Former University of Kansas men’s basketball coach Roy Williams had such a good time sitting courtside for last year’s KU-Iowa State thriller, he might just make a return appearance this winter in Allen Fieldhouse.
“I am going to try to come back again,” Williams said Monday, speaking on a Zoom call a day after being inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame at a ceremony in Kansas City.
“We are talking about a couple of opportunities to come back. I was thrilled with the reception I had from the people at Allen Fieldhouse. One of the highlights of my life is the way they treated me when I came back last year. I was very apprehensive about that. That (reception) made me feel even better (about coming back). Plus, I love seeing college basketball at a high level and Kansas and Allen Fieldhouse is about as high level as you can have,” Williams added.
Williams, who attended several games around the country last season during his first year in retirement after 15 seasons at KU and 18 at North Carolina, stayed from start to exciting finish last Jan. 11, when KU topped Iowa State 62-61.
One of the dates being talked about for the upcoming 125th season of Kansas basketball reunion game is Jan. 14, when KU plays Iowa State once again.
Williams said Monday he enjoyed visiting with some of his former KU players at the hall of fame ceremony. That group including Nick Collison, Mark Randall, Jeff Gueldner, Wayne Simien, Billy Thomas, Ryan Robertson, Patrick Richey, Greg Gurley and others.
“I think for me it was a thrill to have those guys there,” Williams said of his ex-KU players. “We had a picture made. Billy Thomas got there a little late. I said, ‘I can’t believe you were late.’ He said, ‘Just don’t tell me I’ve got to run, coach. I can’t run.”’
Williams, 72, said he misses coaching. This is is second full season in retirement.
“I don’t think you can put a number on it because it can’t go that high,” Williams said of how much he misses working with young players. “I miss the coaching tremendously. I miss the bus rides, the locker room. I miss practice more than anything — the camaraderie you have before practice, after practice, whether it’s good or bad. You are always trying to get guys to make sacrifices for the common goal. I love doing that.
“I made the decision (to leave coaching) for the right reasons. I was not doing it as well as I was previously and I couldn’t handle that. It was a ‘driving me crazy’ kind of thing. I miss it tremendously, but Hubert (Davis, second-year UNC coach) and his staff, … he’s the perfect person for North Carolina. He’s done a great, great job. I’m happy I’m spending more time with my children and grandchildren, but I do miss the coaching tremendously.”
Williams realizes the college game is changing rapidly.
“Name, image and likeness and transfer portal and those kind of things, in my mind they’ve had some good parts but they’ve also had a tremendous number of bad parts,” Williams said. “I knew I wasn’t going to enjoy some of those things and yet both of those things have some very good things about them. If you teach your son or your daughter how to ride a bike, what you do is walk beside them, hold the bike, then get training wheels and the NCAA didn’t believe in that. They just went by public opinion and said, ‘OK, everything is wide open now.’
“I think if we’d taken some more incremental steps I guess I would have enjoyed it even more and I think It would have been an easier transition.”
Williams continued: “College basketball, … when Kansas and Missouri play it’s always going to be a big game. Kansas and Kansas State, Duke and North Carolina, Duke and NC State. I mean college basketball is here and it’s never going to go away, but it’s changing right in front of our eyes. It’s the ‘Wild, Wild West’ out there right now. Everything is legal and some of the things that are going on sort of don’t fit with what my image of college athletics should really be.”
Kruger enjoyed Sunday’s induction
Former Kansas State player and coach Lon Kruger, who was inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame, thoroughly enjoyed Sunday’s ceremony in KC.
“It was a terrific evening, terrific experience, such an honor,” Kruger, who also was head coach at Texas-Pan American, Oklahoma, Illinois, Florida and UNLV, said Monday. “I still stay in touch with all my teammates from that time. Several were there last night.
“There were folks from Illinois, Oklahoma and Florida as well. Sharing that with family and friends from Silver Lake made it special.”
Joining Williams and Kruger in the 2022 Hall of Fame class were former coaches John Beilein, Jim Calhoun and coach/innovator Jerry Krause, along with former players Richard Hamilton (Connecticut), Larry Miller (North Carolina), Frank Selvy (Furman) and the late Jimmy Walker (Providence).