Local News

Doherty Resignation Viewed From Several Perspectives On Day After

Posted April 3, 2003

— The door to the basketball office at the Smith Center was locked Wednesday.

In years past, that might have meant North Carolina was in the Final Four. And if the tournament happened to be in New Orleans, all the better.

The Big Easy was a big, lucky charm for Dean Smith, who won two national championships there - one with a skinny kid named Michael Jordan.

So much has changed.

The best of college basketball is in New Orleans this weekend. But the Tar Heels are still on campus, sorting through a mess that came to a head Tuesday night with the resignation of coach Matt Doherty.

He resigned under pressure, in exchange for a severance package of $337,500, after athletic director Dick Baddour concluded a series of meetings with players and parents. Many of them complained about the coach's intense practices and drastic mood swings.

The Tar Heels also made the NCAA tournament only once during Doherty's three-year tenure.

Suddenly, the cool, calm model of college basketball success, painstakingly built over four decades by Smith and Bill Guthridge, had an image problem along with a need to return to national prominence.

"There probably are aspects that we have to be concerned about," athletic director Dick Baddour said. "If we've lost any luster, I think we can replace it quite easily."

Added chancellor James Moeser: "The foundation of this program goes very deep. It is not a difficult building process to build strength on a strong foundation.

"The regrettable thing about this is it really has divided the supporters of this university," he said. "One of the things we have to do now is rally to the people who love this program and unify that support behind the new head coach."

Doherty, who played for Smith and alongside Jordan, didn't return phone calls Wednesday. The lights were out in his closed office. A few boxes filled with photos sat in the lobby. The school said it might look outside the "Carolina Family" for his successor.

Out on Franklin Street, the main hangout for students, faculty and fans, people had plenty to say.

"There are divorces that take place where truly people are not at fault; they just didn't click," said John Hudson, the co-owner of Carolina Pride, a clothing store filled with North Carolina gear.

"I don't think you need a lot of finger-pointing right now. You may need to review what happened to see if we could have handled this better. But we don't know what it's like to play for him, and we don't know what it's like to have our livelihood depend on 17-to-20-year-olds."

John Montgomery, president of the school's Educational Foundation, which helps fund athletic scholarships, said the group didn't pressure Baddour to replace Doherty.

In fact, he said, donations are on a record-setting pace this year, and he's confident the basketball program will rebound from any negative publicity once a new coach is hired.

"Our brand is very strong, and we all know that," Montgomery said. "This might be a bit of a setback, but it won't have a long-term impact. If you look at our basketball program as an industry, we're a leader, and it's important to stay at the forefront."

Bob McKillop, who coached Doherty in high school in New York and now coaches at Davidson College, wondered if players had too much say in how a program is run.

"Clearly, players are different than they were 10, 15, 20 years ago," McKillop said. "Players are refusing to go into games in the NBA. Players don't show up for practice. The players have set the tone at the highest level of the game, and then it filters down to our game.

"Kids are being taught early that commitment and loyalty are not qualities that will pay material dividends," he said.

Baddour and Moeser, however, insisted player input was needed to evaluate Doherty. They said it would be wrong to characterize what happened as a mutiny or revolt.

Meantime, Kansas coach Roy Williams, who turned down the Tar Heels before Doherty got the job, was upset to find speculation once again focused on him even as his team plays in the Final Four.

"I don't think it's fair," Williams said. "My team, my staff, myself, everybody deserves to have the right to focus on this Final Four week."

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