College basketball’s preseason is filled with media days, scrimmages and exhibition games but one of the more unique events that was scheduled to take place before the 2014-15 season involved the 60-year celebration of Allen Fieldhouse.
The legendary Kansas arena is one of the best venues in all of sports, and on Monday night, Jayhawk faithful came together in celebration of a lot of special memories in the fieldhouse while also raising money for charity. The “Celebrating 60 Years” event was special enough with appearances from Bill Self, former Kansas head coach and current SMU head coach Larry Brown and another former Kansas coach in Ted Owens, but it also marked the homecoming of Roy Williams.
The North Carolina head coach hadn’t been back to Kansas since leaving the school to coach the Tar Heels in 2003 and his homecoming was among the main storylines of the evening.
According to a report from Jesse Newell of the Topeka Capital-Journal, the Kansas faithful showed nothing but love and support for their former head coach:
“Time heals wounds. It really does,” Williams said. “You can’t change somebody’s opinion, but over time, people understand things better.”
There wasn’t any hint of anger in the building Monday. The current North Carolina coach was introduced to the podium by former player Scot Pollard, and he received a standing ovation from the estimated 7,000 in attendance for nearly a minute.
“Thank you for letting me be here tonight,” an emotional Williams said in closing his speech. “Thank you for being a great part of 15 wonderful years. I loved you. I loved this place. Go KU.”
Williams had reason to be concerned. There was animosity in Lawrence from some fans after Williams left to coach his alma mater in 2003 and the head coach hadn’t returned to Allen Fieldhouse since Kansas practice before the 2003 Final Four. Although Williams led the Jayhawks to four Final Four appearances and two championship games, it isn’t every day that Kansas loses a head coach to another program.
But, as Williams mentioned in his speech, time heals wounds and Self has done a tremendous job maintaining a very successful Kansas basketball program, so that has surely helped soften Williams leaving and coaching at North Carolina. People have had a decade to look back on the Kansas career of Roy Williams and probably remember mostly good times.
“I hope I’ll be remembered (at KU) as a guy who could coach a little bit,” Williams said, “but really cared about the players and really cared about the school he represented and really cared about the game.”
In the midst of the academic scandal at North Carolina, it’s nice that Williams could focus the spotlight on his coaching career for a night at a school that he greatly cared about. You can tell by the things that Williams has said about Kansas that he still cares about the program he used to coach and it was a nice moment for an old coach and a former fanbase to come together to celebrate old memories.