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Monday, October 20, 2014
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Published: Sunday, 4/6/2003

Williams puts Jayhawks first - as he should

Give Kansas basketball coach Roy Williams credit. He's been true to himself and true to his players.

Williams can see through the subterfuge. He understands that anything he says at the Final Four regarding his interest in the vacant North Carolina job (where he was a longtime assistant coach before coming to Kansas) can and will be used against him in the court of public opinion.

To be sure, Williams isn't going to repeat the mistake made by former Pittsburgh coach Ben Howland.

Good for Williams.

Then again, maybe Williams doesn't trust his true feelings. Maybe somewhere in the back of his mind he wants to coach the Tar Heels, finally taking the job he turned down three years ago to remain at Kansas.

Maybe he doesn't want to tell his players he's not going anywhere, only to change his mind later.

Then again, just maybe, Williams - as he has told the national media repeatedly since Matt Doherty resigned at North Carolina last week - didn't want any distractions. He wanted his entire focus to be on winning his first national championship.

At Kansas.

Thank goodness Pittsburgh didn't advance to the Final Four. Howland would have embarrassed himself and his players in front of the national media.

When asked whether he planned to remain the coach at Pittsburgh, Howland, who guided the Panthers to their second consecutive Big East Conference title this season, answered in the affirmative.

Forget all those silly rumors about him going to UCLA, Howland told reporters. He called Pittsburgh a “destination.”

Of course, Howland forgot to mention that he contacted UCLA officials the day after Pittsburgh was eliminated from the NCAA Tournament.

Oops.

Upon returning from his first interview at UCLA, Howland met with Pittsburgh's players. When asked if he was going to UCLA, Howland, who grew up as a UCLA fan in Santa Barbara, Calif., told his team he was staying at Pitt and discussed the starting lineup for next year.

No mention was made of Howland's serious interest in the UCLA job.

Quicker than you can say “John Wooden,” Howland was introduced as the new basketball coach at UCLA.

What's really sickening about this is that Pittsburgh's players bought into everything Howland told them - right up until he took the UCLA job. Howland couldn't have rebuilt Pittsburgh as quickly as he did without total commitment and 100 percent loyalty from his players.

Howland should have felt comfortable enough around his players to be totally up-front with them.

Howland is a talented coach who had every right to pursue other job opportunities. At the same time, Pittsburgh's players deserved to hear the truth from their coach. No doubt, there could be a reluctance on the part of those players to trust the next coach the way they trusted Howland.

Maybe that's why Williams isn't opening his mouth about the North Carolina vacancy. He's an honorable coach who puts his players first.



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