Half an hour before game-time and she was vacuuming. Since she had been counting the minutes until tip-off since Saturday night, it’s not surprising that she had some excess energy. For Michelle Sweeney (names have been changed to protect the fanatical) it was a dream come true.
Having spent last year’s championship game excusing myself from any sense of impartiality and greatly angering the Saybrook Master with my late-night crooning of “We are the Champions,” I decided to spend this year’s second-most important night of sports observing a fan instead of being one.
After hearing Michelle howl “K-UUUUUUUUUUUUU” non-stop for two and a half hours during their elite eight victory over Arizona, I knew the championship night’s performance on the hardwood (hers, not Kansas’) would be a can’t-miss event.
That is until Kansas decided to go 12-30 from the free throw line.
Somber appreciation replaced celebration. Mellow tones of defeat replaced the screams of victory. And not only because the corn-fed Kansas seniors ended their careers in disappointing fashion, but because she, like almost everyone who knows the Jayhawks, believes Roy Williams will depart for North Carolina in the coming weeks.
“He’ll be back someday” said victorious Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim of his counterpart.
Few have any doubt that Williams will be back, but given his reticence to answer questions about his future and his reported feud with the athletic department, it will probably be in Carolina rather than Kansas blue.
Boeheim, on the other hand, has no intention of leaving. After 27 years of excellence, as well as famous frustration (See: Smart, Keith), the beloved Orange mentor finally earned the championship he so rightly deserves. And he did it with a formula more and more coaches will undoubtedly follow as the NBA continues to further dip their hands into the high school talent pool.
Boeheim recruited McDonald’s All-American Carmelo Anthony by promising the high school star that the Orangemen could go all the way in his freshman year. Thanks to Anthony’s considerable talents, Boeheim was able to fulfill that promise. Now he has a championship and Anthony has a ring to wear to Madison Square Garden for the NBA draft.
Also on that stage in June will be Kansas seniors Kirk Hinrich and Nick Collison, who should follow Anthony as first round selections. After four years of college ball, they represent a dying breed, and when they leave they will carry with them the heart of their coach. Said Williams to CBS’s Bonnie Bernstein of his seniors, “Words can’t describe these kids and what they mean to me.”
You could see in his eyes that he meant it.
You could also see his rage when she then asked if he was planning to leave for UNC.
“I couldn’t give a flip about what those people want,” said Williams of those who wanted to know whether he planned to leave. “I haven’t thought about that for one second.”
It was a statement that showed Williams’ class, something KU fans will always appreciate, whether he leaves for Chapel Hill or not. Class that Michelle applauded as she slumped somberly in an armchair, heartbroken. All her nervous energy had departed, replaced by the sallow malaise of defeat.
It was supposed to be a night of celebration. Had Kansas made their free throws, it might have been. Instead it was a night of remembrance, of gratitude for Collison, Hinrich, Williams, and the joy that KU basketball had provided all season long.