Williams, Tar Heels keep talks open


Friday, April 11th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6



CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) _ Roy Williams and North Carolina will talk through the weekend about his interest in returning to the program where he learned to coach under Dean Smith.

Tar Heels athletic director Dick Baddour said Thursday the Kansas coach wasn't yet ready to make a decision after two days of discussions.

``Coach Williams and I feel the timing is too near the end of the Final Four and there is too much going on in Lawrence at this time for us to conclude our talks,'' Baddour said.

Kansas lost to Syracuse 81-78 in the championship game Monday night.

It was unclear whether Williams was leaning toward staying with the Jayhawks or returning to North Carolina, where he was an assistant under Smith for a decade.

Williams, who spoke with reporters briefly outside Allen Fieldhouse on Thursday, said he won't again speak with North Carolina officials until Sunday.

``How can I be torn if they haven't offered me the job yet?'' Williams said with a smile.

``There are so many other things going on right now,'' he said. ``And again, it's less than 72 hours away from the national championship game, so why would I be in a hurry to run off somewhere?''

The Tar Heels are looking for a replacement for Matt Doherty, who resigned April 1 with three years left on his contract.

``I have had several very good conversations with Roy Williams over the last two days,'' Baddour said. ``Those talks will continue through the weekend.''

Baddour said Williams had not been offered the job and the school would pursue other candidates in the next few days.

On Wednesday, Kansas chancellor Robert Hemenway fired athletic director Al Bohl, whose relationship with Williams had been strained since Bohl was hired two years ago.

Bohl said Williams orchestrated his dismissal, but Hemenway denied he fired Bohl to persuade Williams to stay at Kansas. Hemenway added that Williams never indicated to him that he wanted Bohl fired.

Interim athletic director Drue Jennings met with Williams for 30 minutes Thursday to reiterate how much Kansas wants him to remain in Lawrence.

``I don't want to pressure him, but I don't want him to think he is unloved either,'' Jennings said.

Jennings said Williams expressed his regard for Kansas during the meeting.

``He absolutely loves this school. This is his program. He didn't build the tradition at Kansas, but he sure as heck has embellished it,'' Jennings said.

``He loves the kids. Loves his players. He's no less endeared to them than he was three years ago when he had this same issue. It truly tugs at him.''

Williams plans to leave Friday night for the Wooden Awards ceremony and festivities in Los Angeles, said Kansas sports information director Mitch Germann.

Williams, 52, turned down the Tar Heels in 2000 when Bill Guthridge retired, saying he couldn't leave his players or the program he built into a national power.

He has won 418 games and been to four Final Fours in his 15 seasons there, but he has never won the national title.

Sophomore Keith Langford, one of Kansas' top returning players, said he would consider transferring if Williams decides to leave.

``I just want to play basketball and hopefully to continue to play for coach Williams,'' Langford said. ``I can't see myself playing for anybody else at this school.''

Once Williams balked in 2000 after a week wait, Baddour settled on the inexperienced Doherty. That proved to be a mistake.

Doherty went 53-43, missed the NCAA tournament two years in a row and alienated some of his players and UNC athletic department staff before being ousted last week.

North Carolina players Will Johnson, Raymond Felton and Sean May were handed the news release about Williams as they headed to the basement of the Smith Center to lift weights.

``Hopefully, Dick Baddour can hire somebody for us and make the right decision for us,'' forward David Noel said. ``This is setting us behind a little bit. Without a coach we don't have any chemistry. It's hard to come together.''