Not That I Am Looking for Trouble…[UPDATE]

…but I would like to take issue with a response a UVa blog, The Sabre, wrote to my calling Caulton Tudor out for implying Matt Doherty was forced out because of his win-loss record.

Well, I’m sure DohMatt’s toxic personality was a part of it, but you don’t think winning only 4 and then 6 ACC games was also a reason for getting the boot? Do you really need evidence of that? In fact, isn’t it a bit disingenuous to try and claim otherwise? I’m sure if DohMatt was winning ACC Championships with the charm of a rattlesnake covered in razor wire, he’d still be coaching in Chapel Hill.

Face it, Carolina, you have your own Pete Gillen in your history. Your storied basketball school had to — gasp! — fire a coach for poor performance. Happens to even the best programs sometimes. And that’s not such a bad thing — though evidently the Carolina version of Pete Gillen was a complete jerk-store to boot.

First off, it is not disingenuous to claim otherwise when it is well known that the personality, not the record, was the reason he was asked to resign. The simple fact of the matter is that four years ago UNC was in the midst of a major rebuild because caretaker coach Bill Guthridge basically brought no recruits in during his three year tenure. When Doherty took over in 2000-01 he had a good team in place which was ranked #1 at one point and ended up being a #2 seed in the NCAA Tournament. The following year, 2001-02, the lack of decent recruiting plus the defection of Joe Forte to the NBA hit the fan and UNC finished 8-20. In 2002-03 the heralded freshman class of Raymond Felton, Rashad McCants, and Sean May came to Chapel Hill. Sean May broke his foot early in the season which was a major setback for the Heels who still finished 19-16 with a loss to Georgetown in the NIT. In other words there was progress. Yes UNC went 8-20, but followed that with a 19-16 season and had May been healthy I think they would have ended up winning a few more. The general feel going forward was the next season would be better than the last two and so on. My read on the situation is that the wins and losses never came into the discussion because there was every reason to believe that there was improvement in that area.

The problem was Doherty had alienated so many people and executed a coaching style which was so caustic that by the time we hit the end of March, 2003 there was full blown player rebellion afoot in Chapel Hill. In the final analysis, Dick Baddour made a decision to ask for Doherty’s resignation in an effort to keep the players happy which has often been seen as catering to a group of whiny players. In hindsight, I am not sure backing Doherty up was an option given the fragile state of the program. After that third season it was widely understood that UNC had a young team which lost a key player in December but was still improving. It is possible had May not gotten injured and UNC had made the NCAA Tournament that season that it would have shifted certain variables and created a more stable situation. Then again it might not have. At any rate the losing that went on in Chapel Hill had less to do with Doherty’s coaching and more to do with the Guthridge (non)recruiting which is why I am comfortable dismissing the losses as a reason why he was forced out. When it was all said and done, Doherty was not getting along with his players, Baddour was afraid of a player rebellion that included rampant transfers and the possibility the program would spiral out of control so he heading off the whole mess, asked Doherty to leave and went after Roy Williams.

Any way you slice it that is the way it unfolded. Suggesting otherwise is flat wrong, especially for a columnist like Tudor who was actually around when it all happened.

UPDATE: The Sabre Responds:

The Tarheel responds to my disbelief. A compelling response, I’d say. I’m not saying that his personality wasn’t part of the problem. I’m sure it didn’t help his job security as he posted losing record after losing record that he was a giant a-hole. But it’s still a little hard to believe that those losing records can be completely “dismiss[ed] … as a reason why he was forced out.”

But, he’s their coach and it’s their history. This blogger likely has some insider knowledge or perspective that I lack. If they choose to put Doherty in some other category than Pete Gillen, so be it. Though it’s certainly understandable that the rest of us see losing conference records and assume that failing to win games went into the firing calculus.

Anyway, let’s end this debate and go back to polishing our regular season championship trophies, shall we?

A complimentary response. Let me follow up by saying there was only one losing season under Doherty in terms of overall record and two losing seasons in the conference. I maintain that from the perspective of wins and losses there was no tension in Chapel Hill in this regard. The problems which resulted in the two down seasons were widely understood and not attributed to Doherty. The problems with his alienation of players and even persons associated with the program got him in trouble. Now winning could have insulated him somewhat but by no means do I see it as even a secondary cause to his ouster. As one of the commenters pointed out below, Tudor thinks there is a “real reason” behind the move and that being the record when the evidence just does not seem to support it.

And I agree on the trophy, though we have two to polish. 😉

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2 Responses to Not That I Am Looking for Trouble…[UPDATE]

  1. […] Tarheel responds to my disbelief. A compelling response, I’d say. I’m not saying that his personality […]

  2. Dan Schwind says:

    Doh didn’t help himself by not winning, but it’s clear that his personality and other factors are what did him in. Carolina is very much like the Pittsburgh Steelers in a certain respect (stay with me). Pittsburgh is now on only its third head coach in 38 years. Similarly, UNC has had only four coaches in 40 something years. Both programs understand that with stability comes success, hence Dean being given time in the beginning to get on his feet and get the program rolling and, similarly the Steelers showing patience with Bill Cowher even when he wasn’t winning conference titles.

    Matt would have been given similar time. As you noted, even after the 8-20 and 19-16 debacles, everyone knew there was room to grow with Jawad, Jackie, Melvin, Sean, Rashad and Ray-Ray. Carolina would have given him every opportunity possible to rebuild the program and succeed, which I still believe he could have. Unfortunately, he had a penchant for pissing people off with coaching choices (not keeping Phil Ford), support staff (clearing out every leftover from Dean and Gut’s years) and general alienation.

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