April 1, 2003
The soap opera at North Carolina, As Matt Doherty Turns, ended Tuesday night when Doherty announced his resignation.
I don't think many people were shocked, considering that UNC athletics director Dick Baddour has been meeting with players and their family members. You just knew it was a matter of time. Doherty can't be a happy camper. He wanted to be on the North Carolina sidelines and finish what he started with the great freshman class he recruited in 2002.
The problem in Chapel Hill wasn't about W's and L's but rather disharmony within the program -- among alumni, key boosters, members of the athletic department and, most importantly, within the team itself. Apparently, many players were upset with some of Doherty's coaching tactics. It amazes me sometimes how kids want to dodge discipline and listen to so many outside sources.
An early-season injury to Sean May was a major setback, and from that moment on the Tar Heels were in Struggle City.
The one thing you could not take away from Doherty was his unbridled passion and tremendous desire to bring success to his alma mater. Unfortunately, an early-season injury to freshman big man Sean May was a major setback, and from that moment on the Tar Heels were in Struggle City.
But the problems started before that. The departures at the end of last season (via transfer) of Adam Boone and Brian Morrison hurt the team. Boone's father was reportedly critical of the way the program was being run.
The bottom line is, a change has taken place, and obviously the initial speculation will center around Roy Williams. He would be a great choice; he's a bona-fide winner, averaging 28 victories a season. A former assistant to legendary UNC coach Dean Smith, Williams loves Chapel Hill and his children went there. He rejected the job when it was last available because of his love for Lawrence, Kan.
There have been rumors of friction between Williams and Kansas athletics director Al Bohl. Will that play a role in Williams considering a move to Chapel Hill? What a time for this to come up, as Kansas chases the national title at the Final Four in New Orleans.
My gut feeling is that Williams has such love for Kansas and the Jayhawks program that he'll stay there. He stood up tall for one of his own, former assistant Doherty, so I think Williams will remain with the Jayhawks. Then again, I thought for sure he would go for Tar Heels blue the last time!
It will be interesting to watch as the soap opera continues. I think a great package, if recommended by Dean Smith, could feature 76ers coach Larry Brown as head coach and former star UNC point guard Phil Ford as associate coach.
That could unite the Carolina faithful and create the kind of excitement that has been customary for Carolina basketball.
Remember, it would be special for Brown to be hired. That would only happen if Williams decided to say no. If UNC stays in the Tar Heels family, will Brown get the nod? Brown and Ford would be dynamic, and they could bring the kind of success that was the norm during the Smith era.
Maybe Carolina would consider other names outside of the family, like Kentucky's Tubby Smith or Illinois' Bill Self. My feeling is family, baby, and in the year Brown was named the coach for the 2004 Olympics, the timing would be intriguing. It would bring joy to the Carolina faithful.