North Carolina coach resigns after just three seasonsPosted: Tuesday April 01, 2003 5:15 PM
Updated: Tuesday April 01, 2003 11:18 PM
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) -- Three years ago it seemed so right. North Carolina hired a young coach who had played college ball for Dean Smith and alongside Michael Jordan.
It all ended so badly for Matt Doherty and the Tar Heels on Tuesday.
Doherty resigned after a bumpy run marked by feuds with players and his failure to lead North Carolina back to national prominence.
"You have to have an environment where you can be successful, and I can understand why Matt would feel that the rumors and speculation were making it very difficult," athletic director Dick Baddour said. "I admire Matt for valuing the traditions of this program and the needs of this program over his own. That takes a lot of courage."
The team's failure to make the NCAA tournament in two of his three seasons was secondary to Doherty's leadership deficiencies, and his inability to get along with players and UNC athletic department staff.
"We want coaches who are tough and who have high demands, but whose toughness is coupled with love," chancellor James Moeser said. "That's what we're looking for from our athletic leaders."
Baddour and Moeser said they had been monitoring Doherty's activity for some time.
"We want good athletes and we want to win, but on this campus coaches are also responsible for creating an environment for learning, for character development and building a team of good leaders and good citizens. That's the Carolina standard," Moeser said.
Doherty leaves with three years left on a six-year contract that paid him $855,000 a season. He will receive $337,500 from the school, which will include $150,000 from the upcoming basketball camp, Baddour said.
"Our responsibility has been immense, given the outstanding tradition of the University of North Carolina," Doherty said in a statement. "I have always recognized and taken very seriously the responsibility entrusted to us as a coaching staff. That responsibility extends to our players and fans and ultimately to the tradition I have personally been a part of since 1980. I continue to wish the best for this program and this university."
Doherty's resignation came after Baddour held a series of meetings with players and parents, some of whom complained about the coach's intense practices and drastic mood swings. Three players transferred last season and others talked about it this year.
But Baddour said Doherty's resignation wasn't solely based on those meetings.
"It would be extremely unfair to those players, and it would be an unqualified mistake to say the resignation was a result of only their concerns and questions," Baddour said.
The 41-year-old Doherty was a fixture for the Tar Heels long before he took over the program, having played with Jordan in the early 1980s.
He left his job coaching Notre Dame and returned to North Carolina to succeed Bill Guthridge, and for the first season, things were fine. The Tar Heels went 26-7, but they slipped to 8-20 last season -- the worst record in the program's history.
This year, his young team finished 19-16.
Baddour picked the inexperienced Doherty after Roy Williams -- a former assistant to Smith -- turned down UNC to remain at Kansas. It's unclear whether Williams, whose team is in the Final Four, will be a candidate again.
"This is a very exciting, very satisfying time for me, my players and Kansas basketball," said Williams, who hired Doherty as an assistant at Kansas. "I'm just planning to enjoy the hell out of this week. I'm not letting anybody bother me with any junk that doesn't have to do with Kansas basketball, great places to eat and rivers to spit in."
Baddour said he had no specific timetable for hiring a replacement.
"It will be a national search," he said. "It will be open. It will not be limited to members of the Carolina family."
There was tension from the start of Doherty's tenure, especially when he didn't retain Phil Ford, Dave Hanners and Pat Sullivan as assistant coaches. Instead, he brought in his own staff from his only season at Notre Dame.
That move disappointed Smith, Guthridge and others at North Carolina.
In 2001, when Doherty was The Associated Press coach of the year, the team won 18 games in a row and was ranked No. 1 nationally. But even that team fizzled down the stretch, going 4-5 over its final nine games, including a second-round loss to Penn State in the NCAA tournament.
Off-court problems surfaced when star sophomore Joseph Forte decided to turn pro, citing his inability to get along with Doherty as one of the reasons for leaving.
But sophomore Jawad Williams defended Doherty and his methods.
"Any coach across America has an anger problem. You have to, dealing with guys coming into such a high-profile program," he said.
Then came the disastrous 2001-02 season.
The team lacked the overall talent of past North Carolina clubs because of the recruiting gap that stretched from the end of the Guthridge era to the start of Doherty's tenure. Still, many believed the Tar Heels should have been better. What seemed to make things worse was that, unlike Smith, Doherty criticized his players in public.
Three transferred -- Adam Boone, Brian Morrison and Neil Fingleton -- and some among Doherty's initial recruiting class also contemplated leaving.
Doherty was able to smooth things over, and this season he brought in a top recruiting class that included Raymond Felton, Sean May and Rashad McCants. The team started 5-0 and was ranked in the top 25.
May broke his foot in late December, and the Tar Heels began to struggle. But they managed to get it together late in the year, beating Duke in the regular-season finale and Maryland in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament before going three rounds into the NIT.
After the team's final game last Wednesday night, a 79-74 loss to Georgetown in the NIT quarterfinals, most of the Tar Heels said they would return, and they supported their coach. The next day, Baddour met with them as a group and then individually.
Now players, like Williams, just wanted to stay out of the fray.
"I'm staying away from all this madness," he said. "It's a
tough situation, but something I have to deal with. A lot of
players face this. It's not like I wanted him to leave, but it's
something I have to deal with."