Top 5 Kansas basketball teams in the '90s under coach Roy Williams

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Roy Williams

In 15 seasons at Kansas, Roy Williams became one of the most successful coaches in the history of the program. Williams holds a record of 418-101 and led the Jayhawks to two Final Four appearances, one national championship appearance and three 30-win seasons during the 1990s.

Here is the Kansan's list of the top five teams Williams coached in the '90s during his tenure:

1. 1996-97 Kansas men's basketball team

Record: 34-2, Big 12 15-1 (First in conference)

Points-per-game leader: Raef LaFrentz (18.5)

Rebounds-per-game leader: Raef LaFrentz (9.3)

Assists-per-game leader: Jacque Vaughn (6.2)

Roy Williams’ ninth season as the Jayhawks' head coach was one for the books. Maybe you’ve heard the name Paul Pierce before. Everyone in the NCAA knew what Pierce and Williams were capable of after the Jayhawks went 34-2 in the 1996-97 NCAA season.

The Jayhawks’ lone two losses were heartbreakers, the first one coming mid-season at the hands of their archrival, the Missouri Tigers. Despite losing the border war, the Jayhawks remained at the top of the rankings. From Dec. 4, 1996, all the way until their exit in the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA tournament, the Jayhawks were the top-ranked squad in the nation.

On the season Pierce averaged 16 points and seven rebounds on an absurd 47 percent shooting from beyond the three-point-line. He had help from other Jayhawk legends in center Scot Pollard and guard Jacque Vaughn. While Vaughn and Pollard were both seniors, Pierce was only a sophomore and the early years of his college career transitioned him smoothly for a legendary career in the pros.

While the Jayhawks lost to Arizona in the NCAA tournament, this team’s legacy lives on in Pierce and Williams, who have both gone on to win championships in their respective fields. Pierce won an NBA title in 2008 with the Boston Celtics, and Williams won the big dance as recently as 2017 with North Carolina.

2. 1997-98 Kansas men’s basketball team

Record: 35-4, Big 12 15-1 (First in conference) 

Points-per-game leader: Paul Pierce (20.4) 

Rebounds-per-game leader: Raef LaFrentz (11.4) 

Assists-per-game leader: Ryan Robertson (6.4)

The 1997-98 Kansas men’s basketball team, arguably one of the most talented rosters in the history of the program, won its second Big 12 title ever after boasting a conference record of 15-1 during the 100th season of the program. 

Under former coach Roy Williams, who was in his 10th season at Kansas, the team was led by future NBA superstar Paul Pierce and big man Raef LaFrentz.

Pierce enjoyed his best season at the school during the 1997-98 season. In his junior campaign, Pierce averaged 20.4 points, 6.7 rebounds and 2.6 assists in 38 games. 

LaFrentz, who was in his senior season at Kansas, posted career-highs of 19.8 points and 11.4 rebounds per game. 

Despite playing in only 30 of 39 games, LaFrentz was named the Big 12 Player of the Year for the second consecutive season.

Kansas won 13 straight games — including a Big 12 tournament championship game victory — to end the regular season before heading into the NCAA tournament. As a No. 1 seed in the Midwest region, Kansas dominated Prairie View A&M before suffering an 80-75 loss to No. 8 seed Rhode Island in the second round of the tournament. 

Although the team suffered an early exit in the tournament, its 35 victories remain tied for the most single-season wins in program history. Kansas went 35-3 in the 2010-11 season under current coach Bill Self. 

3. 1990-91 Kansas men's basketball team

Record: 27-8, Big 8 10-4 (Second in conference) 

Points-per-game leader: Terry Brown (16) 

Rebounds-per-game leader: Alonzo Jamison (6.4) 

Assists-per-game leader: Adonis Jordan (4.5) 

Coaching in just his second NCAA tournament as a head coach, Roy Williams took the Jayhawks all the way to the NCAA National Championship game in Indianapolis. Despite eventually falling short in the championship to Duke by a score of 72-65, it was the season that Williams really introduced himself on the national stage. 

Having been barred from postseason play in 1989, and crashing out in the second round to UCLA in 1990, it was the first Final Four the Jayhawks had been to since they won the national championship in 1988 under Larry Brown.

Roy Williams

Roy Williams was coach from 1988 to 2003.

Led by senior guard Terry Brown and senior forward Mark Randall, the Jayhawks went on to finish second in the Big 8 with a conference record of 10-4 and an overall record of 27-8. 

Despite losing the national championship game, Kansas’ run in the NCAA tournament will be remembered for the tough road that it took to get there. Heading into the tournament ranked 12th in the nation, Kansas advanced through the first two games before sweeping past No. 3 Indiana, No. 2 Arkansas and No. 4 North Carolina.

Randall, who averaged 15 points, 6.2 rebounds and 2.3 assists that season, had the seventh-most field goals in the Big 8 (205) on his way to being selected on the NCAA All-Tournament team.

Thanks to Randall’s selflessness with the ball, Kansas also saw both sophomore guard Adonis Jordan and junior forward Alonzo Jamison averaging over 10 points a game throughout the season. 

4. 1992-93 Kansas men's basketball team

Record: 29-7, Big 8 11-3 (First in conference)

Points-per-game leader: Rex Walters (15.3)

Rebounds-per-game leader: Richard Scott (5.3)

Assists-per-game leader: Adonis Jordan (4.5) 

Claiming his second Big 8 regular season championship, Roy Williams took the Jayhawks to their second Final Four under his leadership.

roy williams

The No. 2-seeded Jayhawks eventually buckled that season to the No. 1-seeded North Carolina Tar Heels in the Final Four, as Williams lost to his former mentor, Dean Smith, after defeating him in the Final Four two years prior.

In a season that the Jayhawks started 16-1, they stumbled to the end of the regular season, losing four of their final 12 regular season games. Despite the stumble, Kansas took sole ownership of the Big Eight Conference, finishing with a conference record of 11-3, three games ahead of nearest competitor Oklahoma State.

Although the 1992-93 team didn’t pack any national standout players, Williams’ team did run off a core of upperclassmen who weren’t afraid to share the wealth when it came to points. Five players on the team averaged over 10 points a game, led by transfer senior guard Rex Walters, who averaged 15.3 points. 

Walters is remembered as one of Kansas’ best sharpshooters, with the 6-foot-4 guard firing in 83 three pointers that season, the most in the Big 8. He was assisted by fellow guard Adonis Jordan, who had already experienced the pain of losing in the Final Four in 1991.

Jordan averaged 4.5 assists, totaling 163 assists for the season, the second most in the Big 8. Adding on to his average of 12.1 points, Jordan proved to be a vital part of Kansas’ squad. 

Senior center Eric Pauley, junior forward Richard Scott and junior guard Steve Woodberry made up the rest of the core five that took Williams to his second Final Four.

5. 1995-96 Kansas men’s basketball team

Record: 29-5, Big 8 12-2 (First in conference)

Points-per-game leader: Raef LaFrentz (13.4)

Rebounds-per-game leader: Raef LaFrentz (8.2)

Assists-per-game leader: Jacque Vaughn (6.6) 

The 1995-96 team — which played its final year in the Big 8 during the season — proved to be one of the best defensive teams under Williams. Kansas allowed only 65.3 points per game, the lowest average during Williams’ tenure. 

The team’s defensive prowess was anchored by big man Scot Pollard, who averaged 2.5 blocks and 7.4 rebounds per game, along with starter Jerod Haase, who averaged two steals per game.

Sophomore Raef LaFrentz improved upon his freshman season with averages of 13.4 points and 8.2 rebounds per game and then-freshman Paul Pierce burst onto the college basketball scene with averages of 11.9 points and 5.3 rebounds. 

Junior point guard Jacque Vaughn was a key facilitator on the high-powered Kansas offense with a team-high 6.6 assists per game. He won Big 8 Player of the Year during the season. 

To begin the year, Kansas won 19 of its first 20 games, which included a season-high 12-game winning streak.

The Jayhawks were a No. 2 seed in the West region of the NCAA tournament and secured wins over South Carolina State, Santa Clara and Arizona before falling 60-57 to No. 4 seed Syracuse in a low-scoring Elite Eight matchup.