Doherty quits as UNC's coach

Three-year tenure ends after Heels' 19-16 season

Baddour sets `national search'

Move comes after AD talks to players, parents

College Basketball

April 02, 2003|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

Two years after being named national college basketball Coach of the Year, North Carolina's Matt Doherty resigned yesterday. Three years after hiring Doherty from Notre Dame, where he had been a head coach for one season, Tar Heels athletic director Dick Baddour readily accepted the resignation.

Questioning Doherty's leadership and communication skills with his players, Baddour ended months of speculation by announcing in Chapel Hill that the 42-year-old coach and former North Carolina player was leaving halfway through a six-year contract. Baddour said Doherty offered his resignation as a possibility last weekend, and finalized that decision yesterday.

Doherty's three-year tenure began with a 26-7 record and a share of the Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season championship, but things quickly unraveled following a second-round NCAA tournament loss to Penn State. North Carolina fell to 8-20 in 2001-2002, the worst record in school history.

After a fast start this season, the Tar Heels lost freshman center Sean May to a broken foot and the team finished 19-16 overall, ending its season with a loss to Georgetown in the NIT. With an overall record of 53-43, Doherty had the lowest winning percentage of any coach in the history of the program.

"I respect Coach Doherty's decision to step down as head coach and thank him for putting the interests of the university, its basketball program and its student-athletes ahead of his own," Baddour said as he read from a prepared statement. "It's difficult to follow two coaches as successful as Dean Smith and Bill Guthridge."

Baddour said he met with Doherty after last season in regard to his relationship with players, two of whom had transferred during the season. According to Baddour, Doherty encouraged him to meet with the players after this season. Several players, including sophomore guard Melvin Scott of Baltimore, had reportedly voiced their displeasure with Doherty's emotionally charged coaching style.

"The resignation is also not just a result of the meetings with the current players," said Baddour.

North Carolina chancellor James Moeser made it clear that Doherty's leadership skills were the biggest pitfall.

"The issue here is not basketball," said Moeser. "It's not wins or losses or players running the program. At Carolina, we talk about student-athletes and teacher-coaches. To be sure, we want good athletes, and we want to win. But on this campus coaches are responsible for creating an atmosphere for learning, for character development, for building a team of good leaders and good citizens."

Doherty, who played for the legendary Smith, college basketball's winningest coach, and alongside Michael Jordan on the 1982 national championship team, will be paid approximately $337,000 in salary and summer camp revenue.

In a prepared statement read by sports information director Steve Kirschner, Doherty said, "Clearly, this has been a most difficult day for my staff, our families and for me. My responsibility has been immense, given the outstanding history at the University of North Carolina, both academically and athletically. I have always recognized and taken very seriously the responsibilities entrusted to us as a coaching staff.

"I thank the players, the coaches and their families and the administrative staff for their dedication and hard work. I would also like to express my appreciation to the students and fans that made the Smith Center such an exciting place to be this season. I continue to wish the best for the university and the program."

The most popular candidate to replace Doherty will be his former boss, Kansas coach Roy Williams. Williams initially accepted an offer from Baddour three years ago and then changed his mind after returning to Lawrence. The job was then discussed with two other former Tar Heels, NBA coaches Larry Brown and George Karl.

Unlike the search for Guthridge's successor, Baddour said "We will conduct a national search. We will not limit this search to `Carolina family.' "

But Williams will certainly get the first offer.

Williams said at a news conference in Lawrence yesterday that he is concentrating on coaching the Jayhawks to a national championship in New Orleans.

"I'm going to enjoy the hell out of this week and I'm not letting anybody bother me with any junk if it doesn't have anything to do with Kansas basketball," he said.

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