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Williams to N.C. Rumored Again

March 29, 2003|Robyn Norwood | Times Staff Writer

A meeting between North Carolina players and Athletic Director Dick Baddour this week has speculation soaring about Coach Matt Doherty's job, raising questions once again about whether Kansas Coach Roy Williams might return to his alma mater.

Williams turned down the job in 2000 to remain at Kansas, disappointing mentor Dean Smith as well as fans in his home state. Though he expressed support Friday for Doherty--a North Carolina player when Williams was an assistant there and later an assistant coach under Williams at Kansas--he never explicitly said he will not leave Kansas, where he has a strained relationship with Athletic Director Al Bohl.

"In my mind, I've already had that crossroad," Williams said, referring to his decision not to leave Kansas for North Carolina.

"That was three years ago. It was an extremely difficult decision for me. It was probably the worst seven days of my life. I felt like I couldn't make a perfect decision because I was going to disappoint people regardless of what I did. I had [seniors Kirk Hinrich and Nick Collison] as freshmen, and I wanted to coach them."

Doherty's performance is still being evaluated after the Tar Heels missed the NCAA tournament for the second consecutive season. They lost in the quarterfinals of the NIT to Georgetown on Wednesday, finishing a 19-16 season.

Although North Carolina had a strong freshman class led by Raymond Felton, Rashad McCants and Sean May, speculation is Doherty will not survive if players displeased with his coaching methods decide to transfer.

Williams said he talked with Doherty on Monday.

"We talked about Duke, and we talked about Wyoming because they were getting ready to play Wyoming [in the NIT]," Williams said. "We didn't talk about any of the problems. We have had some frank discussions over the past couple of years about the problems they've had."

Williams said he would be disappointed if Doherty is fired.

"You know, I would be," he said. "This is a guy I helped recruit, a guy I helped coach, a guy I hired and worked for me for seven years.'

Asked further about the situation at North Carolina, Williams said, "You guys may think I call back there every day and try to find out what they had for breakfast, but I don't do that. I'm pretty busy, and I don't know what the criticism is.

"I've heard a couple of things in the last 24 hours, [but] I'm not focusing on that to say the least. I'm the Kansas coach and that's where I want to be. I try to never respond to rumors."

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