Fifteen years later, the hand-wringing resumes. Boosters and their extended family loved to celebrate not only that Williams won often (418-101 record) but also that he did things the right way. No probations (especially important because he took the job at a point when the previous administration's indiscretions prohibited the Jayhawks from defending their title), no off-court scandals, no embarrassing temper tantrums. Odd, then, that when Williams announced on April 14 that he was leaving to accept the head coaching job at North Carolina, he was promptly branded a crass opportunist at best and a malicious, manipulative menace at worst.
"People had the strangest reactions," says WHB 810's Danny Clinkscale, whose show, Between the Lines, was on the air when the decision was announced. "They had been so proud of him and the way he ran the program. Now, suddenly, he's considered a back-stabbing criminal." Tellingly, none of these morally outraged malcontents has demanded that incoming coach Bill Self, who's just as much a Judas after splitting from Illinois without much warning, return to his former team for loyalty's sake.
Fanning the fires of discontent as if they were heating his burnt ends was Jason Whitlock, who first groveled for Roy to stay put in an April 11 column headlined "Roy, Jayhawks really need you." Then, on April 15, the day after Williams announced his decision, Whitlock whimperingly suggested that fans call him a "traitor," "liar," "phony" and "hypocrite." Two days later, in an ESPN.com column, Whitlock blasted legendary North Carolina coach Dean Smith for his role in luring Williams to Chapel Hill -- warning Smith, "Don't show your face again in this town." But whereas Whitlock bitterly branded Smith a treacherous, traitorous egomaniac, Sports Illustrated had, the month before, all but sainted Smith for his sterling character and commitment to charitable causes. These three unsportsmanlike diatribes rank as Whitlock's most ill-informed output since his infamous "Bledsoe gay?" sign.
Though he was able to escape Whitlock's temporary insanity, Williams still had morbidity on his mind. "I'll be a Tarheel dead," Williams predicted when he accepted the North Carolina job on April 14; by the end of the week, he preferred to use the construction "Roy Williams will be a Tarheel dead."
Self's surname gives him a built-in shortcut to Williams' regal third-person references. He might receive some rough treatment if he doesn't immediately follow in the Final Four footprints his predecessor left the past two years. But given his talents and KU's reputation and resources, his eventual success seems inevitable. Plus, at Illinois, he proved that he can beat Missouri. Rival-routing records aren't as important in basketball as they are in football, but a Tiger trouncing can go a long way toward ensuring that KU likes its new Self.