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Associated Press

Midnight Madness means a new start for several programs this year.

Practices can officially begin at 12:01 a.m. Saturday. The idea of starting at the first allowable minute belonged to Lefty Driesell, who did just that at Maryland in 1970.

Over the next few years some coaches decided to add fanfare and generate excitement, and that has, in turn, created something as connected with the sport as bubble teams, March Madness and an enthusiastic TV analyst.

Among the coaches getting off to new starts at new schools with Midnight Madness festivities are Roy Williams at North Carolina and Bill Self at Kansas.

A staple of Williams' 14 seasons at Kansas was a "Late Night with Roy Williams" that filled Allen Fieldhouse and had the coach and players showcasing their off-the-court talents.

He will do the same in his first season at North Carolina, his alma mater and where he served under Dean Smith as an assistant.

"I've always looked at it as a celebration for the opening of men's basketball season," Williams said Thursday. "I want the kids to be seen in a different light. We tried some weird things at Kansas and the kids had fun with it and people see them not being very graceful and not being very athletic and not being very good at some things. It gives the fans a different look."

And that includes players tripping the light fantastic.

"I always critique their dancing but I don't let that have any play on how many minutes they get," he said.

Self, who left Illinois for Kansas, will carry on the tradition. This year's "Late Night" will include an appearance by members of the 1988 NCAA championship team, including Danny Manning, Self's new staff member.

Maryland's Midnight Madness will be quite different from last year, when the Terrapins took the court as defending national champions. Juniors Andre Collins and Mike Grinnon, neither of whom has ever started, are the lone remnants of the championship squad. Senior Jamar Smith, a junior college transfer who was a backup last season, rounds out the upperclassmen on coach Gary Williams' youngest team in years.

"This will be my first look at the team as a whole. I'll watch it, because you can't waste any days this year," the coach said. "I knew the guys last year; we probably could have started a week later and it wouldn't have made much difference."

"We can't waste any days. Every day's got to be a work day, it has to be a learning day. We've got some really good freshmen, but everything we talk about is going to be new to them."

Among those freshmen is D.J. Strawberry, son of former major leaguer Darryl Strawberry.

As popular as the night of dunking contests, 3-point shooting exhibitions and half-court heaves for tuition have become at a hundred or so schools, Midnight Madness isn't for everyone.

First-year Clemson coach Oliver Purnell passed on the idea.

"I'm not a big proponent of Midnight Madness. I've done them because I felt they were good for the program promotionally, or whatever," said Purnell, who spent the last nine seasons at Dayton. "But I'd rather get to work and have two practices on Saturday."

Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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