Williams gets Hall call shortly after burying sister

Updated: April 2, 2007, 4:35 PM ET
By Andy Katz | ESPN.com

ATLANTA -- Roy Williams has been on an emotional ride the past three weeks that finally turned up.

Williams
"Nothing prepares you for life, you just have to live it. That shot not going down at the end of regulation against Georgetown hurt, but it's a different kind of feeling...And then this happens (the Hall) and it's mind-boggling."
-- New Hall of Famer Roy Williams

Monday, to his utter surprise, he was named as a part of the 2007 Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Class.

It was just three weeks ago that Williams buried his only sister, 60-year-old Frances Baker.

It was just last week that Williams' top-seeded North Carolina Tar Heels lost in overtime to Georgetown in the Elite Eight in East Rutherford, N.J. That same weekend, the student mascot for the Tar Heels was hit and killed by a car.

"It's been difficult but my team, and the coaching part, has been my salvation as it relates to my sister,'' Williams told ESPN.com Monday afternoon.

"We knew it was going to come and knew it was coming soon,'' said Williams of his sister who had been battling a long-term illness. "All of a sudden you realize you had a mom and a dad and a sister and now you have none after your sister dies at 60. That's too young.

"Nothing prepares you for life, you just have to live it,'' Williams said. "That shot not going down at the end of regulation (by Wayne Ellington) against Georgetown hurt, but it's a different kind of feeling,'' Williams said.

The Hoyas pulled away in overtime but Ellington's shot could have won the game at the end of regulation.

"And then this happens (the Hall) and it's mind-boggling," Williams aid. "But you know me. I'll be on the road recruiting Friday night.''

Williams has had quite a run to the Hall, coaching at two of the elite programs in the country -- Kansas and North Carolina. Williams said he had plenty of chances to go the low or mid-major route while he was an assistant at North Carolina, even a higher-profile job, but chose to stay with Tar Heels coach Dean Smith.

"I'm the first to admit that I've been very lucky at Kansas and North Carolina but I'm also the one that can say I know what we went through,'' Williams said.

Williams said he wishes he could split up the Hall of Fame plaque in 300 pieces to disperse to his former players and coaches. He also is indebted to his family, his wife Wanda and grown children Kim and Scott.

What's ironic about Williams' presence here Monday is that it was four years ago, in the national title game, that Williams had to deal with similar questions to Florida coach Billy Donovan about whether or not he would stay at his present school. Williams was the candidate to replace Matt Doherty at his alma mater, Carolina, but didn't want to discuss it while he was preparing Kansas to play Syracuse in the title game.

He said, like Donovan, who is expected to get a contract offer from Kentucky after the Final Four, didn't watch television or listen to the radio.

"I'm sure Billy is doing the same thing I did which is focus on winning and your team,'' Williams said. "There's no space to think about anything else. If you do you're cheating yourself and your players.''

Williams said Donovan is doing a marvelous job handling the situation.

Donovan has said Kentucky hasn't contacted him nor did he authorize anyone to speak to Kentucky on his behalf.

Williams said North Carolina didn't contact him Final Four week and if it had, "I would have said no so fast it would have made their head spin.''

Williams said that his decision to leave Kansas was a lose-lose, because he was going to upset someone if he stayed (at Carolina) or left (at Kansas) and sees Donovan could be in a for a similar situation with Florida and Kentucky if he were to depart. Williams said he also wasn't able to enjoy getting to the national title game with his players, something that could bother Donovan, too, if he were to leave.

"I feel for him,'' Williams said.

Meanwhile, Williams said he will know next week if sophomore forward Tyler Hansbrough and freshmen forward guard Brandan Wright and Ty Lawson decide to declare for the NBA draft (the deadline is April 29). He wouldn't be shocked if all stayed, or no more than one left, and doesn't expect to lose all three.

Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com.

Andy Katz | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com

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