Doherty resigns as North Carolina coach

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 2, 2003

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. - Matt Doherty resigned Tuesday as basketball coach at North Carolina, ending a bumpy three-year run marked by his failure to lead a storied program back to national prominence or even the NCAA tournament.

The Tar Heels failed to make the tournament in two of his three seasons. He leaves with three years left on a six-year contract that paid him $855,000 a season.

Doherty's resignation came after athletic director Dick 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.

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But sophomore Jawad Williams defended his coach and his methods.

''Any coach across America has an anger problem. You have to, dealing with guys coming into such a high-profile program,'' Williams said.

The 41-year-old Doherty was a Tar Heel fixture long before he took over the program, having played with Michael Jordan in the early 1980s.

He left Notre Dame and returned to North Carolina to succeed Bill Guthridge, and for the first season, things were fine. North Carolina went 26-7, but it 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 Hall of Fame coach Dean 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.

But there was tension from the start, especially when Doherty didn't retain Phil Ford, Dave Hanners and Pat Sullivan as assistant coaches. Instead, he brought in his own staff from his lone 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 go pro, citing his inability to get along with Doherty as one of the reasons for leaving.

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 program. Still, many believe the Tar Heels should have been better.

Three transferred - Adam Boone, Brian Morrison and Neil Fingleton - and some of Doherty's initial recruiting class also contemplated leaving.

Doherty was able to smooth things over and this season brought in a top recruiting class that included Raymond Felton, Sean May and Rashad McCants. The team got off to a 5-0 start and was ranked in the top 25.

But 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 in the NIT.

After the team's final game last Wednesday night, most of the players said they would return and supported their coach. The next day, Baddour met with them as a group and then individually.

Now players, like Jawad 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.''