"Ossiferous," he affirms. Then he brings up his linemate, 6'11" forward Raef LaFrentz, who went for 31 points and 11 rebounds against UCLA: "Raef's ossiferous too."
"I had to look it up," says Vaughn, an Academic All-America and a voracious reader who writes poetry. (Ossiferous means "full of bones.")
"Scot's 180 degrees different from me," says Williams. "He's about as flaky as the day is long. But I can't talk about him without smiling."
Even without Pollard's influence, Williams, 46, isn't nearly as serious as he was only a few years ago. The Jayhawks' 1991 championship game loss to Duke was famously hard on him, as was—a year later—their second-round upset by UTEP Williams traces his transformation to a day in the spring of 1993 when he was coaching the U.S. national team for the Under-22 World Championships, and the selection committee was meeting in Chicago. A copy of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, with a cover story by Gary Smith on cancer-stricken former North Carolina State coach Jim Valvano (Jan. 11, 1993), beckoned from a table in Williams's hotel suite. With an hour to kill before his meeting, Williams read it. "One thing Jim said jumped out at me. He said he'd always wanted to be a grandfather, and he wasn't going to be able to do that."
Williams dutifully coached those under-22s through a qualifying tournament in Argentina but turned the team over to George Washington's Mike Jarvis for the tournament's final round in Spain. "I've never heard of anyone on their deathbed who said, i wish I'd spent more time in the office,' " says Williams, who since then has devoted more attention to his wife, Wanda, and their children: Scott, now 19 and a jayvee player at North Carolina, and Kimberly, 17.
The coach's new looseness extends to his team. Williams knows that his players take their cues from his demeanor and that orders given by someone who's too tight tend to get executed that way. "I want to win more than anybody, and I've been called Mr. Intensity," he says. "But there's supposed to be joy in the journey, not just in reaching the destination. Even if we lose in the round of eight, they're still great kids, and I'm going to enjoy them."
In Maui, Williams even went parasailing, dragging the Jayhawks' 72-year-old radio analyst, Max Falkenstien, along with him. Four years ago? "I would have stayed in the hotel room," Williams says.
Because no other coach has won so many games (213) in his first eight seasons, and because Williams has reached the Final Four twice with no national title to show for it, some observers regard him as the college basketball equivalent of Davis Love III, the best golfer never to have won a major. But John Wooden coached at UCLA for 16 years before he won his first NCAA title, and Dean Smith went 20 years before his. We don't mention a one-hit wonder like UCLA's Jim Harrick in the same breath as those two just because he got his championship sooner.
Phog Allen, who didn't win his first national championship until 14 years after the NCAA tournament began in 1939, is remembered for another homily besides that one about springy knees: "Keep the feet warm, and you keep the nerves of the players calm." Allen believed there was no greater threat to his team's fortunes than literal cold feet, so he would gather his players in front of a fireplace before games. "I never saw a man with cold feet who wasn't nervous and jumpy," Allen used to say. The old coach might also have meant figurative cold feet—a reluctance to perform effectively at critical moments.