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National Columnist

Meet Buzz Williams; you're going to like him

Buzz Williams will lead his Marquette team against Butler on Saturday night. (Getty Images)
Buzz Williams will lead his Marquette team against Butler on Saturday night. (Getty Images)

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Why do people really like Buzz Williams, the Marquette coach? I have a story for you. A small one. But before I tell that story, I have another story for you, an even smaller one.

This one happened Friday -- well, both happened Friday -- but this one happened at the off-day press conference, where Williams was asked about the remarkable ability of Butler coach Brad Stevens to remain calm. The juxtaposition was unsaid, but obvious:

Because you, Buzz, are a sideline wacko ...

Williams gave one of his longest answers of the day, but most importantly he said this -- and this is one example of why people like him so much:

"The perception of me is I'm this emotionally high-strung savant," Williams said. "OK, that's fine. There's parts of that that are true, but when Vander Blue hit the shot last night [to beat Davidson], when he hit the shot against Saint John's [to win that game too], all I did was walk down the street and shake the coach's hand. That was it. Nobody said that.

"That's because the perception of me is not that. You know what I mean? I do think that at times I do act like a clown, but sometimes I'm a little smarter than I act and I know how to play possum better than you do."

Humble, self-aware, cocky. What's not to like?

And then this happened later Friday. It happened outside the arena, outside a nearby restaurant. I was coming out, and there on the corner were four people from Marquette. Husband, wife, two sons. Family of four, Norman Rockwell stuff.

The husband/father sized me up as a sportswriter and asked, "What do you do on a day like today, when there aren't any games here?"

I told him the truth:

"Today," I said, "I wrote a story about the genius coach who's going to try to beat you tomorrow."

Husband/father said: "You're right about that. Coach Stevens is a genius."

And then Buzz Williams put an arm around one of his sons and introduced me to his family.

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