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William Nack
March 10, 1997
AFTER A CHILDHOOD IN WHICH WARM FAMILY SCENES WERE ALL TOO RARE, ROY WILLIAMS HAS FOUND IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE COACHING TOP-RANKED KANSAS
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March 10, 1997

Home At Last

AFTER A CHILDHOOD IN WHICH WARM FAMILY SCENES WERE ALL TOO RARE, ROY WILLIAMS HAS FOUND IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE COACHING TOP-RANKED KANSAS

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TIME

SUBJECT

6:40

On Track—Stretching

7:00

On Court—Shooting Form

7:08

Individual Work (This is time to improve individually.)

7:22

Discussion

7:24

Fast Break Drills #1-#4 (Pacers drill)

7:30

Defensive Stance & Step-Slide (3:00 min.)

7:35

Defensive Stations (3:00 min.)
1) Guarding ball—middle—JH
2) Deny—MD
3) Close out & challenge shot—ND

7:45

Free Throws and Water (At every basket)

7:49

Group Work
I—Shooting (Continue shooting form) Group A
II—Defense—Group B & C (1-man front shell)

7:55

Rotate

8:01

Rotate

8:07

Shooting and Water Break (3:00 min.)

8:13

Fast Break Drill #3 (3 on 2, 2 on 1)

8:17

Secondary Break—5 on 0
(Corner option Finish it)
(Dribble option)

8:25

Half-court Offense (Quick passes)

8:35

Controlled Secondary Break Game
(Secondary into quick passes)
(Look for drive)

8:55

Conditioning

BLUE

RED

INJURED

1) Robertson
2) Haase
3)Ransom
4) Williams
5) Pollard

1) McGrath
2) Thomas
3) Pierce
4) LaFrentz (Branstrom)
5) Pugh

Vaughn
Bradford

Roy Williams, the coach of Kansas, can still close his eyes and see his mother, her raven-black hair pulled back, standing at the stove with her apron on, cooking biscuits and milk gravy and sausages. Or canning green beans and tomatoes for winter meals. Or standing over an ironing board with piles of other folks' clothes at her feet. He doesn't remember her ever taking a vacation. As a mother of two—Roy and his older sister, Frances—and as the ex-wife of an alcoholic whose life had spun out of control, Lallage Williams had all she could do to provide for her family.

Hers had become a mean, hardscrabble existence, and it pained Frances and Roy to watch her struggle. Lallage, known to her family as Mimmie, had grown up picking cotton east of Asheville, N.C., and later worked in factories most of her life, including 25 years as an inspector at the Vanderbilt shirt factory. But after her marriage collapsed and the family income dwindled, she had to take on part-time work as a maid and a laundress to make ends meet.

"For several years there, I really felt my mom had to battle every day to make things go, so that on Friday she could pay this bill and that and then have enough left for food," Roy says. "Some of my worst memories are coming home in sixth or seventh grade and finding her ironing. Ten cents for a shirt, 10 cents for a pair of pants. And this after she had worked all day. You don't think that was hard to see? I knew that a lot of moms didn't have to do that, and I didn't want to watch her, so I'd just leave."

Every day Roy would go over to the basketball courts at Biltmore Elementary School, and afterward he and his friends would stop at Ed's service station on Hendersonville Road, where each of them got a Coca-Cola from the vending machine—each of them except Roy. "I couldn't, because I didn't have 10 cents," he says. When Mimmie heard that the boys stopped at Ed's after basketball, she asked Roy what he drank when the other boys had Cokes. "Oh, I just have some water," he told her. All these years later, Williams, who's now 46, can't tell this story without pausing to swallow hard as he describes walking into the kitchen the next morning, after Mimmie had gone to work, and seeing there on the corner of the table what would become for him the symbol of her goodness and her struggle. "There was 10 cents sitting there," he says.

This remains prominent among the searing memories of his boyhood days in North Carolina. So much so that when his old high school basketball coach, Buddy Baldwin, came to spend a weekend at Kansas two years ago, Williams told him the story all over again. At one point Williams escorted Baldwin out to the garage and pointed to a large refrigerator and told him, "Open that up."

Baldwin swung open the door and looked inside. All the shelves, from front to back, were lined with hundreds of cans of Coca-Cola Classic. Four unopened cases were piled on top of the fridge. Williams then told Baldwin, "I said to myself back then, 'Someday I'm going to have all the Coca-Cola I want.' "

Clearly, Williams isn't a man who has forgotten where he came from.

For Baldwin and all those who remember Williams from his days at T.C. Roberson High, the first and foremost truth about him is this: Neither all the years of grinding in North Carolina nor all the seasons of glory in Kansas have altered his nature a whit. "He's like he was as a senior in high school," Baldwin says. "He hasn't changed at all."

What has changed dramatically, of course, is Williams's status. As of Monday, Kansas not only was ranked No. 1, as it has been through most of the season, but also was favored to win this week's Big 12 tournament and, indeed, the NCAA title. With wins at Oklahoma and Nebraska last week, the Jayhawks ran their record to 29-1, their only defeat a 96-94 double-overtime loss at Missouri on Feb. 4.

This is the eighth straight season under Williams in which Kansas has had 25 or more victories. No major college coach has won more games faster. From 1946-47 to '54-55, North Carolina State's Everett Case had 241 wins, the best mark ever for a Division I coach over his first nine seasons—until Sunday, when Williams got No. 242 in Kansas's 85-65 defeat of the Cornhuskers. Along the way Williams has won five Big Eight or Big 12 regular-season conference championships outright. And his Jayhawks have made the NCAA tournament every year for the last seven seasons and twice have gone as far as the Final Four, including that magical tour de force in '91 when, at the end of his third season at Kansas, Williams guided his 12th-ranked Jayhawks past No. 3 Indiana, No. 2 Arkansas and No. 4 North Carolina—the team coached by Dean Smith, whom he'd served as an assistant for 10 years—before losing the tournament final 72-65 to Duke.

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