ST. LOUIS — Roy Williams was walking the streets Thursday morning when a passing Kansas fan called out, Rock chalk, Jayhawk. Reflexively, Williams responded, Go KU!
This is a nightmare regional for the North Carolina coach, with so many personal threads tangled this weekend. Hes sharing an arena with N.C. State, a fierce local and personal rival; Kansas, his former employer of 15 years; and Ohio, which has the kind of ball-hawking guards the Tar Heels dont want to see with Kendall Marshall uncertain.
Its the smoothest thing going, thats for sure, Williams said.
Earlier this season, he said hed wished hed had a BB gun to ding the posteriors of the N.C. State fans who filled the Smith Center in 2002, when Williams was at Kansas; the Edward Jones Dome will have quite a few of those fans inside tonight. Four years ago, Williams wore a Kansas sticker for the national-championship game two days after the Jayhawks bounced the Tar Heels in the semis, ruffling the feathers of his new employers.
One of those teams will be waiting for North Carolina in the regional final if the Tar Heels can get past the Bobcats.
Either way, he knows hell be the focus of unwanted attention from fans of former and rival teams this weekend.
Theres no question that I would rather not have all the personal things going on, Williams said. I would just like it to be about the basketball game. Theres no doubt. And Im not trying to be humble. Im being truthful. I would like for it to just be about my team playing against somebody elses team. But I dont always get what I want.