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Does anyone want to coach Tar Heels?

Brown, Karl say ‘no thanks’ to their alma mater

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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — North Carolina remains determined to pick one of its own to be the basketball coach.

Former Tar Heels Matt Doherty, Jeff Lebo and Randy Wiel appear to be at the top of the list for the Tar Heels coaching job to replace Bill Guthridge. George Karl and Larry Brown, also former North Carolina players, turned down their alma mater Monday.

Wiel, 49, a reserve guard in 1976-79, is the only remaining candidate who coached as an assistant under Dean Smith. The Middle Tennessee coach also roomed with current assistant coach Phil Ford while both played for Smith.

Wiel returned early from his coaching clinic in Spain to interview Tuesday in Chapel Hill.

"I'm not sure (UNC) will let him leave after he gets there," MTSU athletic director Lee Fowler said.

Wiel made the trip after a phone call late Sunday from North Carolina athletics director Dick Baddour.

"They wanted me to fly straight to Chapel Hill, so I don't even have a suit for the interview," Wiel told The Charlotte Observer on Monday night from Dulles Airport in Washington, where he awaited his connecting flight to Raleigh-Durham Airport.

In Wiel's five seasons at MTSU, five schools have inquired about him, Fowler said.

"He's loyal, like coach Smith," Fowler said. "Not a day or two goes by without Randy talking to coach Smith. He talks with (Roy) Williams, (Eddie) Fogler and Guthridge every week, too.

"Those guys are the inner, inner circle of that family, and Randy is one of them. That's why I think Randy may have a chance to get this job."

Doherty, who played on the 1982 national championship team and now is coach at Notre Dame, met Sunday in Chapel Hill with Baddour, Smith and Guthridge. Doherty said meetings with North Carolina athletic officials went well, but he hasn't been offered the job, nor was he given a timetable on the search.

Contacted at home Monday night, Doherty's wife, Kelly, said her husband was still in Indianapolis scouting prospects at the Nike basketball camp. Kelly Doherty is a native of Concord, N.C.

"All I can really say is that he's on the road," she told the Fayetteville Observer. "He's not scheduled to be back until the 20th. That's all I can say right now."

Baddour was granted permission to contact Lebo, coach at Tennessee Tech. But Lebo said Monday he hadn't been called by anyone from the school.

"I don't know anything right now," Lebo said. "They haven't called me. I know they called for permission, but I don't know what it means."

Lebo, who has a 28-27 record in two seasons at Tennessee Tech, was an All-ACC point guard at North Carolina.

North Carolina officials remain determined to keep the coaching job in the school's basketball family. The 1999 basketball media guide listed 26 NBA and college coaches who were either former Tar Heels players or coaches.

Kansas coach Roy Williams announced Thursday he decided against returning to his alma mater a week after Guthridge announced his retirement.

South Carolina coach Eddie Fogler, an assistant with Williams and Guthridge under Dean Smith, then withdrew his name from consideration. Karl, the Milwaukee Bucks coach, and Brown, the Philadelphia 76ers coach, said Monday they did not want to be considered for the job. Both played under Smith.

Karl and Brown both said the timing of the vacancy was not good for them.

Karl said he was flattered to be approached.

"Right now, however, I also have a loyalty to an organization that has treated me very well, an owner who has shown a great deal of faith in me and a team that's on the verge of something special," he said.

The Bucks went seven seasons without a playoff appearance before Karl led them to two consecutive postseason berths.

Brown announced his decision after meeting with North Carolina officials over the weekend.

Guthridge is acting as the interim coach until his replacement is found.