Roy Williams To Coach Tar Heels

Friday, June 30th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

Kansas coach Roy Williams, a former North Carolina assistant under Dean Smith, will succeed Bill Guthridge as coach of the Tar Heels, The Associated Press learned Friday.

And Phil Ford, a star on Smith's 1974-78 teams, will move from assistant coach to another job in the athletic department, a source close to the university said on condition of anonymity.

Guthridge was set to resign Friday after spending three years as coach following the retirement of Smith, the winningest coach in college basketball history.

Guthridge led the Tar Heels to two Final Four appearances in three seasons. But a source close to the basketball program, requesting anonymity, said Guthridge recently decided he did not have the energy to continue.

Guthridge reportedly is most likely to stay in the athletic department in an undetermined role until his contract expires in two years.

Williams talked Thursday night with Kansas athletic director Bob Frederick. Frederick emphasized to Williams ``how strongly the university, the community, the people in the state of Kansas and all of our alumni and fans feel about him continuing as the Jayhawk coach forever.''

Frederick did not discuss how the coach responded. Kansas chancellor Robert Hemenway said the school was privileged to have Williams.

``Our hope and fervent desire is that the best basketball coach in America will continue to practice his craft at KU,'' he said Thursday night.

Calls to Guthridge's home Thursday night were met with busy signals. North Carolina athletic director Dick Baddour did not return a call seeking comment.

Guthridge, 62, said just a few weeks ago he planned to stay another five or six years despite the battering he took from fans and alumni after the team's worst regular-season record in decades.

``Am I surprised? That's probably not strong enough. I'm absolutely taken aback,'' Wake Forest coach Dave Odom said of Guthridge's decision.

The coaching staff alerted freshman recruits that Guthridge would be leaving. Neil Fingleton, a 7-foot-6 center from Worcester, Mass., told The News & Observer of Raleigh: ``It's a shock to me and all the guys down there'' in Chapel Hill.

Guthridge made the decision within the two days before word leaked Thursday, the Winston-Salem Journal reported, citing an unidentified source.

Guthridge was Smith's assistant for 31 seasons before taking over in 1997 after Smith racked up 879 career wins.

Guthridge directed North Carolina to the Final Four in his first season before losing to Utah and set NCAA records for most wins by a first-year head coach with 34, and for wins in his first two years with 58. The Tar Heels returned to the Final Four this season, losing to Florida.

It was the 14th time Guthridge participated in a Final Four. He competed in one as a player at Kansas State in 1958, was an assistant coach at 11 and was Tar Heels coach at two more.

Guthridge was criticized last season by alumni and fans for losing five games at home — the most since World War II — and for a record that dropped to 18-13 after a first-round defeat in the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament.

The death of Guthridge's mother, Betty, 96, two days before the Tar Heels played Tennessee at Knoxville in the NCAA South Regional semifinals also contributed to a difficult season.

The complaints turned to praise after the team's unlikely Final Four appearance.

``The guys worked hard and didn't lose confidence,'' Guthridge said after the season. ``I really liked the attitude of the team, the way they worked hard and how they were rewarded finally. It didn't bother me that I was a `lousy' coach, and when we started winning I was a `better' coach. I was just happy that the team had success. I enjoyed my 30 years as an assistant coach, and I've enjoyed my three years as a head coach.''

Heading into what would have been the fourth year of a five-year contract, Guthridge compiled an 80-28 record, but had not received an extension.

Baddour has refused to comment directly on Guthridge's contract, saying the school's board of trustees discouraged him from talking publicly about personnel issues. Baddour had said he was proud of the job Guthridge did.

Smith wrote in his memoir, ``A Coach's Life,'' that before he retired in 1997, he told recruits: ``If I'm not coaching, I am confident that your coach will be either Bill Guthridge, Eddie Fogler, Roy Williams, Larry Brown, George Karl or Phil Ford, not necessarily in that order. It has to be one of those.''

Now, three years later, Williams is set to follow Guthridge.