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Williams edges Knight for Big 12 coaching honor

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ A disheartened Roy Williams came home one night and told his wife it was time to start thinking about getting out of college coaching.

He was tired of the recruiting rat race, weary of megalomaniacal high school stars, sick of greedy parents interested not so much in an education for their kids as getting them to the NBA.

``I got home one night and told Wanda maybe it was time to take another look at some of those other job offers,'' said the popular University of Kansas coach.

But then came salvation in the form of three kids named Drew Gooden, Kirk Hinrich and Nick Collison. Suddenly, his job fun again, Williams was reinvigorated and ready to give all his energy to the challenge.

Those three had reminded him that there really were loving parents and good kids out there, and some of them could even play lights-out basketball.

All three signed with the Jayhawks. Now three years later they are the key components of what's probably Williams' best team in 14 years at Kansas.

The Jayhawks are ranked No. 1 in the nation, coming off the first unbeaten conference season in Big 12 history (16-0) and certain to be a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tourney.

And Williams is The Associated Press Big 12 coach of the year. In balloting by 24 media representatives, he edged out Bob Knight, the former Indiana coach who in just one season has turned Texas Tech (21-7, 10-6 Big 12) from a loser into a winner.

``I'm extremely flattered,'' said Williams, whose Jayhawks are 27-2 overall heading into this week's Big 12 tournament.

``I'll be sure to thank my team.''

As announced earlier, the media panel also made Gooden, the league leader in both scoring and rebounding, a unanimous choice as Big 12 player of the year. Texas point guard T.J. Ford drew all but one vote for freshman of the year and Oklahoma's Ebi Ere outpolled Ivan McFarlin of Oklahoma State for Big 12 newcomer of the year.

Williams' decision to stay at Kansas may turn out to be one of the best things ever to happen not only to the Jayhawks, but the profession as well. With a 14-year record of 382-91, he has the third-highest winning percentage of active Division I coaches with at least five years of experience.

``Roy Williams is a great coach,'' said Oklahoma's Kelvin Sampson. ``For his players to be up night after night and withstand every challenge in the league they have this year is really unbelievable. It also says a lot about the kind of kids he's brought into his program.''

Iowa State coach Larry Eustachy says there should be no argument as to who is the Jayhawks' most valuable player.

``That team has a special togetherness that I haven't seen since I've been here. And it starts with Roy,'' Eustachy said. ``They work hard.''

``Roy Williams is the MVP of that team,'' he added. ``I think Roy is definitely a candidate for national coach of the year.''

The Jayhawks hadn't gone unbeaten in the conference season since the 1970-71 team was 14-0 in the old Big Eight. They kept their Big 12 record perfect despite a couple of late-season close calls on the road _ edging Nebraska 88-87 on Feb. 24 and then beating traditional nemesis Missouri 95-92 in the conference finale a week later.

``Roy has done a special job,'' Eustachy said. ``You know he likes his team when his coat stays on and his tie isn't loosened. The last couple of years, his coat used to come off. His tie would get loose.''

``He's brought this group together as any team is together that I've ever played against.''

Williams drew 14 votes from the panel of sports writers and broadcasters, while Knight got 10.
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