By Brett Nicol
Hall of Fame coach Roy Williams has taken his teams to seven Final Fours, and he’s done it in style. Coach Williams has an exclusive relationship with Julian’s, a local Chapel Hill haberdashery for all his clothing needs. Their tagline: “Purveyors to Carolina Royalty since 1942.”
Duke – A Father’s Legacy
National Player of the Year candidate Nolan Smith has both a high school and a college National Championship to his name, but he’s admitted that despite his success, he still feels unfulfilled. This National Honor Society member lost his father, former NBA standout Derek Smith, in 1996 to a massive heart attack while on a cruise ship. In the 2010 run to the National Championship, Nolan wore his father’s 1980 championship ring from Louisville as a source of inspiration.
BYU – Personal Faith
The national spotlight is shining brightly on the country’s leading scorer, BYU senior Jimmer Fredette. His long range shooting has become a YouTube sensation, but it’s his role as “the greatest Mormon missionary” that is especially intriguing as he constantly answers probing questions about his faith honestly. No matter what your religious beliefs are, a man who is a humble servant to his beliefs should be respected.
Kansas – Family
In a three week span in January, Kansas forward Thomas Robinson tragically lost his grandmother, grandfather and mother. Thomas and his 9-year-old sister were left without a family or any financial resources. With the permission of the NCAA, Kansas flew the entire Jayhawks team back to Washington, D.C. for the funeral and set up a scholarship fund for Jayla. Without a place to live, Jayla is now living in Kansas with her brother. The mother of Jayhawks twins Marcus and Markieff Morris is taking care of Jayla during the day, cooking her dinner, taking her to and from school, and providing clothing.
San Diego State - Persistence
Steve Fisher coached Michigan to the 1989 National Championship in his first season as a head coach. He then led the “Fab Five” to consecutive National Championship games in 1991 and 1992. His star was bright. But then off court scandal took Fisher to a coaching abyss. Now, nineteen years later, he has re-emerged to bring San Diego State to its first ever Sweet 16.
Connecticut – Rhythm
All-American junior guard Kemba Walker’s only talent isn’t basketball. Growing up in the Bronx, Walker was also an accomplished dancer and has performed three times at the Apollo Theater for the TV show Showtime at the Apollo. When you watch Walker’s quick first step this weekend, you’ll see why.
Florida State – Military Service
A high school dropout at 16, Bernard James got a GED so he could enlist in the Air Force. He spent six years serving our country, including three overseas tours in the Middle East – Qatar, Kuwait, and Iraq. Meanwhile, he kept growing, eventually reaching 6’10 and 245 lbs. While he considered re-enlisting, he instead chose to pursue his dream of playing basketball. Now as a 26 year old shot-blocking force, he’s led Florida State to their first Sweet 16 in nearly two decades.
Butler – Early bird catches the worm
A coaching prodigy, Butler’s Brad Stevens was the youngest coach to reach an NCAA championship game in 2010. He starts practices at 6am every day so basketball doesn’t conflict with his players’ coursework. He is a teacher who commands respect without profanity or demonstrative actions that call attention to himself.
Arizona – Burn the midnight oil
Pac-10 Player of the Year Derrick Williams honed his game sneaking into his high school basketball gym in the middle of the night. His trick? Wedging a bottle cap in the doorjamb. A future top-5 NBA lottery pick, Williams is leading Arizona’s revival this season.
Wisconsin – A different philosophy
Two weeks ago, Wisconsin scored a record low 33 points in a Big Ten tournament game against Penn State. Now they are two wins away from the Final Four. How does that happen? Wisconsin plays a defensive-minded style of play that is often boring to watch, but produces winning results.
Marquette – Focus
When asked at a press conference last weekend after eliminating Syracuse to describe his career journey, coach Buzz Williams launched into a fascinating ten minute response that referenced Robert Frost and Albert Einstein. As a young coach climbing the collegiate ranks, he at times lived out of a U-Haul trailer. View the 1500 word transcript here:
Virginia Commonwealth – Feel the Music
The VCU pep band leader is legendary for his shirt-shedding performances. He gets so caught up in the moment that he dances, jumps, and, yes, even strips during basketball game performances. Check out this YouTube video to see someone really passionate about music. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MGBLfoBsUP8
Florida – Power Clothes
The highest paid college coach, Florida’s Billy Donovan looks more like a Wall Street banker than a coach who has won back to back NCAA championships. His sharp, professional wardrobe demands attention.
Kentucky – Pedigree
The winningest program in the history of college basketball, Kentucky has been to a record 51 NCAA tournaments and has won 7 national championships. History is on their side. The only question the “Big Blue Nation” is afraid to ask itself is whether Coach John Calipari is building this team legally. Every previous stop in his coaching career has left a school decimated by NCAA sanctions. Is Kentucky next?
Ohio State – Money Talks, and so does Miley
The operating budget of Ohio State's Athletic Department is over $80 million. With great resources available to coaches and players, Ohio State attracts many “one and done” basketball players like Greg Oden and Mike Conley. This year’s example is freshman and player of the year candidate Jared Sullinger, who has also had over 500,000 youtube hits for singing Karaoke to Miley Cyrus’s Party in the USA.
Richmond – Jack of All Trades
After graduating from Princeton in 1994, Chris Mooney worked as a law clerk, a high school English teacher and a wedding planner. Coaching basketball was a side job. As head coach, he’s guided Richmond to the best record in its 96-year history.