Local News

Doherty Admits To Major Mistakes As UNC Coach, Dating Back To First Day On Job

Posted April 6, 2003

— Matt Doherty wanted to leave his mark on North Carolina basketball. This is not what he intended.

Doherty said Sunday that he made major mistakes by changing everything from assistant coaches, to office computer equipment, to the lobby entrance when he took over the storied program three years ago.

In the end, those changes contributed to Doherty losing his job, as several factions - including some of his players - turned on him in the final moments before his resignation Tuesday.

"It's a very political job, and that I was naive toward," Doherty said in a 30-minute telephone interview with The Associated Press, "not that it was political - but to the degree that it was.

"In a way, that's a compliment to Coach (Dean) Smith and Coach (Bill) Guthridge because they've built this place up to be the best program in the country. But I feel I led my staff into a very difficult position that I foolishly underestimated."

Michael Jordan's former teammate at UNC got off to a rough start when he was hired in July 2000, disappointing Smith and Guthridge by replacing the coaching staff with his assistants from Notre Dame.

Included in the ouster was longtime Smith favorite Phil Ford.

"I did say up front: `Is it OK if I bring my staff with me?'" Doherty said. "I was told yes, but it really wasn't OK.

"That was the decision of the administration. In retrospect, that set a tone of drastic change in the Carolina basketball program that really politically hurt me and my staff."

While Smith helped Doherty with recruiting and was available to talk strategy before and after games, it was clear damage was done when Doherty brought Doug Wojcik, Fred Quartlebaum, Bob MacKinnon and David Cason to Chapel Hill.

"Coach Doherty showed a great deal of loyalty to his staff, and that should be commended," said Steve Kirschner, UNC's director of communications. "But looking back, we all understand the difficult position it put everybody in from Day One.

"You had former players who were disappointed. You had players on Matt's first team that were disappointed. Then you had the four staff members who always had to overcome that. It was a barrier."

Doherty knows now he moved too quickly to try to put his stamp on the prestigious program, saying some of his changes were a "shock to the system."

"People don't like change, and I understand that - better now than ever," he said. "I always compare this basketball job to the Notre Dame football job. The difference here is there was a staff in place, a regime in place for 30-something years. At Notre Dame, there was no coach that lasted longer than 10 years."

Doherty did have one ally who was loyal to the end -- Ford, who apparently called athletic director Dick Baddour hours before Doherty stepped down to see if Doherty could salvage his job.

Doherty has also heard twice from Kansas coach Roy Williams. Williams has his Jayhawks in the national title game Monday night but has had to fend off questions about a possible return to coach the Tar Heels.

"I told him I'm sorry this happened at this time, and I didn't know why they couldn't have waited a week," Doherty said. `And I told him no matter what he decides, I'm behind him 100 percent."

So what's next for Doherty?

He hasn't ruled out getting back into coaching soon. He also may try broadcasting.

"It's all fit for me," Doherty said when asked about future jobs. "There are places that are at a major level that are great jobs, and there are jobs you can turn into great jobs. That could be exciting, too.

"Look at Ben Howland. He turned Pitt into a great job. The timing was right. That was what happened at Notre Dame. Where is there kind of a sleeping giant? That would be a pretty neat opportunity."

Doherty said he would even return to coaching as an assistant.

"I would love an opportunity to work for an established head coach," he said. "I've learned in the Carolina system. I've been in that system for a long time now, and I think it would pretty neat to learn another system and then maybe take the best of both. Maybe I could add something to someone else's staff."

Kirschner said Baddour would give Doherty a recommendation if another athletic director called.

"Mr. Baddour would say positive things about Matt," Kirschner said. "But that doesn't change the fact that a change was needed here. Mr. Baddour believes Matt will coach again and be successful."

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