Work in Sports
Should I stay or should I go?
Williams to let 'gut feeling' decide whether to take job
Posted: Saturday July 01, 2000 02:26 AM
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) -- Should he stay at his beloved Kansas or return to his beloved North Carolina?
Facing the biggest decision of his professional life, Roy Williams is pleading for patience as two of the nation's premier basketball programs and their legions of fans await word from the winningest coach of the '90s.
"The people in North Carolina don't really know what I have here," Williams told a packed news conference on the Kansas campus Friday evening. "The people here don't realize what I'd have in North Carolina.
"The only thing I'm saying is give me a little patience. Give me a couple of hours, give me a couple of days."
As he headed for a vacation at his beachfront home in South Carolina, Williams promised a decision no later than next Friday, the day before the summer recruiting period begins.
Bill Guthridge retired Friday, just three seasons after following Dean Smith, and Williams was expected to succeed him, according to a source close to North Carolina who spoke on condition of anonymity.
But Williams said reports that he had already accepted the job were "a fabrication."
A native of North Carolina and a 10-year Smith assistant, Williams said he has had 23 firm offers from NBA and major college programs since taking the Kansas job in 1988.
"With only one exception, every one of those situations have been handled with one phone call," he said. "I have shown my love and loyalty for Kansas."
Few coaches in any sport enjoy such love and loyalty from fans. During Williams' tenure, he has made a tradition of buying doughnuts every morning before home games and passing them out to students who camped out all night for tickets.
When he walked out of Allen Fieldhouse following the news conference, about 200 people, mostly students, greeted him with cheers and applause and banners urging him to stay.
One large banner read, "Please don't go." Others said, "We love you Roy."
As he waded into the crowd signing autographs and shaking hands, a little girl handed him a single rose. Taking it from her hand, he picked up the child and hugged her, wiping tears from his eyes as the people cheered.
A few minutes earlier, Williams said all he had agreed to do was to talk about the job with North Carolina officials. He denied any formal offer had even been made.
"There's not a lot else I can tell you," he said.
Kansas athletic director Bob Frederick, who came under heat for hiring an obscure assistant coach 12 years ago, sat at the table next to Williams and sounded optimistic he might persuade him to stay.
"Based on the conversations we had this morning, I think we have a good chance of keeping coach Williams," Frederick said. "I know he's really struggling with this decision."
A protege of Smith, Williams admitted it would be difficult to tell his old boss no.
"But it would be harder telling my players no," he said.
One player, senior forward Kenny Gregory, said earlier that he had dismissed reports Williams had decided to leave.
"If it was a done deal, coach would have enough respect to talk to the players first. He always said he would," said Gregory.
Kansas Chancellor Robert Hemenway said the school was privileged to have Williams.
"Our hope and fervent desire is that the best basketball coach in America will continue to practice his craft at KU," he said Thursday night.
Williams' North Carolina ties have remained strong. Both his son and daughter went to school there. His wife is from North Carolina and her family is still there.
"My family is not 100 percent on what direction I should go," he said.
Williams, who turns 50 on Aug. 1, is 329-82 in 12 seasons at Kansas since leaving Smith's Tar Heel staff. He took the Jayhawks to the Final Four in 1991 and 1993 and led Kansas to a 286-60 record in the '90s, the best of any NCAA Division I school. Before him, no college coach had reached 300 victories before 12 seasons.
Over the past nine years, Williams' teams have claimed seven conference championships.
"This is a day I hoped would never come," Williams said. "I'm very happy here."
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