Archive for Saturday, October 7, 2000

Coaching change an AD’s nightmare

Guthridge’s surprise resignation was costly for North Carolina

October 7, 2000


Want to know why collegiate athletics directors cringe at the prospect of coaching changes? Look to North Carolina for a good example and this didn't involve a firing where people can get paid handsomely for doing nothing for a long time.

Burned-out Bill Guthridge quit, surprisingly, as the Tar Heels basketball coach this past summer. The domino effect of trying to hire Roy Williams away from Kansas, talk to others when Roy declined, then get a new head man, new assistants and take care of other satellite souls in the changeover didn't come cheap. It will push the UNC athletic budget into the red.

The Norfolk Virginian-Pilot quotes UNC athletics director Dick Baddour as saying Guthridge's retirement and the search for his replacement may cost the department more than a quarter of a million dollars.

Figures from the UNC athletics department show that salaries for new and previous coaches and the projected or incurred expenses for the new staff of Matt Doherty to move to Chapel Hill could total $265,743 more than was budgeted for 2000-01.

That figure plus about $188,000 more than anticipated for annual raises and one-time bonuses for the department staff could cause a sizable deficit in the school's athletics budget.

The UNC department recorded surpluses of $300,000 in 1998-99 and $150,000 in 1999-2000. Even high-profile UNC is not immune from that snarling demon always lurking in the cash drawer.

We can assume Guthridge, with more than 30 years at Carolina, is getting compensation in an advisory role while he shares an office with retired legend Dean Smith. Guthridge had assistants who were not retained by Doherty. The honorable thing is to pay them for at least a year of service. Doherty took his staff from Notre Dame to Chapel Hill; their wages and moving expenses were added to a budget also taking care of Guthridge and Co.

Then there were costs in trying to recruit Williams, George Karl, Larry Brown, Eddie Fogler and Doherty.

The process could have cost Carolina more than a lot of schools pay when they oust a coach and staff, as Indiana did with Bob Knight. Indy, in fact, got off fairly well because an assistant was moved up to replace The Terrible-Tempered Mr. Bang; his son, Pat, got a job elsewhere. That often negates a contract fulfillment.

Will the Hoosiers still have to pay Knight in full if he lands another job? Bet they do, considering the grip Bobby had on their throat.

But any time a school is involved in coaching changes, the first thing the athletics director must do is explain the process and then, quick-like, run to the financial ledger to see how high the tariff will be to install a new order.

Imagine the turmoil Kansas's Bob Frederick was going through trying to determine alternatives if Roy Williams left and somebody had to be found to fill what would have been a horrendous philosophical, charismatic and financial void. No sooner had Freddie dodged that bullet than things began to unravel for a football season that is not unfolding nearly as productively as most hoped.

Does raw money drive athletic machines, or what?

The image of the Ugly American got new gloss and glitter during the recent Olympic Games in Sydney. When people like Australians and British are cheering for the Russians, the Lithuanians, the French or anybody else to beat Americans, you know somebody has dropped something fecal into the punch bowl.

For me the most disgusting and embarrassing incident was the American 4-by-100 team led by Kansas City product Maurice Greene with Bernard Williams III, Brian Lewis and Jon Drummond. It went far beyond celebration and exuberance. It was taunting and degrading.

Before the finals, hot-dogger Greene was preening and prancing and flapping his tongue like a window-shade in a gale. Then came that "victory lap" foolishness that ran for minutes as the quartet used the American flag for everything but thong underwear. There were victory stand gyrations during the national anthem. You look up "ugly demeanor" in the dictionary and those four guys' photo should be there. Greene deserves the most derision. As the star, he could have kept the others in line. Consider how classily Michael Johnson and his 4-by-400 teammates performed in victory and you know how it should be.

Then the arrogant richies on the U.S. basketball team went out of their way to be aloof and empirical and failed to pay proper tribute to the Lithuanians and French who gave them terrific battles. Couldn't the Americans have been at least a little gracious? We also had showoff swimmers, one of whom spit in an opponent's lane. Not pretty.

My fondest Olympic memories involve people like frail little Joan Benoit in 1984. This sprite with her ill-fitting uniform and askew baseball cap won the women's marathon the first time it was run, seven weeks after arthroscopic knee surgery. And did it with such innocent class and dignity.

Americans had reason to be ashamed and offended by some of the Sydney behavior. Dammit, we're better than that!

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