Oregon coach Dana Altman has steadily been establishing himself as an elite coach on a national level. Guiding the Ducks to the Final Four this weekend in Glendale, Ariz., is his crowing achievement.
On Saturday, Altman will take on a certified legend within the profession in North Carolina coach Roy Williams (814-216), winner of two national titles with the Tar Heels (31-7).
“He’s very well respected in the coaching ranks,” Altman (597-312) said during a recent teleconference. “He’s done an outstanding job for a long, long time. As a coach I admire that and I think the coaching profession does.”
The 66-year-old Williams’ resume is off the charts. In 14 seasons with the Tar Heels he has won two national titles, lost the title game last year, been to five Final Fours, eight Elite Eights and nine Sweet 16s.
At Kansas – a Williams' era Altman is all too familiar with - from 1988 through 2003, Williams reached the championship game twice (lost both), the Final Four four times, the Elite Eight five times and the Sweet 16 nine times.
All told, Williams has made 27 NCAA Tournament appearances. He has reached the Sweet 16 a total of 18 times, the Elite Eight 13 times, the Final Four nine times, the championship game four times and has two national titles.
Altman, 58, said he most admires Williams' ability to steadily put good teams on the court.
“The consistency with how hard his teams play game in and game out, not only are they consistent from year to year, but game in, game out, they just perform," Altman said.
No. 3 Oregon (33-5) plays No. 1 North Carolina in the Final Four on Saturday when Altman will try to pull off the upset against William’s team favored by 4 ½ points. Altman has achieved big upset wins over Williams in the past.
Altman coached at Kansas State as an assistant from 1986 through 1989 and then as the head coach from 1990 through 1994. Williams spent 16 years as the head coach at Kansas from 1998 through 2003 before heading to North Carolina.
Kansas, a national power then and now, dominated the rivalry, but on Jan. 17, 1994, when the Jayhawks were ranked No. 1 in the nation, the Wildcats pulled off a 68-64 upset win at Allen Fieldhouse. It was one of four conference wins for Kansas State that season.
“Guys stepped up and it was one of the times we got ‘em,” Altman said. “It was a big upset. I was really happy with the guys.”
Kansas got its revenge, however, taking down the Wildcats, 65-56 on the road on Feb. 12, and then again 73-52 during the first round of the Big Eight Tournament on Mar. 11.
Kansas went on to reach the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament that season. KSU finished the season 20-14 (4-10).
Overall, Williams went 8-2 against Altman during their in-state rivalry. Altman got a win over Williams in the semifinals of the Big Eight Tournament on Mar. 13, 1993 by the score of 74-67 after losing to the Wildcats twice during the regular season.
“That was a long time ago and we had some good games, but unfortunately he won most of them,” Altman said. “Roy was doing a great job at Kansas, but we upset him a couple of times.”
Williams is doing another great job at North Carolina and as fate would have it, Altman will get another crack at pulling off an upset over his former rival.