RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
North Carolina basketball coach Roy Williams addressed an audience at the Hawaii High School Awards Recognition Dinner last night in Waikiki.
Williams wants Heels in Rainbow Classic
Roy Williams' week-long vacation on Oahu is bound to be more relaxing than his previous stay.
The North Carolina basketball coach last visited Honolulu in December 1997, when his second-ranked Kansas team lost to Hawaii in the championship game of the Rainbow Classic.
"That was a tough trip for us," the five-time national coach of the year recalled yesterday. "We played Vanderbilt and Ohio State and, boy, Hawaii just kicked our tails.
"That was a great, great atmosphere for a college basketball game."
Along with enjoying his annual family vacation, Williams served as keynote speaker at the Hawaii High School Awards Recognition Dinner at the Sheraton Waikiki.
Making up this year's class of Hall of Honor inductees are Reece Alnas (Kamehameha-Hawaii), Jazzmin Awa-Williams (Konawaena), Brandon Hardin (Kamehameha), Keisha Kanekoa (Honokaa), June Ann Lusk (Baldwin), Spencer McLachlin (Punahou), Ashley Medcalf (Christian Academy), Randolyn Nohara (Kamehameha), Jeremiah Ostrowski (Punahou), Keone Reyes (Kaimuki), Scott Smith (Saint Louis) and Richard Torres (Kahuku).
Williams, who led North Carolina to the 2005 national crown, said he plans to get in touch with new Hawaii head coach Bob Nash about playing in a future Rainbow Classic.
Spending time with his family is Roy Williams' top priority during his weeklong vacation on Oahu. But the North Carolina basketball coach wouldn't mind coming back on business in the next few years.
Williams, visiting Honolulu for the first time since his second-ranked Kansas team lost to Hawaii in the final of the 1997 Rainbow Classic, said he'd like to bring the Tar Heels over to play in the Classic when the schedule allows.
"I plan on trying to give (UH head coach Bob Nash) a call while I'm out here and see when's the next time they have any openings for the Rainbow Classic," Williams said yesterday.
Williams, a five-time national coach of the year, arrived in town Friday and served as the keynote speaker at last night's Hawaii High School Awards Recognition Dinner at the Sheraton Waikiki.
He completed his fourth season at North Carolina this spring when the top-seeded Tar Heels lost to Georgetown in the NCAA Tournament's Elite Eight and owns a 106-30 record.
Williams, who led UNC to the 2005 national championship, said the Tar Heels are scheduled to play in an early-season event in Las Vegas this season and in the EA Sports Maui Invitational in 2008, making 2009 the first opening when they could possibly play in the Rainbow Classic.
But future scheduling isn't at the top of his to-do list this week.
"My deal is just to have some fun with my kids," Williams said. "I didn't even bring my golf clubs, and nobody loves to play golf more than me. I just want to spend some time with my family."
Williams has been a frequent visitor over the years, spending most of his time on the neighbor islands when not coaching. He was head coach at Kansas when the Jayhawks played in the 1992 and '97 Classics. He took over at North Carolina in 2003 and led the Tar Heels to the 2004 EA Sports Maui Invitational title the following year to set the tone for their national championship run.
Williams said he talked to Nash this spring and was pleased to see the longtime UH assistant succeed Wallace as the Rainbows' head coach. A 10-year assistant at North Carolina prior to taking the Kansas job in 1988, Williams has an idea of the transition Nash is going through in his first season in charge.
"I was extremely happy he got the job," Williams said. "I think the loyalty that Bob showed here, the character he has, the way he represents the University of Hawaii ... I would have been dumbfounded if he hadn't gotten the job and I would have also been very disappointed.
"Moving over those 18 inches (on the bench) is a big move. ... I would imagine Riley (Wallace) gave him a lot of responsibility, a lot of authority. Just from those things right there it would appear Bob had a much better background than some assistants would."
Williams' connection to the islands also extended into recruiting, as he tried to lure former Iolani standout Derrick Low to Kansas. He kept in touch with Low during the recruiting process, but inherited a Tar Heel squad already stocked at guard when he accepted the North Carolina job. Low went on to sign with Washington State and earned All-Pac-10 honors last season.
"He's a really quality youngster," Williams said. "I enjoyed the visits with him on the phone and his dad on the phone. When I watched (Washington State) on TV I did watch how Derrick was doing with a little more interest.
"He's a guard who can make people better, he can make plays, competitive with a great deal of poise and composure on the court."
Williams, a UNC graduate, was recently given a four-year contract extension that takes his pact to coach the Tar Heels through 2015. He has stayed in the college game despite being offered NBA jobs 12 times.
Williams generally shies away from public-speaking engagements, but the confluence of his family's annual vacation with last night's event honoring 12 of the state's top high school student-athletes brought him to the podium for the event.
He broke into the profession at the high school level -- coaching basketball, golf and football -- and offered this year's class of inductees some perspective as they prepare for the jump to the college.
"I'm big on the saying, 'be led by your dreams, not pushed by your problems,' " he said. "The road's going to get a lot rockier, the competition's going to get a lot tougher, the game's going to get a lot faster, you'll be left behind more. But the success you have now came about because you competed, you had discipline, you made sacrifices, and that's what you'll have to do at the next level."