn't Terry Stotts be able to coach either of these teams as well? Illinois, Michigan State and Louisville, too, for that matter? I think even I could coax 25 wins out of any of them.

More than great X's and O's guys, what big time college coaches have proved themselves to be are CEOs and captains of industry, men who have built self-perpetuating basketball factories that move talent in-and-out through a revolving door. These situations can't occur in pro sports so much anymore because of salary caps and cash flow.

While I don't care so much about either Carolina or Illinois, I find a part of me rooting for Roy Williams. Yes, he wears bad glasses, but the one run-in I had with him was classic. In the spring of 2002, I was in Lawrence, Kan., hanging out with Drew Gooden for a feature in SLAM. Drew took me into the Kansas basketball offices where we bumped into Williams, who insisted we come into his office, which was covered with photos and plaques and trophies. If I remember correctly, behind his desk was a photo of him with Michael Jordan. Williams led us out through a sliding glass door onto a huge wooden deck, complete with a grill and deck furniture. Before we left, I asked Williams if he could spare some time in the next few weeks to talk about Drew. He took down my cell phone number and promised to call.

And so it was, two weeks later, I was standing in the 23rd Street subway station in Manhattan waiting for a train when my phone rang. "Hey Lang, this is Roy Williams." Needless to say, with all the residual train noise, we had to reschedule. But after a month of dealing with Coach Williams, I was ready to commit to the Jayhawks.

I'm sure Bruce Weber is equally magnanimous, or else he wouldn't be where he is, at the helm of another burgeoning collegiate franchise. Williams and Weber can certainly diagram inbounds plays and figure out how to attack opponents. But more than anything else, they both know how to keep those blue chips rolling in.

Links update

Last week I wrote about my golf struggles, and I'm grateful for the hundreds upon hundreds of people who wrote in with tips and hints to help me improve. It took me one full night just to sift through them and delete the ones that suggested I do things like drink a six-pack per nine. I'll run the best of them here in a week or two.

Game Of The Week

Here's a great, simple new game called "Ball." It's reminiscent of an earlier game I linked to, but as I've stressed here, when it comes to Internet games, simple is almost always better.

Video Clip Of The Week

Gotta love the English Premiership, where two Newcastle United players, Lee Bowyer and Kieron Dyer, were ejected on Saturday after getting into a fight with each other during a drubbing against Aston Villa. And people here thought Ron Artest was gangsta...

Technology Improvement Of The Week

This is both interesting and perhaps a bit sad. It's a remote control that you speak into, so you can avoid all that tiresome index finger work. (Come to think of it, I use my thumb more than index finger, but whatever.) I just don't understand how it works without picking up the words coming from the TV. Do you have to push a button to have it hear you? If so, why not just push the channel buttons?

Technology Decline Of The Week

There are times (like this) when I'm not sure why the Internet exists. Is it so we can read what Britney Spears thinks about "false tabloids"? That's right, Britney has a blog,  and this week she takes on the "false tabloids" where the employees could be "50 pounds overweight."

Meanwhile, it appears that Pamela Anderson has also set herself up with a blog,  where she takes us behind the scenes of her new series Stacked. (It's about a bookstore, apparently.) I do like how she mentions the cast starting to "gel," then in the next post mentions they had a cast member, er, leave. 

Pageant News Of The Week

If this isn't a quote of the week, I don't know what is: "We can't have titleholders out there walking when they're seen in public."

Lang Whitaker is the online editor at SLAM magazine and writes daily at http://www.SLAMonline.com.