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December 06, 2001



Tar Heel Blues
By Dan Patrick

The coach knew the pressure going in. And while 0-3 would be bad news anywhere, it's bad news and headlines and a really big story at North Carolina.

The local five are not supposed to be 0-3 against Hampton, Davidson and Indiana. They are not supposed to enter December winless. More perspective? North Carolina has not been 0-3 since 1928.

Doherty could have stayed at Notre Dame. He did a great job his one year there. ... But he would also always be the basketball coach at a football school. For a guy like Doherty, that might not be enough pressure.

Matt Doherty played at Carolina so, again, he knows what he's up against. He also coached hoops at Notre Dame. The pressure on the football coach in South Bend is the same as the pressure on the basketball coach in Chapel Hill. The phone call might go like this:

Bob: Hi, Matt. Tough going, huh? You'll turn it around.
Matt: Thanks. Just wondering, um want to switch jobs?
Bob: No. I'm sort of busy here right now. At least for the moment.

Still, even the most ardent Tar Heel fan had a muted outlook on this season. Brendan Haywood graduated. Joseph Forte turned pro. Ronald Curry and Julius Peppers went back to the gridiron. But let's not get carried away: Lowered expectations in Chapel Hill are 20-plus wins and the Sweet 16.

There were other issues as well. Carolina lost out on top prospect Jason Parker, now at Kentucky. The Heels also were lukewarm in recruiting the amazing Jason Williams, who is working on championship No. 2 down the road at Duke. Ouch.

It doesn't get any better in the coming weeks for North Carolina. The Tar Heels' next three opponents are Georgia Tech, Kentucky and Binghamton. I wonder how 1-5 will look to Tar Heel fans?

Doherty could have stayed at Notre Dame. He did a great job his one year there. He would have been expected to win 17-20 games a year and make the tournament every now and then. That's reasonable pressure. But he would also always be the basketball coach at a football school. For a guy like Doherty, that might not be enough pressure.

So Doherty will press on and try to turn the season around. As a man who lost two friends at the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, Doherty knows that basketball, even North Carolina basketball, is not a life-and-death endeavor. It's a game that is part of your life, not your whole life.

Still, that Binghamton game probably can't happen fast enough. After all, every winning streak starts with victory No. 1.

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Dan Patrick page: 2001 archive

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