Archive for Saturday, July 8, 2000

UNC in jam after Roy’s rejection

David Teel Newport News (Va.)

July 8, 2000


— Roy Williams said no to the Godfather. Good for him. Good for Kansas. Bad for North Carolina. Very bad.

So what's a Tar Heel to do? Deposit bloody equine parts in Roy's bed? Riddle him with bullets at a toll plaza? Panic? Gamble on Matt Doherty or George Karl? Go the caretaker route with Larry Brown? Bring the Godfather out of retirement? Do the unthinkable and look outside the family?

There are no easy answers. North Carolina, arguably the nation's premier college basketball program, needs a head coach. But absent Williams, there is no heir apparent. No one else within the family makes ACC rivals quiver, and quality outsiders such as Stanford's Mike Montgomery will probably be discouraged because summer recruiting starts today.

Williams, Tar Heel born and bred, and a helluva coach to boot, was the obvious choice to succeed Bill Guthridge. But Williams could not bring himself to abandon Kansas and his players.

Twelve years ago, you may recall, Kansas took a flyer on a young Carolina assistant named Roy Williams. The Jayhawks, the program of Phog Allen, Wilt Chamberlain and Dr. Naismith, were defending national champions. But that didn't keep the Brown from bolting Lawrence for the NBA.

Kansas athletics director Bob Frederick could have courted most any coach. Instead, he hired Williams, who came with an unconditional endorsement from the Godfather, then-North Carolina coach Dean Smith, a Kansas alum.

Williams, Carolina class of '72, not only maintained but also enhanced the Jayhawks' grand tradition. He's coached Kansas to 11 NCAA Tournament appearances, two Final Fours and a 329-82 record.

His consistent success turned heads back home, where fans anointed him as the Tar Heels' next great coach. The job opened in 1997, when Smith retired after 36 seasons and a record 879 victories. But Guthridge, Smith's loyal assistant for 30 years, deserved a turn as the Big Whistle, and for three seasons he performed admirably.

When Guthridge, burned out on recruiting and fed up with the constant carping of Carolina's spoiled-rotten fans, resigned last week, his successor appeared preordained.

The Godfather, whom many considered a master manipulator, made Williams an offer he couldn't refuse.

But Williams did refuse the Godfather. Such loyalty to players and institution is rare and refreshing, but it leaves the Tar Heels in a fix.

Phil Ford, Carolina's point guard for the ages and a longtime assistant coach, would have been a legitimate candidate were it not for two drunken-driving offenses.

Sure, four of the Godfather's disciples all former Carolina players, all successful head coaches merit discussion. But can any of the four South Carolina's Eddie Fogler, Notre Dame's Doherty, the Milwaukee Bucks' Karl or the Philadelphia 76ers' Brown survive a slugfest with Mike Krzyzewski and the rest of the ACC?

Fogler answered the question for himself Friday when he withdrew from consideration. Doherty, an assistant at KU under Williams, debuted as a head coach last season, guiding Notre Dame to a 22-15 record. But with four returning starters, the Irish-Catholic Doherty might find it hard to leave.

Karl is 573-388 in 13 seasons in the NBA. But Karl has never worked at the collegiate level. Brown has, but he turns 60 in September. Does Brown have the energy and passion for this job?

Questions, questions. Only the Godfather has answers.

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