tampabay.com

Williams denies meddling with former team

By BRIAN LANDMAN and ANTONYA ENGLISH
Published April 5, 2005


ST. LOUIS - North Carolina coach Roy Williams took umbrage with the notion that by talking to his former players at Kansas, he interfered with what new coach Bill Self was trying to do.

"I don't really think that Kansas had any "problem' this year. I think they had a great year," he said Sunday. "I know that I would never, ever do anything to hurt Kansas.

"So yes, it does bother me for somebody to say I interfered."

In the past year, he said he spoke to Wayne Simien and Aaron Miles but it wasn't inappropriate.

He said Simien twice called him, and he was not supposed to take a call from a player he recruited?

He traded calls with both players to wish them a merry Christmas, and he also called Simien when he learned Simien would need surgery on his hand earlier this season.

"I left a message of, "You're tough enough. You've been through a lot. You can get through this. You'll come back even stronger,"' he said.

Williams said when he took over for Larry Brown at Kansas, Brown's staff called the players. Even last season, former Carolina assistants on Matt Doherty 's staff phoned the players they brought to Chapel Hill.

"That doesn't bother me," Williams said.

CREDIT ALL AROUND: Illinois coach Bruce Weber isn't being modest or generous. He sincerely knows and appreciates the job former coaches Lou Henson , Lon Kruger and Self did in laying the foundation for his team's season.

"Lou Henson established Illinois as a quality, top program," he said. "Then Lon came in. He did a great job recruiting. Then Bill came in and did a great job of recruiting these guys and established our program.

"There's no doubt he deserves a lot of credit."

WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN ... : Growing up in Texas, Illinois junior Deron Williams always imagined going to North Carolina and playing for the Tar Heels.

"My mom was a Carolina fan, and I guess she got me started on that," he said. "It was the team I liked. I liked Ed Cota when he was there; Shammond Williams , Vince Carter . I liked all those guys."

Carolina and then Coach Doherty did call him, but they made it clear he wasn't their first choice to be the starting point guard. They also were after Raymond Felton . Williams then turned his attention to Illinois.

... AND WHAT HAS BEEN: Felton hasn't done too badly. He won the Bob Cousy Award as the nation's top point guard Monday morning.

"I have a wonderful feeling about this young man," Williams said. "You watch him play. He's 6-1, yeah, right, but he's all heart. That's what I love about him more than anything; the competitiveness, the dedication, the desire."

FAMILIAR FACE: Illinois assistant Jay Price got his start as a manager at Kansas under Brown and Williams.

"I knew he wanted to be a coach," Williams said. "He paid more attention during practice than probably any manager I've ever had."

DID YOU KNOW?: Illinois entered 10-0 against ranked teams this season.

JU TALKS TO GATOR: Jacksonville contacted Florida assistant Donnie Jones about its vacant coaching position. Officials from JU met with Jones last weekend. They are looking for a replacement for Hugh Durham , who retired last month. Jones has been a Gator assistant since 1996.