Tournament-tested coaches to meet
By Nick Bowton
The UNC notebook …CHARLOTTE ó Two of the NCAA’s all-time best tournament coaches will meet tonight in Roy Williams of North Carolina and Rick Pitino of Louisville.
Williams ranks third in all-time tournament victories with 48. He trails former Tar Heels coach Dean Smith (65) and current Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski (69).
Pitino, meanwhile, ranks second in tournament winning percentage for coaches who have coached at least 10 games. Pitino passed Florida coach Billy Donovan (.759) on Thursday and has a winning percentage of .761. Krzyzewski (.767) leads that list as well.
With five Final Four appearances apiece, Williams and Pitino are tied for sixth place with Bob Knight, Guy Lewis and Lute Olson. The winner tonight will join former Kentucky coach Adolph Rupp and former Louisville coach Denny Crum in a tie for fourth place.
“I think Rick is one of the great, great coaches in the game, not just the college game,” Williams said. “I love watching Rick’s clubs play. I wish I were good enough to play a fullcourt pressing defense and drop back into a zone. I have trouble trying to do those kind of things. I’ve seen his clubs play in many different ways. I’ve seen them play a packed-in zone, a very aggressive zone, fullcourt man-to-man, halfcourt man-to-man, set offense, freelance offense.
“He has the whole package and is one of the guys I have a great deal of respect for.”
NAME THAT TUNE: UNC junior Danny Green has become known this season for the dance he does before every home game. The 1992 House of Pain hit “Jump Around” blares over the speakers at the Smith Center, and Green, who doesn’t start, does his pre-game dance.
That routine had been limited to home games until Thursday night, when the UNC band played the opening to “Jump Around” before the Tar Heels played Washington State at Bobcats Arena.
Green didn’t put as much energy into dancing as he usually does, but he did offer a few toned-down moves.
“I heard it, and we were like, ‘We kind of like that,’ ” Green said. “Something nice they added for us. Usually don’t dance at road games, but we kind of got into a little rhythm.”
TWO CENTS’ WORTH: Pitino offered his opinion on UNC’s home-state advantage Friday.
Williams has insisted playing in Raleigh and Charlotte hasn’t been a big advantage for the Tar Heels. Pitino had some fun with his take on it.
“Tell Roy to get on a plane for the first time and let’s play the game at Freedom Hall if he feels that way,” he said, referring to the Cardinals’ home court. “I won’t disagree with him. Let’s go to Freedom Hall, and I’ll admit to a home-court advantage. Go to Lexington (Ky.), for that matter. Let’s go to Lexington and play at the Rupp.
“No, I think those are mostly mannequins dressed in powder blue. I don’t believe there is a home-court advantage.”
As for Pitino’s serious answer?
“There’s a very strong home-court advantage, but they deserve it,” he said. “That’s the bottom line. They’re the No. 1 seed.”
TWO MORE CENTS’ WORTH: In debating the merits of Kansas State freshman Michael Beasley and UNC junior Tyler Hansbrough as national player of the year, national basketball gurus have often said Beasley will clearly make the better NBA prospect.
Pitino, who spent 31/2 seasons as coach of the Boston Celtics, seems to think Hansbrough will do just fine at the next level.
“I think he’s gonna be a terrific NBA player,” he said. “Obviously, there are things that are herky-jerky right now. But NBA players, they’re like good stock ó they keep rising and get better at all phases. I think he’s gonna be a great NBA player because he brings it every possession.
“Four out of five nights, players get tired, so you look for guys like Tyler Hansbrough, guys that are not going to take possessions off. They’re few and far between. There aren’t many like him in college basketball. There aren’t many like him at the professional level, and that’s what makes him so great.”
FANTASTIC FOUR: Williams recalled an early-1990s golf outing when talking about his relationship with Pitino.
Williams, Pitino, former Purdue coach Gene Keady and former Arkansas coach Nolan Richardson all golfed together in Las Vegas.
“He was the first guy that got me on Shadow Creek in Vegas,” Williams said. “So I owe him one big-time for that. I haven’t been able to do anything like that for him.”
Contact Nick Bowton at 704-797-4256 or email@example.com.