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Monday, July 3, 2000

Kansans squirm as Williams ponders coaching future

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Another sleepless night in Kansas was followed by another worried, fretful afternoon.
On Day III of the Great Roy Watch, it seemed as though people could hardly talk about anything else.
Would Kansas basketball coach Roy Williams remain loyal to the Jayhawks or follow the tugs of his heart strings back home to North Carolina?
Williams himself was at his vacation home in South Carolina pondering his decision, promising to let everyone know no later than Friday.
"Why does he have to be in the Carolinas on vacation?" wondered one Kansas fan. "Why couldn't he have taken his vacation in Wichita this summer? Don't you think that will give North Carolina a sort of home-court advantage while he makes up his mind?"
In bars and around breakfast tables, on family farms, in high-rise office buildings and at holiday picnics on the lake, conversation was consumed by Roy-talk:
"What do you think Roy's going to do?"
"What do you think he SHOULD do?"
"If Roy called asking for your advice, what would you tell him?"
"I'd say go. North Carolina is home for him and his family. He'd always regret passing up this chance to go back."
"I'd say stay. He's already established himself here. If he goes back to North Carolina, he'll always have the ghost of Dean Smith looking over his shoulder."
The debate over whether evolution should be taught in public schools which some say brought national embarrassment to the state can't touch this one for sheer emotional fervor
Few people love basketball as much as Kansans. After all, the very inventor of the game is buried in Lawrence.
On his daily jogs, Williams sometimes runs past the gravesite of James Naismith.
And any place that loves basketball has got to love a coach who wins more games than anybody else in the decade of the '90s and has always run a spotless program with the kind of players who seem to take seriously the term "student-athlete."
On the question of whether Williams should go, a majority of Kansans were saying no. Despite recent early-round losses in the NCAA tournament, he's one of the most admired men in the state. Politicians will line up to have their picture taken with him.
But will he go? On that one, people are split.
One person who's not is Eric Chenowith, the Jayhawks' senior center who was home in California driving back from a funeral when reports came over the radio Friday morning that had Williams had already committed to the Tar Heels.
After crying at the funeral, Chenowith said, he broke down and cried again. Then he talked to Williams and his assistant coaches.
"I got all the facts straight and I felt better," Chenowith said. "When I first heard it, I was really confused, extremely confused. It's been a tough week already and hearing that, I was breaking down.
"All we can do is sit and wait."
Chenowith is not ready to concede anything to the Tar Heels.
"From the outside, they're saying it's 50-50," he told the Lawrence Journal-World. "My view is it's 90-10 he's coming back."
Kansas fans figured if they did have an ace in the hole, it was Williams' players. Williams has said flatly that as hard as it would be to say no to his old boss and mentor Dean Smith, "it would be harder to say no to my players."
Jayhawk fans were hoping it would prove impossible.
"It's up in the air," said Kansas forward Nick Collison. "Nobody knows what's going to happen. If he comes back and this is all for nothing, it's a big relief."

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