IRVING — John Williams had a strong message for fans who are gearing up for the festivities surrounding the 2014 NCAA Final Four in Arlington.“It’s just going to be all-out excitement, so come on out and enjoy it,” the former LSU standout said.Some former NCAA players and local dignitaries joined the North Texas Local Organizing Committee on Friday for a luncheon at the Irving Convention Center to hype the next Final Four, scheduled for April 5-7 at AT&T Stadium.Dallas hosted the Final Four at Reunion Arena in 1986. That’s the year Williams and LSU lost to the eventual champion Louisville Cardinals in the semifinals 88-77.Reunion Arena — now torn down — paled in comparison to AT&T Stadium.“It’s the best stadium that I’ve ever seen and ever been to,’’ Williams said. “I don’t think there’s ever going to be anything better than that stadium.“I think that they’re going to probably want to have the Final Four there every year, which they should. It’s outstanding.’’Louisville nipped Duke 72-69 in the 1986 NCAA championship game in Dallas. That walk down memory lane was not a fond journey for ex-Blue Devils star forward Mark Alarie.“I remember the disappointment of fouling out and then losing 30 seconds later to Louisville,’’ said Alarie, now the president of a software company in Bethesda, Md. “I remember the elation of beating Kansas in the semifinals [71-67].“It was a feeling I’ll never forget because it was such a hard-fought game, and we won and we now had the opportunity to play for the championship. It was a great feeling.”Louisville rode the coattails of “Never Nervous” Pervis Ellison to the championship.“It was a fantastic experience,’’ said Ellison, who was voted the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player. “We had actually played Kansas twice during the regular season and they had beaten us twice, so we definitely didn’t want to see them in the championship game.“So we were thankful that Duke actually beat them and put them out of the tournament.”Greg Dreiling, a center on that Kansas team, makes his home in the Dallas area and believes North Texas was ripe to host another major sporting event of this nature.“Twenty-eight years is much too long for Dallas to wait for a Final Four,’’ Dreiling said. “But when the NCAA went to the larger buildings we just didn’t have the venue. “So for myself, as a Dallas-area resident, I just want to put my thanks out to Mr. and Mrs. Jerry Jones and the family and the community for putting up a building that can host an event like this.’’A crowd of 108,713 fans, the largest ever for a basketball game, filled the stadium for the 2010 NBA All-Star Game. A year later, 103,219 were there for Super Bowl XLV.
Dwain Price, 817-390-7760 Twitter: @dwainprice