- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 13, 2000

We must be approaching full employment if coaches are turning down the North Carolina basketball job. Alan Greenspan will be pleased, even if UNC athletic director Dick Baddour isn't.

First Roy Williams said, "Thanks, but no thanks," to the Tar Heels, and then Larry Brown decided that, like W.C. Fields, he would rather be in Philadelphia. In the end, kingly Carolina was left with Matt Doherty, whose head-coaching resume consists of a single 22-15, NIT-runner-up season with Notre Dame. Heaven knows who Baddour would have turned to if Doherty had opted to stay put. If he was indeed determined to stay "in the family," he might have delved as deep into his Rolodex as Serge Zwikker.

Brown's change of heart is particularly interesting. After all, last season he was quoted as saying, "If Dean Smith and only Dean Smith ever called me, I'd have a very difficult time turning down anything he asked me to do. I'm a Carolina guy… . But I hope I'm never put in that position."

Well, his alma mater called and Brown, who has given North American Van Lines a lot of business over the years, amazingly chose to stay with the 76ers. Why? Because he wants to fulfill his dream of winning the NBA championship or some such nonsense.

Coaches seem to be doing a lot of that these days rejecting job offers, that is. Why, right here in the District, Mike Jarvis broke off negotiations with the Wizards not long ago because the contract wasn't to his liking. Since when is coaching the St. John's Red Storm preferable to coaching a professional basketball team in the nation's capital?

Since now, apparently. Coaches seem to have come to the conclusion that, hey, you can become rich and famous in plenty of places, not just in the NBA or at a high-profile school like North Carolina. And they're probably right. Look at what Lute Olson has wrought at Arizona. Or what Jerry Tarkanian accomplished at UNLV. If you can build a top-flight basketball program in the middle of the desert, you can build one anywhere.

Jobs like the one at North Carolina are still attractive, sure, but they aren't as drop-dead gorgeous as they used to be. With the advent of cable television, a coach can get as much airtime at Kansas as he can at Carolina (provided his team wins, of course). He can make about the same money, too thanks to sneaker contracts, radio and TV shows and so forth. And at KU there won't be the scent of Dean Smith's cologne wafting through the arena.

This isn't just happening in basketball, by the way; it's happening in football, too. Perhaps you remember Terry Donahue respectfully declining the invitation to coach the Dallas Cowboys a few years back. Just think: The Cowboys America's Team wanted him, but Donahue, dissatisfied with Jerry Jones' terms, took his playbook and went home. It's a whole new world out there, folks. Coaches aren't as dazzled by the prestige jobs as they once were.

The North Carolina coach hunt is just the latest example of this. It really hits home when you compare the coaches in the '60s at various big-name schools to the guys coaching there today. Consider:

Notre Dame football Then: Ara Parseghian. Now: Bob Davie.

Alabama football Then: Bear Bryant. Now: Mike Dubose.

USC football Then: John McKay. Now: Paul Hackett.

UCLA basketball Then: John Wooden. Now: Steve Lavin.

Kentucky basketball Then: Adolph Rupp. Now: Tubby Smith.

North Carolina basketball Then: Dean Smith. Now: Matt Doherty.

Davie, Dubose, Hackett, Lavin aren't we lacking a little, uh, gravitas there? Compared to Parseghian, Bryant, McKay and Wooden, they're practically ballboys. And now there's Doherty, a relatively unknown quantity at 38, who could turn out to be another Dean or another Jeff Jones. (Just wondering: If Matt has a certain amount of success at Chapel Hill, maybe Michael Jordan, his former teammate, will coerce him to coach the Wizards.)

About the only prestige programs that still measure up to their '60s grandeur, coach-wise, are Duke basketball (Vic Bubas then, Mike Krzyzewski now) and Penn State football (Joe Paterno/ Joe Paterno). And there's no telling what will happen to the Nittany Lions after Paterno steps down. Yeah, the state is a football factory, but so is Texas, and look at the struggles the Longhorns have had since Darrell Royal's day.

Contrary to what we like to believe, coaching basketball at North Carolina isn't necessarily the end of the rainbow. The expectations are high, the ghosts ever-present, and credit, I suspect, will be hard to come by in the post-Smith era. If you win, well, you were supposed to win. Dean set it up that way.

Some coaches want more than that. Some coaches want to be more than just caretakers. Some coaches want to build something of their own. And a good thing, too. Otherwise, programs like Carolina might never lose.

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