Drew Gooden failed to move quickly enough on defense to stop the Texas postman from scoring. Then a referee whistled Gooden for fouling the Longhorn.
Coach Roy Williams leapt off the Jayhawk bench in disgust and yanked his left arm out of his coat as he stared at the play under the Longhorns' basket. He wheeled back toward the Kansas bench, pivoted and swung his hips hard, flinging the coat into the Jayhawk crowd.
The referee thought Williams' histrionics -- deployed often in defense of KU players -- were aimed at him, and he called Williams for a technical foul. The referee was wrong.
Roy Williams is a perfectionist. He expects Gooden to never get beaten on defense. He demands that 16,300 fans pack Allen Fieldhouse for every Jayhawk home game. He demands that they cheer loud and long. Last season Williams attacked fans he considered too quiet by saying, "If you don't want to cheer for us, keep your big butts at home. I'll find enough friends to come in here."
Although he often makes a big show of "protecting" Jayhawk players, he'll let them hang themselves on the court just to make a point about perfection. Williams hates to call time-outs to slow down an opposition's offense. He sees the action as a sign of weakness. "I get so damn tired of talking about time-outs," Williams grumbled after being asked why he didn't try to interrupt Baylor's February 12 scoring binge by calling a time-out or two during the first half. Baylor jumped to a 25-point halftime lead and hung on for an 85-77 win.
Williams rarely makes his team members study their upcoming opponents' moves until the day before the game. He explains that if Kansas players practice what they do best and execute -- perfectly -- on the court, they'll win no matter what the other team does.
Coach Williams will tell you that he is very competitive. "I've never met anybody in my life that wants to win as badly as I do," he has said. Some might call him arrogant. He owned Big 8/12 basketball during the 1990s. He has led Kansas to seven conference championships, eleven consecutive twenty-win seasons, eleven straight NCAA tournament appearances and the Final Four in 1991 and 1993. Roy Williams has had much to be arrogant about -- until this season.
Williams' arrogance appears to have rubbed off on his young Kansas team, and that arrogance is becoming costly. Prior to the nationally televised game at Baylor, Kenny Gregory, the senior forward, yawned at the prospect of playing the Bears. "There are certain teams you need to get up for and certain teams that you have to motivate yourself to play," he said. In other words, Gregory could hardly motivate himself to play his best because Baylor seemed like an easy win.
What really got the Bears' attention was Gregory's statement after Kansas' loss to Iowa State: "It's not like we just lost to Baylor or Texas A&M." DeMarcus Minor, Baylor's senior point guard, pulled a crumpled newspaper clipping containing that quote from his pocket following Baylor's upset of KU. Terry Black, Baylor's 6-foot-5 senior dunking machine, had a sly postgame sound bite: "Well, it was only Kansas. It wasn't like it was Duke or [North] Carolina."
But Gregory isn't the only Jayhawk blowhard. Eric Chenowith, the underachieving Kansas senior postman, had four points, four rebounds and four turnovers in 26 minutes at Baylor. Chenowith has been the most public whipping boy for the Kansas fans. After a solid freshman year and a promising sophomore season, Chenowith has all but disappeared during many games the past two seasons and has drawn boos from the home crowd.
Yet his quotes drip with arrogance: "It's fun to [tick] those people off. I do not care what fans think about me. I used to. It started to bug me, so now I don't care. I just sit back and laugh. All those people saying bad things about me probably grew up in Kansas and their lifelong dream was to play here. I get to play here and they don't, so I win."
Chenowith and Gregory should be this team's leaders, but instead of pumping up their squad, one is inspiring opponents to embarrass the Jayhawks and the other is inciting the home crowd to jeer.
But this lack of leadership on the team is typical of Williams' squads. That same deficiency prevented Williams' best KU teams -- the 1997 and 1998 NCAA tournament number-one seeds -- from taking the big prize. Despite the glossy records and All-Americans Kansas has brought to the NCAA tourney the past few years, Williams has never had a Danny Manning, who was the best player on the court and knew it when coach Larry Brown handed him the team's reins.
Paul Pierce proved to be a much better NBA player than Manning, but as a forward in Roy Williams' system, Pierce never gave the impression that he was the team leader. Raef LaFrentz, another KU All-American, suffered through those season-ending upset losses to Arizona and Rhode Island with Pierce. He too was lacking when it came to being able to put the team on his back and carry it.
Williams is such a competitor and such a strong leader that he leaves no room for players to flourish and develop leadership skills. Williams is so protective of his "kids" (a pretty good moniker for this bunch of schoolyard bigmouths) that he squashes any natural leadership tendencies they might have. Unless Williams puts on a jersey the next time he strips off his coat, the team may never be able to put the ball in the hands of a leader.
When Colorado coach Ricardo Patton said something to a Kansas player earlier this season during a game in Boulder, Williams was so incensed that he stormed to the Colorado bench and heatedly rebuked Patton. A few years ago, Williams raced across the court and dove into a small group of fans to protect a Kansas player who had ended up in the crowd. Williams is very protective of his players. He loves them to death -- at least an early death in the NCAA tournament.
After the embarrassing loss to Baylor, Williams pointed his finger at his players. "Sometimes players got to play, and that's the bottom line," said Williams. Sometimes players also need to lead -- and coaches need to let them.