Sunday, July 16, 2000


Jayhawks breathing big sigh of relief


As college basketball coaching dominoes continue to fall, Kansas University athletics director Bob Frederick and chancellor Robert Hemenway must still be knocking on wood.

If Roy Williams had opted to go to North Carolina, Frederick and Hemenway would have faced the dreadful prospect of hiring a replacement.

Dreadful? Yes.

On paper, the leading candidate would have been Notre Dame's Matt Doherty, the man who eventually was hired to fill the North Carolina vacancy after Williams turned it down.

Still, you have to wonder if Frederick would have faced a North Carolina backlash if he had hired Doherty. Let's face it, UNC would have ranked right up there with Missouri and Kansas State in the eyes of KU fans if Williams had bolted, and Frederick might have been hard-pressed to hire Doherty, another Carolina guy.

Why hire Doherty, the thinking might have been, if KU was just grooming him to replace Williams at North Carolina the way KU groomed Williams to step in for Dean Smith after the three-year Bill Guthridge buffer period?

Or as one KU fan told me during the week that Williams agonized over whether to go or stay: "I'm tired of Kansas being Dean Smith's puppet."

It's true Smith, a member of Kansas' 1952 NCAA championship team, was the major force in the hiring of the last two Kansas coaches. Smith touted Larry Brown back in 1983 and he trumpeted Williams in 1988.

If Williams had rejoined the Tar Heels this summer, would Kansas fans have been able to stomach a third straight coach with North Carolina ties?

That's a question Frederick and Hemenway would have had to answer, and one reason both men were so happy 10 days ago when Williams announced he had resisted the siren call of his alma mater.

If not Doherty, then who? Forget NBA coaches. They make too much money. In fact, it was a joke when Brown's name came up for Carolina consideration last week.

You're darned right Brown withdrew his name. You think any coach in his right mind is going to take a $4 million annual pay cut to return to his alma mater? Brown earns $6 million a year from the Philadelphia 76ers. The Carolina job is worth, at the most, $2 million.

Same with Rick Pitino except Pitino earns $6.5 million a year from the Boston Celtics. It seems like every time a major college job opens, Pitino's name surfaces. Forget it. He's making too much money in the NBA.

If Frederick and Hemenway feared they could not hire another coach with a North Carolina background, then who would they pursue?

Scuttlebutt certainly would have thrown Kevin Stallings into the mix. A former KU aide under Williams, Stallings ventured forth to Illinois State and then to Vanderbilt, proving at both stops he was ready for prime time.

Perhaps the only disclaimer about Stallings would have been the presence of Brad Frederick on his staff. Frederick, second oldest son of the KU athletics director, was hired last year right out of college as Stallings' director of basketball operations.

Would Stallings be accused of hiring young Frederick in order to curry favor with the Kansas AD if Williams happened to depart? At the same time, would Bob Frederick be accused of hiring Stallings because his son was a Vanderbilt staffer?

Moreover, if Frederick did hire Stallings, would he have had to stipulate that son Brad couldn't come along because of the nepotism factor, as nebulous as it would have been?

Finally, if Frederick and Hemenway felt they couldn't offer the job to Doherty because of North Carolina hard feelings on Mount Oread, or to Stallings because of young Frederick, then where would they have turned?

Lots of questions. Fortunately, none had to be answered. Thanks to Williams' willingness to let grass grow under his feet, Frederick and Hemenway are basking in a summ

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