Mark Randall remembers that when Roy Williams was named to replace Larry Brown as Kansas basketball coach in 1988, the only thing he and most of the other Jayhawks players knew about Williams was that he had been an assistant coach at North Carolina.

That's not a lot for a team to go on, particularly one fresh from having won the national championship. However, Randall also remembers that it didn't take long for Williams to establish himself.

"I can still recall the first meeting when Coach came in and laid down the ground rules and the things that were going to be done," Randall said last week. "He told us about the system, about the things that we would be doing here. I don't think anybody left there without a smile."

It hasn't exactly been all smiles ever since, but it's been pretty close. And the Jayhawks were grinning from ear to ear last weekend, when they defeated Arkansas in the Southeast Regional final of the NCAA tournament.

Later this week in Indianapolis, perhaps Williams and Kansas will finally get the recognition they so richly deserve. Perhaps Williams, age 40, will finally be recognized for what he is: one of the nation's best coaches, not just one of the best young coaches. And perhaps the program will finally be recognized for what it is: one of the nation's best right now, not just one that has been the best.

A couple of facts. Kansas will be making its third Final Four appearance in six years. Only two other programs can match that mark -- Duke, which is going to its fourth consecutive Final Four and fifth in six years, and Nevada-Las Vegas, which is going to its second consecutive Final Four and third in five years.

Williams has won 75 games in his first three seasons. The only other coach to have won more in his first three years at a Division I school is North Carolina State's Everett Case, who won 80 from 1947 to 1949. And Williams has done it despite NCAA sanctions -- a result of recruiting violations under Brown -- that prevented the Jayhawks from defending their 1988 title or having paid, on-campus visits until January 1990.

In addition, as has been the case since Danny Manning left after the 1988 season, Kansas has won without marquee players. That is not to say the Jayhawks have had a bunch of guys who had never seen a basketball before they got to Lawrence, but, honestly, how many Kansas players from the last three seasons can you name?

"Nobody thought we were going to win any of our games" in this year's tournament, senior forward Mike Maddox said before last Saturday's victory over the Razorbacks. "It's no surprise to us that people are surprised we won."

Williams has shamelessly borrowed what he learned during 10 years under Coach Dean Smith.

"I think he's the best there is and ever will be," Williams said of the man he still calls Coach Smith or simply Coach. "My background is from North Carolina and I never want to vary from that. I'm proud of that. Coach Smith is the innovator, and I'm just the guy that steals everything I can. . . .

"But I think the two things that Coach Smith stressed to me more than anything were: One, when you become a head coach, be yourself. The second thing is you have to change things every year to fit your personnel. We don't have the personnel that North Carolina has, so we're not going to run the same plays that they do."

Williams is meticulous and strict. Sophomore guard Adonis Jordan was left behind when he was late for team buses twice this season. For the first transgression, Jordan also was benched for the first half of the next game. For the second, Jordan was told to stay home.

On the other hand, Williams can laugh at his occasional outbursts. "I have kicked a couple of basketballs up in the rafters," he confessed. "Milt Newton {then a senior} really ticked me off my first year, though, when he came over and told me it was wide left."

Williams has overcome the 1989 probation season, when an undermanned team began 16-3 and then succumbed, losing eight straight -- the school's longest losing streak since 1947-48. "It was the most difficult year I've experienced in coaching," he said.

Many things are similar to that team, except the results. The Jayhawks can still smoothly shift between their bob-and-weave offense and a capable running game. They shoot about 52 percent from the field, and 60 percent of their baskets come from assists. They still play stingy defense.

The world even seems to be paying some attention.

"You know, it's funny," Maddox said last week. "I looked in the paper the other day and I saw the odds of teams winning the championship. My freshman year, it was like 50-to-1. This year it's 30-to-1. Maybe we're starting to get some respect."