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Domino Effect
Tim Crothers
September 04, 2000
Bill Guthridge's resignation as North Carolina's coach set off a chain reaction that changed the lives of scores of people in the game
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September 04, 2000

Domino Effect

Bill Guthridge's resignation as North Carolina's coach set off a chain reaction that changed the lives of scores of people in the game

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Humphrey has kept his promise, though the coaching change hasn't been easy for him to accept. "Sure, it hurt," says Humphrey, who has known Doherty since his sophomore year of high school, when Doherty began recruiting him for Kansas. "He was the reason I came to Notre Dame. His leaving was on the same level as your girlfriend breaking up with you after you've been going together for a while. You'll be sitting in class and just start thinking, Man...."

Almost immediately after Doherty announced he was leaving, there was speculation about Humphrey's future: He's transferring back to Oklahoma. He's following Doherty to Carolina. Eventually Humphrey felt compelled to go on a South Bend TV news show and say he was staying. He likes Notre Dame, nearly as much as he likes new coach Mike Brey.

On July 14, the day he took over, Brey met with all of the Irish players who had remained on campus for the summer. Brey cracked a few jokes, trying to break the palpable tension, and before long he was asking about the players' preferences for conditioning drills. Humphrey looked at his teammates. They were nodding approvingly. A few days later, when Brey returned from a recruiting trip, he called the players together and said, "I don't know anybody here. Is it all right if I hang with you guys?" That night Brey, All-America forward Troy Murphy and some teammates spent three hours trading tales at Bruno's, a pizza joint.

Still, Humphrey does have a few concerns. "Everyone's nervous because practice starts in a couple of months, and you don't know where all the shots are coming from in the offense," he says. "You don't know what the practice style is going to be. He's going to bring in different stuff than Coach Doherty, but the good thing is, we're a veteran team. We'll pick up everything more quickly. Hopefully I can have an even better relationship with Coach Brey than I had with Coach Doherty."

On the night of July 24, Humphrey returned to his dorm room and saw the light blinking twice on his answering machine. The first message was from Brey, who wished him a happy 20th birthday. "If he's doing that," Humphrey says, "it's only right that I should try and make him feel comfortable." The second message was another birthday greeting—from Doherty, calling from North Carolina. As he went to sleep that night, Humphrey thought back to their final exchange in Doherty's office, to the bear hug his coach had given him, and then he gave thanks for his friends.

The Assistant

Pat Sullivan's apartment contains enough powder-blue paraphernalia to decorate the all-male wing of a large children's nursery. Among other things, there's a game ball 3 signed by his 1993 national champion " teammates at North Carolina, a framed pair 3 of '93 Final Four tickets bearing the scrawl of Dean Smith, and an assortment of photographs from his participation in five Final Fours—three as a player and two as an assistant coach—with the Tar Heels. "Everything's Carolina," says Sullivan, 28, surveying the scene. "I treasure all that stuff."

In fact, about the only thing that isn't Carolina is Sullivan himself. Four months after helping guide the Tar Heels to another Final Four, he's unemployed, a man without a school.

It's the crudest of ironies. Loyalty—a virtue instilled at North Carolina—was the reason that Roy Williams turned down the Tar Heels' offer and remained at Kansas, just as it was the rationale Matt Doherty cited for bringing his assistants from Notre Dame to Chapel Hill. Another man's loyalty, in effect, claimed the jobs of Guthridge's most loyal assistants: Sullivan, Phil Ford, 44, and Dave Hanners, 46, all former Carolina players. "I'm not bitter," Sullivan says. "There's nobody really to be bitter toward. It's just that nobody thought about what was going to happen after Coach Guthridge was gone."

Least of all Sullivan. When Guthridge resigned, Sullivan hardly stopped to consider his own fate. "I was happy that Coach did what was best for him," he says, "but then I went to the beach that weekend and came back and thought, I wonder what's going to happen to me and the other assistants?"

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