Roy nodded, but the look in his eyes said that staying in Asheville would be like taking that scholarship offer from Georgia Tech. "When do we leave?" she asked.
And so, with that U-Haul hitched to their old blue Mustang, they left the mountains for Chapel Hill. They scratched to survive. Smith had arranged a high school teaching job for Wanda, at $9,000 a year, and he gave his new lieutenant a job as courier. Every Sunday, during football and basketball season, Williams would rise at 5 a.m., climb in his car and drive 250 miles to deliver videotapes of Smith's weekly television show—or in the fall, the football coach's show—to the TV stations in Greensboro and then Asheville. After pausing in Asheville to have breakfast with his mother, he would drive back to Chapel Hill. That was 500 miles of driving for $105, minus the cost of gas. "On his day off, he's spending nine hours in the car," Fogler says. Williams did that for five years.
When school was out, he had to find another source of income, so he began another career, as a traveling salesman, selling calendars that pictured members of the Tar Heels basketball team. In the summer of '79, sharing all profits with a middle man who did nothing, he drove 9,000 miles around North Carolina, sold 10,500 calendars and netted $2,400 for himself. "The hardest thing I ever did in my life," he says. "The middle man never made one phone call or drove a mile. I got a lot smarter and got rid of him." The summer of '80 he made $9,000, and his profits soared every year thereafter. By 1987, with all the contacts he had made over the years, he was making $30,000 a year on this sideline. "I was the best calendar salesman in the country," he says.
A year later, of course, Williams was selling Kansas door-to-door around the country, and he was just as persuasive as a recruiter. That first fall he got verbal commitments from three highly regarded prospects—Adonis Jordan and Harold Miner, both from California, and Thomas Hill, from Texas. But then trouble came. Kansas was hit with NCAA probation that fall for violations that had occurred on Brown's watch, and the penalty was severe: no postseason play for a year, and the loss of three scholarships and all paid campus recruiting visits for one year. That scared off Hill, who called to say he would be going to Duke instead. A teary-eyed Miner told Williams that he was sorry but he was going to USC. Now Williams had to do the sales job of his life and persuade Jordan, the point guard he needed, to stay. "Sometimes you just have to believe in somebody, and that's what I'm asking you to do—to have some belief in me," he told Jordan. When Jordan said he would honor his commitment, Williams went into the coach's office and wrote on the blackboard, HOORAY...ADONIS IS COMING.
Just as revealing was an incident that occurred later in Jordan's career. He was late for the bus as the Jayhawks left a road game at Oklahoma. That's an intolerable sin in Williams's world. So the bus left without Jordan, who had to catch a ride back to Lawrence with the radio crew. Yes, Williams had wooed Jordan hard—but not so hard that he couldn't discipline him later.
Williams's players uniformly offer that they trusted him right off, at the moment they met him. Scot Pollard, the Jayhawks 6'11" senior center, says that one recruiter buttered him up by saying he would be the next Shaquille O'Neal. "I knew that wasn't true," Pollard says. "Coach doesn't blow smoke, and I bet he loses players because he doesn't. He just told me, 'You have the chance to be part of a great program and be a great player in it. I've got some things I can teach you, but it's up to you.' No promises."
Not surprisingly, Williams relates to mothers as though they all are named Mimmie. In 1990 Patrick Richey was a high school senior leaning toward Missouri when Williams paid a visit to his home. At one point, Richey says, Williams looked June Richey in the eye and said, "If your son comes to Kansas, I will take care of him exactly the same way I would want you to take care of my son if I sent him to live with you." After Williams left, Patrick says, "My mother stood up and said, 'Folks, we're going to Kansas!' "
What players find when they get to Lawrence is a regimented world. Williams is a compulsive organizer. His practice plans are organized literally to the minute, in the manner of Smith's, right down to the Deano touch that seniors get more time for water breaks than freshmen do. In consequence, when matters get tight late in a game, the players know they have a system they can count on. Says Nebraska coach Danny Nee, "Looking at Kansas basketball is similar to looking at Nebraska football. You might have a turnover here, a bad pass there, but the Jayhawks play with consistency, and certain things are always going to be there—rebounding, defense, the contesting of shots, hustle. That's what separates them from the pack. The team, even when it's playing poorly, plays together. It's not disjointed, ever. The system is a constant. Kansas plays like a team that always has momentum on its side."
Williams demands that players work tenaciously at both ends of the floor, and when they don't, he can go off. He has an explosive, vein-popping temper—he fires Magic Markers against walls, kicks over trash cans, throws duffel bags across rooms—and more than once has kicked all hands out of practice for lack of effort. One day, when guard Rex Walters was playing defense lackadaisically, Williams heaved him from a workout, bellowing, "Get out of my sight! Don't contaminate me!"
He has been known to plunge into dark depressions when the season is over, and he stews on the defeat that has ended the Jayhawks' latest run in the NCAA tournament. His peers say that no coach takes losing any harder than Williams. "I don't have nightmares, because I don't sleep," he says.