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Tuesday, April 15, 2003

It’s still Kansas basketball

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No one is indispensable, and the Jayhawk basketball program will survive the loss of coach Roy Williams.

Kansas University basketball coach Roy Williams has chosen to leave KU and accept a lucrative contract at the University of North Carolina. He built a highly successful program at KU, but apparently his emotional ties to North Carolina, along with pledges and promises by UNC officials, were enough to cause Williams to abandon KU, its current players and those who had signed agreements to become part of the Jayhawk basketball family next fall.

Many were surprised by the manner in which Williams handled the coaching questions and, justified or not, the coach lost some respect along with a certain amount of sheen from his highly polished image. If the ties to North Carolina were so strong, why did he need to drag out announcing his decision for such a long time? Why not come clean with KU officials and basketball fans sooner and say he was planning to accept the UNC offer to succeed Matt Doherty, supposedly one of Williams' close friends?

For months, Williams had told close associates there could be no negotiation or compromise concerning the situation with Athletic Director Al Bohl and that university officials would have to decide which man they wished to retain, Williams or Bohl. Some now will suggest Williams might have stayed in Lawrence if KU officials had acted sooner, but that's highly questionable. Bohl has been fired, but Williams, too, will be leaving.

Now it is important to remember that no one is indispensable.

The KU coaching position is one of the top jobs in the country. The university has enjoyed a proud record over the years, and there is no reason to believe this winning tradition won't continue. Many highly successful coaches will be interested in the KU job, and once the new coach is named, it is important for all fans to give their support and backing to the new staff.

Hopefully, all of those now on the team will be quick to confirm their plans to report for practice next fall along with the high school seniors who have made a commitment to come to KU.

There is bound to be much debate over why Williams left, what might have been done differently to keep him as the Jayhawk coach and many other facets of the story. It's all history now, and the No. 1 job facing the KU athletic family is to select a first-class coach and a first-class individual to take over the basketball reins in Allen Fieldhouse.

Some will wish Williams much success. Others will say they are tired of hearing about North Carolina for all these years and are eager to do what they can to help ensure KU will continue its nationally recognized basketball program. It was a winner before Williams arrived and it is sure to be a winner under the new coach.

It is essential that KU officials move quickly to name a new coach rather than string the selection process out, creating more questions in the minds of current players as well as those who have committed to KU for next year.

Rock Chalk, Jayhawk.

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