ST. LOUIS — It’s been nine years since Roy Williams left Kansas, and he knows the Jayhawks and their fans have gotten over him.
No matter how much time passes, he’ll never be able to say the same.
Williams would rather top-seeded North Carolina face almost anyone but his “second-favorite” team today, a trip to the Final Four on the line.
None of the players who played for him are still at Kansas, no one on the Jayhawks staff has ties to Williams, and coach Bill Self is building his own legacy in Lawrence.
For Williams, however, Kansas will always be personal.
“That was 15 years of my life that I tried to give everything,” he said Saturday. “I don’t think it’ll ever feel good for me, regardless of the outcome. I don’t think I’ll ever feel comfortable with it.”
Adding to that discomfort is that North Carolina (32-5) might be without star point guard Kendall Marshall again.
Marshall has a broken bone in his right wrist, and resumed basketball activity Saturday for the first time since being injured last Sunday.
Williams compiled a 418-101 record in 15 years as coach at Kansas, the second-best winning percentage behind Self, the man who replaced him.
Williams took the Jayhawks to the NCAA Tournament in all but one of his seasons and reached the Final Four four times, including back-to-back appearances in 2002 and 2003. Kansas played for the title twice under Williams, falling to Duke in 1991 and Syracuse in 2003.
This is only the second time Williams has faced the Jayhawks since he left Lawrence, Kan..
Self said he thinks it would be a “great, great series” if Kansas and North Carolina would meet on a regular basis.
But Williams gave a quick, emphatic, “No,” when asked if he’d be open to the idea.
“Too emotional for me. That’s the bottom line,” Williams said.
“I tell my kids, what you would like to have in your life is someone who, when you hear their name, it makes you smile. That means that you’ve had a very positive impact on somebody. And when somebody says Allen Fieldhouse to me, that’s exactly what I think about, all those positive thoughts, and I don’t want to go in there as the coach of the opposing team.”