Feinstein: Roy Williams, Jim Calhoun, Jay Wright and Tom Izzo Make Quite the Final Foursome
Jay Wright was leaning against a wall somewhere deep inside Ford Field on Thursday afternoon when Tom Izzo, trailed by a bevy of security people, walked up and interrupted a story about Wright's days as an assistant coach at Rider.
"Having fun, kid?" Izzo asked, a huge smile on his face.
"You called it," Wright said, laughing. "I'm making all the rookie mistakes you told me I'd make."
"Still working on your tickets?" Izzo asked.
"No," Wright said firmly. "That one I stayed away from. The rest is all making me crazy."
For a Final Four coach, the toughest thing in the week leading up to semifinal Saturday can be remembering that the job isn't done. Every region final concludes with nets being cut down and a trophy being presented. It is usually followed by 48 hours of celebration, parties, making the media rounds and ticket requests -- lots of them.
"You never have more best friends than the week leading to a Final Four," Connecticut's Jim Calhoun said with a knowing smile.
Wright is, as Izzo pointed out to him early in the week, the rookie in this coaching foursome. North Carolina Coach Roy Williams has been to the Final Four so often -- seven times -- it almost seems as if it should appear on his regular season schedule. Izzo, here for a fifth time, isn't far behind, and although Calhoun is making "just" his third appearance, he's the only one in the group with two national titles -- Williams and Izzo have one each.
"It's amazing sometimes how the image coaches have ebbs and flows," Calhoun said in an almost relaxed locker room moment Thursday afternoon. "Everyone in coaching knows how good a coach Tom Izzo is, but it was almost like he was in a little bit of a lull in terms of perception until this week. Now, they beat Louisville and come here to play with everyone talking -- rightfully so -- about how much it means to the city that they're here and all of a sudden people are saying, 'Boy, that Tom Izzo can really coach.'
"Then there's Roy Williams. Is he actually coaching here? I'm not sure I've heard anyone mention his name all week. It's as if Roy takes a team to the Final Four and people say, 'Oh, Carolina's in the Final Four -- ho-hum.' I can tell you from personal experience getting here is never ho-hum. It's hard."
It has been anything but a ho-hum two weeks for Calhoun and U-Conn. On the eve of the Huskies' first-round game in Philadelphia, Calhoun, 66, landed in the hospital overnight with serious stomach pains. Given that he went through his second bout with cancer last summer, any health issue raises questions about his future.