November 28, 2014,
I hold a grudge. I admit it — I do.
So tonight, as I shuffle along the carpeted floor of a converted ballroom, shimmy behind the narrow passage of press row and find my courtside folding chair — I will be carrying it with me.
And it will be heavy.
I don’t like Roy Williams. I don’t like him at all.
Well, if you have to ask — you are either far more forgiving than me or a relatively new Gator basketball fan. If the latter, here is a quick history lesson:
In 1998 a dismayed — but more bitter – Roy Williams phoned the NCAA and reported Billy Donovan for cheating. His evidence? His rationale? A big pile of sour grapes. Coach Williams was livid when Kansas phenom and presumed future Jayhawk, Mike Miller spurned his overtures. And the rejection was not in favor Duke, Kentucky or North Carolina. Nope — Miller chose an upstart, fast-talking New Yorker whose brand of basketball was winning games and landing big-time recruits — at Florida, of all places.
“I love those guys,” Miller said of the coaching staff he surprisingly selected. “To me, they were the kind of guys I would want to hang out with. It was unbelievable. I could see myself getting yelled and screamed at during practice, then going back and talking with them like you would your friends,”.
But it was Williams who was doing the yelling and screaming.
Donovan had to be cheating!
“I don’t care who Skinny signs with, I’m turning Florida in,” he was quoted as saying.
Oh, but he did care. He cared too much.
An 11-month investigation followed Williams furious phone call, revealing two notable findings. Florida was clean and Williams was simply jaded.
He was also stubbornly unapologetic — at least publicly.
“I don’t think it was a knee-jerk reaction, because I don’t do things like that,” Williams said in the years following. “I do think it is something that’s in the past. Billy and I have had conversations about it personally, but what was said in those conversations should stay personal”.
Perhaps, but that certainly does not preclude a public apology — similar to one given by Mike Montgomery, who infamously rode Williams coat tails and lobbed a thinly veiled character assault on Donovan in 2003, only to effusively express his remorse days later.
Seasons, years — 15 of ‘em — have passed since Williams set in motion an investigation that, at the time, seemed to threaten Donovan’s reputation. Fifteen seasons during which Donovan has become one of the game’s most respected coaches and ambassador to the sport. Yet still no public retraction from Williams nor an apology to the school, fan base and program he assailed.
Now, ironically — or to some, predictably — it is Williams who is feverishly bandaging a reputation, while Donovan cements a legacy.
One may think Donovan is secretly smirking, but I doubt it. He is in that former group — the ‘far more forgiving’. And more successful
As for me? Well, I’m still waiting on that apology. Coach Williams, if you are so inclined — I’ll be the bald guy seated in press row — wearing a Gator shirt and a smirk.