Tuesday, July 4, 2000

McGrath holding down fort at KU


C.B. McGrath has been mighty popular and more than a little lonely the past couple of days.

McGrath, a Topeka native and former Kansas University basketball player, was the only KU basketball official in town Monday.


Even though Dean Smiths name is on the building (Dean E. Smith Center), Roy and Wanda Williams have their name engraved in the Smith Center on a board listing donors to the Educational Fund, Inc., the Tar Heels equivalent of KUs Williams Fund. The KU coach is pondering a move to become the UNC coach.

An administrative assistant for coach Roy Williams last season, McGrath and full-time assistant coach Ben Miller both were in town Friday, but Miller hit the road over the weekend like the rest of the KU aides eager to get in a quick vacation before the start of the summer recruiting period.

"We just finished two weeks of basketball camp, and all the coaches had little vacations planned," McGrath said. "That's very typical. I wouldn't be here, but I had class today. I was disappointed class started on Monday, because I wouldn't be in the office today."

It has been a strange and sometimes hectic couple of days.

On Thursday night, Bill Guthridge announced he was retiring as North Carolina's men's basketball coach, and Williams quickly held a staff meeting to say Guthridge was stepping down and that Williams' name would come up as a possible successor.

"He knew all the coaches were leaving," McGrath said. "He didn't want them on the road hearing who-knows-what was going to happen."

What happened Friday was that an Associated Press report said Williams already had been chosen as Guthridge's replacement, a report Williams denied at a Friday evening press conference. He then promised to decide whether to return to KU or head to UNC, his alma mater, by Friday.

"He told us coach Guthridge was going to have a press conference," McGrath said. "Besides that, we didn't know anything more than anybody else. But we knew he hadn't accepted the job. There's no way coach Williams would have done that without telling his players and staff first."

Now about McGrath's sudden popularity

As a former player and current administrative assistant, McGrath has a certain celebrity about him. He finds himself stopped time and again, asked whether Williams will settle on the Jayhawks or the Tar Heels.

"Everybody asks me, and I tell 'em, 'I know as much as you do,'" McGrath said. "He's just thinking about it. There's not much more to say than he's thinking about it. That's all I know. What's my gut feeling? I really don't have one. But I think the longer he thinks about it, the better Kansas' chances are. But I really don't know. I never sat down and asked him questions like the types of things I need to know to get a good feel for what he's thinking. But I'm glad he's in Charleston (S.C.) so he'll have some time to himself.

"I just hope he makes the decision that's best for him and doesn't worry about anybody else. Whatever makes him happy is fine with me."

McGrath doesn't know the logistics of Williams' next move. He promised to tell his current players his decision first, but most are out of town, either at home or on vacation for the holiday weekend.

"I'm sure he'll probably call them, but I have no idea what he's going to do," McGrath said. "I know coach Williams said he'd tell all his players first. Is he calling them? Flying them in? I don't know. But they'll know as soon as his mind is made up."

Williams put McGrath and Miller, the only two basketball officials in town Friday, in charge of reaching the players to discount Friday's AP report.

Since then, phone traffic has dropped dramatically around the KU basketball office. On Monday, for instance, there were just three people in McGrath, a secretary and Pat Warren, an assistant athletics director who was printing the 1,250 or so e-mails sent to Williams and the basketball office urging Williams to stay.

"It's been awfully quiet," McGrath said. "The phone rang quite a bit on Friday. It was crazy. But I think since the press conference, everybody's calmed down quite a bit, and/or realized coach just needs a little time. People thought it was a done deal. Now they know he just needs some time to decide."

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