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Who's next?

Williams' move puts costly domino effect in motion

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Posted: Friday June 30, 2000 03:23 PM

  Kevin Stallings Kansas may look to Vanderbilt coach and former Roy Williams lieutenant Kevin Stallings if Williams leaves for UNC. Otto Greule/Allsport

By Stewart Mandel,

That Roy Williams would one day coach his beloved Tar Heels has been rumored since the day he became a head coach 12 years ago. Still, when the day finally arrived, it hit the college basketball world faster than Kansas' exits in recent NCAA tournaments.

No coaching change takes place methodically or quietly anymore, not when news can be delivered faster than you can type the letters www. Especially when said change involves two of the three most prestigious jobs in college coaching (the other being Kentucky).

The timing of Bill Guthridge's retirement is odd to begin with, considering he'd reiterated his contentment throughout seemingly unbearable criticism last season, then gained redemption when he guided UNC back to the Final Four.

It also could have jeopardized the Tar Heel program, coming only a week before the start of the critical July recruiting period. (Yes, even North Carolina has to recruit).

But what makes this coaching change so unique, and allows UNC to come out damage-free, is the presence of one particularly influential ex-coach: Dean Smith.

Obviously, Guthridge's announcement did not come without first consulting his 30-year mentor. But it also would not be taking place without Smith having made sure his replacement of choice was on board.

Why Williams is the preferred choice is a question onto itself. Having developed a reputation for postseason disappointments, Williams has been to as many Final Fours (two) in 12 seasons as Guthridge has in three.

Still, there's no denying Williams' ability as a coach (reached 300 wins faster than anyone in history) and recruiter, and UNC would be in significantly good hands.

Some other schools might not be in as good a shape.

While it's unlikely Smith went as far as to also make sure his alma mater had a future coach in tow, no program of the stature of KU doesn't have an emergency candidate list on file at all times. And Kansas, too, has a long list of high-profile choices with ties to the program.

It's believed the Jayhawks' first choice will be Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings, a former assistant under Williams. Another former assistant, Matt Doherty, just took Notre Dame to the NIT final in his first season as head coach.

Others with Williams ties: Jerry Green at Tennessee and Steve Robinson at Florida State.

And then there's your standard-issue job candidates, the guys who get mentioned for any opening: Utah's Rick Majerus, Seton Hall's Tommy Amaker and disgruntled Boston Celtic head man Rick Pitino.

Kansas, therefore, should have a painless job transition as well.

It's whoever falls on the other end of the Jayhawks' domino that will be truly hurting.

The problem with having a successful coach these days -- particularly a young, successful coach -- is he's always in demand. Witness what Illinois just endured with Lon Kruger, Miami with Leonard Hamilton, Tulsa with Bill Self.

The difference is, if your guy gets plucked in April, you still have plenty of time to get a new staff in place for recruiting purposes.

But just as basketball hegemonies like UNC and Kansas are always making it tough for the little guys on the court, they're going to make it awfully difficult for someone off it this summer.

To the Utahs and Vanderbilts of this offseason, let the praying begin.

Stewart Mandel is's college sports producer.

Related information
UNC's Guthridge expected to resign Friday
AP: Kansas' Williams to succeed Guthridge at UNC
React: Sound off on Guthridge, Williams
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