Eleven years after they parted amid bruised feelings and bitterness, it's great to see that Kansas and Roy Williams are finally reconnecting.
Williams, Larry Brown and Ted Owens will return to Allen Fieldhouse on Oct. 27 to help current coach Bill Self commemorate the 60th season of Kansas basketball in the venerable building. It will be Williams' first public appearance at the arena where he coached for 15 years since he left Kansas for his alma mater North Carolina in 2003.
"The Jayhawk faithful make it almost impossible for the opponents every night," Williams said in a statement released by Kansas earlier this week. "Coaching in that arena is a real treat and I loved it. I'm ecstatic to be part of this anniversary celebration."
The return of Williams is noteworthy because he has been something of an outcast in Lawrence after angering many fans with the way in which Williams left Kansas in the spring of 2003. Not only were Kansas fans unaccustomed to losing a coach to another school, it stung worse that a man who had preached loyalty throughout his tenure would leave without so much as a press conference to say goodbye and explain his decision.
Said injured forward Wayne Simien minutes after learning Williams was leaving, "I gave my right arm for him, literally. I gave my right arm for that man."
Said guard Keith Langford seconds later, "Hell yeah, I'm surprised. I didn't come here for this sh...."
The hurt feelings were understandable at the time, but they shouldn't obscure what Williams accomplished in his 15 seasons at Kansas. Though he did not win a championship with the Jayhawks, he did just about everything else, capturing nine conference titles, reaching four Final Fours and twice advancing to the national title game.
Furthermore, Williams has spoken about Kansas in reverential tones whenever he has been asked about the program after his departure. He even went so far as to wear a Jayhawks sticker on his shirt during the 2008 national title game — two nights after Kansas had shredded his Tar Heels in the national semifinals no less.
The success Williams enjoyed during his Kansas tenure and the class he has shown since his departure ought to earn him a rousing standing ovation on Oct. 27.
Kansas fans had every right to be upset with Williams for how he left Lawrence 11 years ago. Now it's time for them to forgive him and give him the welcome back he deserves.
- - - - - - -