Guess Who Was In Greenville Last Night?

Matt Doherty brought his SMU Mustangs to Minges Coliseum to face ECU on Wednesday. SMU would have been better off staying home as the Pirates wailed on them 82-54. Doherty’s Mustangs are now 8-18 which is an unfortunate turn for a guy who was at one point sitting on top of the basketball world albeit only briefly.

I have talked very little about Doherty on this blog, mainly because I am a bit agnostic when it comes to his tenure at UNC. This is mostly due to the fact I was living in Massachusetts at the time and did not have ESPN so the only games I saw were network nationally televised games which is to say, not that many. It is ironic that he came up on one of the comments yesterday and someone referenced this video of Doherty’s confrontation with Duke’s Chris Collins at the end of 2003 UNC-Duke regular season finale which UNC won.

It dawned on me watching that video how much it showed the best and worst of Doherty. On one hand here you had a fired up coach who staunchly defended his players and stood up to Collins and Duke for talking to Rashad McCants. On the other hand he seemed to lack control of his players once the situation reached it’s peak. In fact he was trying to get McCants to return to the bench as he is there talking to Coach K and the refs and McCants basically waves him off and stays there for about 10 seconds after Doherty walked away. The passion and fire he showed as a coach made you wish like heck he could have succeeded at UNC. As it turns out there were too many factors involved. The personality conflicts and his own inexperience running a program like UNC made a tough situation even tougher. What was left was perhaps the least noble exit possible and plenty of bruised feelings all the way around.

The troublesome aspect concerning the situation with Doherty is he was hired because he was “in the family” and after tenure that turn tumultuous, he is now a prodigal son. The fact he was in the state coaching his team versus ECU should have caused UNC fans a moment of pause to take note of another product of the Dean Smith tree was toiling to create a winner somewhere. Instead he is largely ignored. This son of UNC and one of the five key players that brought home the 1982 title, now lives in exile at some basketball poor Conference USA school in Texas. And while his coaching responsibilities did preclude him from attending the celebration of the 1982 title team last season, it is probable he would not have come anyway given the fact emotions still run pretty high.

I honestly hope there will come a day where Doherty can come back to Chapel Hill and receive due for the contributions he made in UNC basketball history. The 1982 title, the success of his first season as head coach and recruiting the class that eventually won the 2005 title are not small parts of UNC lore and after five years they more than cover the multitude of sins he may have committed in the eyes of some.


45 Responses to Guess Who Was In Greenville Last Night?

  1. Big Apple Heel says:

    It’s clear that Doherty was given too much too soon at UNC. But let’s say that Roy had taken the job the first time, and 10 or 15 years from now he retires while Doherty had built something at Notre Dame or another good D1 program. There’s no way of knowing whether it would make a difference, but I’d like to think he would have been better equipped to take on the job at that point.

    I too hope he can come back into the fold someday, he deserves it. I don’t wish him anything but the best regardless of his shortcomings while he was head coach at UNC.

  2. Triadboy says:

    I knew it was a bad move when he left Notre Dame for UNC. He was starting to build something there. It had bad ju-ju written all over it.

    (It wasn’t Dean’s fault.)

  3. Will says:

    As long as your talking about his accomplishments at UNC, might as well mention that UNC was #1 during the 2000-01 season for a good stretch. We tied Duke for the ACC regular season title. He was named the AP Coach of the Year for that season.

    He did very well in his first season as a head coach as Notre Dame (1999-00).

    Not only was he a Dean Smith disciple, but he was also an assistant coach for Roy.

    I really don’t like how he got blackballed. The reason he is losing is because he has bad players at a crummy school. If he was still at ND, things might be fine.

  4. Empshel says:

    I’ll always be a Doherty fan. He was the unknown player in what I think was our best starting five ever in 83-84 (along with Jordan, K. Smith, Daugherty and Perkins). I’m glad he left when he did because I think that bringing in Ol’ Roy was best for the program, but I won’t hold a grudge for the bad times. I’d gladly welcome him back into the fold.

  5. william says:

    Well, this is a complicated issue.

    Essentially, Carolina never got over a similar riff that it had with Frank McGuire until last year. Some of this came up in the comments the last few days about Larry Miller and Billy Cunningham. The McGuire guys like Lennie Rosenbluth, Larry Brown (less so), Doug Moe, and Billy Cunningham have generally not been as beloved as the Smith guys. Some of this is due to temporal proximity, but a lot of it is because Frank McGuire did a Rick Pitino squared, by taking the South Carolina job, and hiring UNC alum, Donnie Walters as chief assistant, in the mid-1960’s, elevating USC into everyone’s biggest rival in the conference. Some of the 1957 guys have said that they have never felt particularly welcome at UNC until last year’s celebration.

    With respect to Doherty, things were a mess on several levels. He was an excellent recruiter and doing well at Notre Dame, which seemed a great fit for an Irish guy from New York.

    I love Dean Smith, but he is human and from what I have read, he did not want Doherty to have the job from the beginning. Smith had already forced Carolina to hire Guthridge and was still the power behind the scenes and some of the problems Doherty had seem trivial and stupid, but had to do with things like angering Smith’s secretaries and the like. Adam Lucas covers much of this in his book, but essentially Roy Williams did much of the same things as Doherty–i.e., refusing to hire assistants from UNC, but no one complained because he was a famous coach.

    Apparently, Doherty’s worst trait was an Irish temper that could explode in all directions, even at his chosen assistants in the huddle. He had a penchant for using the “P” word, it is said, at players who displeased him. After playing for the subdued and grandfatherly Guthridge, some players like Forte, couldn’t stomach Doherty’s actions.

    His first season ended poorly, but going 13-3 and first in the ACC and taking 3 out of 4 from eventual Final Four teams, Duke and Maryland was pretty darn good overall. The 26-7 record was far better than the 22-14 record of the year before, although that team made it to the Final Four (and no one has any idea how to this day).

    His second season was strange. Yes, the Heels went 8-20, but they still won 4 conference games, keeping them far above the Duke 2-14 fiasco or the Wake record under Skip the year after C.P. left, of 3-13. Carolina played just about the toughest schedule in the nation that year and also played about the fewest games possible, leading to the perfect storm that made them look worse than they actually were. For example, State will probably finish 4-12 in the ACC this year but with a record much closer to 500%.

    What is forgotten is that aside from his driving Forte away, which was a tragedy for all involved, Doherty also inherited years of neglect by Guthridge on the recruiting trails. All of this came to a head in 2002. Perhaps he should have sought treatment for a bad back.

    Doherty, however, did not rest on his laurels and garnered one of the greatest recruiting classes ever, probably better than any by his successor, Roy Williams at Carolina thus far. The Heels rebounded to 6-10 in the ACC, 19-16 overall, winning the pre-season NIT, beating Williams’ Jayhawks, and going into the second round of the ACC tourney and the post-season NIT. They beat Duke and while they were erratic, who knows how much better they might have done had Sean May not been injured for much of the season.

    Using mostly the same, more-experienced talent the next year, Williams was unable to do much better, finishing 19-11, and 8-8 in conference and losing in the first round of the ACC tourney, without beating Duke, although Carolina did get a NCAA tourney bid, where they underperformed and went out in the second round.

    The conventional wisdom is that Doherty had the players so screwed up that it took Roy Williams over a year to turn them around. The facts are probably somewhere in between.

    The real truth is that Carolina fans were never going to be comfortable with Matt Doherty because he was too much like Coach K, a working-class Catholic kid who had made good but who simply makes us feel uncomfortable. North Carolinians are more laid-back and the Kansan Smith was a good fit. McGuire was popular and fiery in his day, but he got away with it by being erudite and stylish, ultimately losing that good will when he went to USC. Roy Williams is fiery, but has learned how to use his “Ole Roy” persona to deflect some of his aggresiveness.

    Matt Doherty was too much like Bobby Knight and K, with the profanity and hystrionics and making fun of cheerleaders, and I believe that many of us were secretely happy that the 2003 team performed slightly below its level, which should have been the final 32 in the NCAA, because it gave us a reason to fire Doherty besides the fact that he was simply kind of “icky.” But looking back, had Carolina upset Duke in the second round of the ACC tourney, they very well might have snuck into the NCAA tourney and the story would have been the great turnaround, even without Sean May.

    Because Carolina did not win 20 games and did not make the NCAA tourney, the administration had an out, they could fire him because “he was mean to the players” and the players did not like him. Doherty had committed no recruiting violations and had just assembled two excellent recruiting classes after years of mediocre recruiting, but we (including me) just didn’t feel comfortable with him as coach. We had made a mistake and wanted a divorce and now Roy Williams was available.

    I truly feel sorry for Matt Doherty because he was put in over his head. Had he stayed at Notre Dame, he would probably be reaping the rewards that Bray is. A lot of this unpleasantness could have been avoided had Coach Smith, I think somewhat selfishly, somewhat selflessly, not decided to quit right before the 1998 season. His decision essentially forced UNC to hire Guthridge and forced Guthridge to take the job and I am not sure either party wanted him to be head coach, but Coach Smith had forced the scenario.

    What should have happened is that Smith should have announced his retirement but coached that year, allowing a proper replacement decision. It probably would have been Williams, but possibly Larry Brown or Eddie Fogler. Instead, Carolina ended up with its initial Roy Williams rejection fiasco and then the negotiations in the middle of Kansas’s season in 2003, which gravely injured strong ties between the two universities.

    Doherty was thrown on the trash heap and possibly treated unfairly in terms of severence. He has bounced around a bit and is now at SMU, his second job since leaving UNC. The SMU team is horrible this year, but apparently mostly freshmen and sophmores and he still appears to have his recruiting touch, so I am hopeful for his future there, as the univesity attempt to recharge its sports program which was at the very top in both football and basketball in the early 1980’s, by bringing in Doherty and the football coach from the successful Hawaii program.

  6. Tar Heel Fan says:

    Great summary William. That pretty much covers my take on it that Doherty was just not a good fit from the start and while he had some pluses the personality and inexperience were too much to overcome.

  7. Steve says:

    I agree with William. His hiring was a mismatch, partly b/c of his personality (the “icky” factor which I’ve never seen mentioned before), and partly because UNC fanbase felt like we deserved a more seasoned coach, and felt a little affronted that we were going to have to sit by and watch Doherty learn how to coach at a high level. The AD really couldn’t find any more experienced candidates?

    What I don’t like is to hear people reduce the Doherty firing too much by saying he was let go “because he didn’t win and no other reason.” Losing played a part, but I think the mistreatment of players was a real issue, made worse by Doherty’s reaction to the high stress of the position and his lack of readiness.

  8. Santiago says:

    Losing to the Pirates at home. Yet another thing Sidney Lowe and Matt Doherty have in common this year. I think that’s not the only thing they’ll have in common in the next couple years. We shall see.

    THF, as the old saying went (before George Harrison died), the only thing that would reunite the Beatles was 3 bullets. Same goes for Coach Doherty feeling at home in Pulpit Hill. Coach Williams has said some very nice things about him since that April Monday in 2005, but I think Moesser and Baddour will have to be gone (one down come this summer) and Coaches Guthridge and Smith will have to acknowledge their culpability in his failed tenure (unlikely) or go tango uniform. In reality, there’s too much bad blood on all sides for him to feel truly welcome again. I only hope he doesn’t have a game scheduled in 24 years when they commemorate the 50th anniversary of the ’82 Champs.

    I second william’s lengthy post, except for the part about Matt being “icky.” His main problems were (1) a lack of basic tact with staff, and (2) not being a clone of Dean Smith (see Guthridge, Bill and Williams, Roy). Nevertheless, I want to buy you a beer.

    Brickbats to Triadboy for being so wrong. Dean was silently recruiting Roy all along, and/or doing nothing to help Doherty succeed, like say for instance, mentoring him in a job he wasn’t qualified for.

    And yes, I changed my screen name. Everyone else was doing it.

  9. william says:

    As much as Carolina dislikes Duke, many of us couldn’t quite stomach the near brawl that occurred during a 2003 game against Duke. It just wasn’t classy and was a throwback to an earlier time 25 or 30 years earlier, when even Smith got into it , apparently, with a UVa player, a time that had been long forgotten by most and was no longer appropriate.

  10. heels1fan says:

    I think a strong factor that William points out is how abysmal the recruiting was before Coach Doherty got here. Although I loved Capel and Lang, they were complimentary players and we lacked a strong guard presence. Brian Morrison was far too undisciplined to ever wear the Tar Hell blue and Adam Boone could have been a good two guard but lacked the quickness to be an ACC point. It created a situation in which we were forced to play freshmen who were good players but also ultimately complimentary players not stars who were forced to try and carry a team in 2001-02. Losing is a cancer in a program like UNC’s and the strains of taking a young club that added freshman superstars then had an injury to its only reliable scoring center had to rachet up the pressure, especially when one of your players is the mercurial Rashad McCants and Joseph Forte. Love them both, but definitely head cases

    Had the losing not happened, starting with the collapse of 2001, it might have been a different outcome; but, the resulting fact that Matt’s own inexperience led to him create a situation of disrespect is simply unacceptable at UNC and he had to go. His coaching style was going to look like Coach K or the General and their programs, however, successful always has kids disaffected and transferring out ala Luke Recker or Chris Burgess. That style just does not play in Chapel Hill, especially with a young coach who has failed to keep the streaks alive.

  11. Wilson says:

    Great posts THF, and william. I, too, feel very bad for Doherty and wish him all the best. He holds a great deal in the history of UNC basketball, and it would be wrong for him to be permanently estranged for a job that he just wasn’t capable of. I love the fire and you can tell he bleeds blue. Just like John Bunting though: not the right person for the job, but a Heel through and through.

  12. Josh Bowling says:

    William, that was by far your best post ever! If I had to articulate the post Dean Smith era, that would have been it. Your are dead on about Smith forcing in a Guthridge who could coach the talent he had, but just couldn’t recruit any. I partially blame Dean for that. Doherty did deliver the tools, at the time, he just wasn’t a good mechanic. I hope he finds the success he was building prior to the UNC era for him sake. I am sure he can.

  13. villageheel says:

    Matt Doherty gets a little too much recruiting credit. The Carolina brand should get most of it. He just happened to log more frequent flier miles than Uncle Gut who would rather sit home and eat a bowl of stewed prunes than take in a high school game in Van Nuys. Dean Smith is a basketball God but booooo to him for rewarding a second banana that sat next to him for 75 years. Thank Blue Heaven the ship is righted. On another recruiting note, can’t wait for the identical twins to come in 2009.

  14. Josh Bowling says:

    Same here. I don’t know if I’ll be able to tell them apart. People are saying that Tyler Zeller is going to be UNC’s version of Brian Zoubec. Is that possible? I thought he was more talented than that. Hopefully Ed Davis can terrorize the paint with Hansbrough. Larry Drew makes decisions like Jason William’s did for Duke. Looking good for the future.

  15. william says:

    In reference to other candidates, the main one was Larry Brown and he would have probably gotten the job, except he refused to interview. He wanted to be hired without having to go through the interview process.

    In retrospect, I am not sure that Larry Brown would have been such a great choice either. While he is an acknowledged teaching and X’s and O’s genius, he brings some baggage. He was a McGuire guy who had no compunction about hiring Danny Manning’s father to get Manning away from Carolina and then committed some minor infractions that led to Kansas being on probation Williams’ first year.

    Brown has never stayed anywhere for more than two or three years and has a personality that some people find a little too New York and flashy–he was once known as leisure-suit Larry back in the 70’s because he loved them–how’s that for a low blow.

    Brown was already well into his 60’s and didn’t seem to offer a great deal of stability to the situation, which made it look like Carolina would have to go through the hiring process again in 3-5 years (which they did anyway, but who knew then, Doherty might have lasted 30 years had these gone differently). We now know that Brown suffered a terrible blow to his resume after the debacle in New York and he has had somewhat serious health problems.

    Apart from Brown, George Karl wanted the job, but Smith never seemed enthusiastic about Karl and was instead enthusiastic about Phil Ford, someone that no one else in the entire state was enthusiastic about hiring as head coach, (no disrespect to his playing greatness,) and Smith also seemed to want Rick (no pants) Majerius to interview for the position, which was another non-starter given Majerius’ health and history of beating Carolina in the Final Four.

    Donnie Walters and Doug Moe were too old and were seen as McGuire guys, anyway. Eddie Fogler, who would have been a strong candidate in 1998, had “lost it” as a coach and was no longer seriously considered and well, you see, we are running out of guy’s in Smith’s tree. Michael Jordan has never coached anywhere and guys like John Kuester, Buzz Peterson and Jeff Lebo have never had consistent success.

    For some reason, Billy Cunningham’s name has never come up and he might have been an interesting choice as a McGuire guy, who played for Smith and had great coaching experience and success. Thus, there really was only one obvious choice, Roy Williams, and he said “No”.

  16. Tar Heel Fan says:

    The way Dean retired was apparently his plan all along. He said that he never wanted to decide he was retiring in April because you are tired then and may not make the best decision. His take was you decide right before the season if you want to give it a go one more time. He also wanted whoever followed him to have a good team in place already. Since that was the way he did it and promoting the assistant is the only option you have right before practice kicks off, we end up with Guthridge. I agree with william, announce the retirement before the season to allow for a proper search. Can you imagine what would have happened had he said in Oct 1997 he was going to make one more run and then retire? That loaded team would have had the extra motivation of winning a title for Smith one more time and he could have left the game with three titles and on top. Then they could have brought Roy in the carry on the tradition. But Dean, humble and loyal, probably to a fault did not want the farewell tour and wanted to give Guthridge a shot at winning a title as a head coach. This made for a rough stretch that also allowed K and Duke to get a leg up on UNC and close the gap in a way that should have never happened.

  17. MinnyTarHeelFan says:

    I would echo THF and william’s comments, as well as many on the board. I liked Matt as a player, but he was in way over his head coaching-wise and it just wasn’t a good fit at the time. Also, great points about multiple factors conspiring against him.

    As for the Duke-UNC bench incident, the other thing that sticks in my mind is the snub in the ACC Tourney after Matt tried to smooth things over with their staff. Perhaps they viewed it as not genuine/authentic, but it told me exactly how Coach K and his staff operates.

    I do wish Matt all the success in the world, and hopefully some day he’ll feel welcome back at his alma mater.

  18. Josh Bowling says:

    Exactly THF!

  19. Santiago says:


    By all means, let’s acknowledge that Coach Guthridge left the cupboard somewhat bare when he left. He was IMHO a poor steward of the program, and my ABC friends like to say this is why Roy took a pass the first time around. But, I disagree about Coach Doherty’s recruiting ability. Sure, Carolina pre-Doherty could almost recruit itself. However, Doherty was at least more energetic than the prune eater. Anybody remember his first Midnight Madness? He and two ass’ts beat the champion 3-man IM squad in a halfcourt game (they even employed the four corners to run out the clock). He was driving the lane and draining 3s from the top of the key, something Dean and Gut had long since retired from doing. I know it doesn’t exactly translate, but I’m just saying his youth and drive must have helped (along with UNC).

  20. Schwind says:

    To me, it was just a matter of bad timing and too much of a transition all at once. We went from a very laid back coach in Dean, to an even more laid back coach in Gut, to an extremely fiery, energetic coach in Doherty. There’s nothing wrong with that energy, but I think it was too dramatic of a change for the players and coaches and reminded us all a little too much of a certain douche bag that’s a couple miles down the road.

    On top of that, there was the bad timing of having, as William pointed out, all those years of crappy Guthridge recruiting catch up with us. It just made for disaster from the beginning.

    On the plus side, I think that paved the road a little easier for Roy. Roy is not nearly as feisty or charged as Doherty, but significantly more so than Dean, and while I doubt it would have caused significant problems, who knows if his energy might have rubbed people the wrong way a little. For that matter, even Roy would have struggled with the crappy recruits that he would have been handed, so having Doherty there to soften the blow and pick up some crucial recruits may have been for the best in the long run.

    I’ll admit it though. I was a big Doherty fan. To me, when he was hired, he seemed like that guy who would be a perfect fit once he had a few years to develop as a coach and, more importantly, find out what it was like becoming a big-time head coach. But I was not a fan of the Doherty hiring. I thought it came too early. Whether it was by making Notre Dame into an annual power, or just by getting a prestigious job, Doherty needed that time in the limelight to see how he would react and adapt. Instead, he was just thrown into it, and, on the biggest stage, did not handle it well.

    I still think we probably should have followed Dean’s advice at the time and gone after Rick Majerus. Yeah, I know he’s not a Carolina guy, but he was an ideal filler that would keep the program afloat while we looked for the longer term solution, which easily could have turned out to be Doherty after a couple years.

    But, this is one of those, “the past is the past” deals. Without Doherty, who knows if we get Felton, Rashad, Noel and May? And 8-20, honestly, brought us back down to earth a little bit. And how good did it feel winning the 2005 title just three years after 8-20?

  21. villageheel says:

    dean and gut last drained 3’s before they figured out how to cut the bottom out of the peach basket. unc recruiting is and always will be about getting a personal phone call from jordan or whoever their hero is on their mama’s yellow wall mount kitchen phone.

  22. Tar Heel Fan says:

    Zeller and Zoubek are not even close.

    According to Scout, Zeller is a five star recruit who can play facing the basket, runs the floor well and has huge potential. They list his weaknesses as not being a great low block scorer and lack of strength. In other words he is more of a outside to inside threat as a big man. I think Zeller is probably a little raw coming in but some time in the weight room and hopefully a year with Hansbrough will help him to develop.

    Zoubek, when he came out of high school was a four star recruit and according to Scout had great size, was a good rebounder and low block scorer. His weaknesses were listed as having a lack of athleticism, defensive presence and speed. In other words he could score and rebound because he was 7-1 but if he ever has to deal with quicker opponents or do anything outside of standing around the hoop he was in trouble.

  23. william says:

    That’s right about Smith, THF and that is why I say Coach Smith was both selfish and selfless in the way he did it. Who else in history has left such a monster team behind to his successor? Maybe John Wooden, but I don’t think the 1976 Bruins were quite as good as the 1998 Tar Heels, who I put up with thee 2005 Illini and the 1993 Wolverines and the 1999 Blue Devils as one of the top teams not to win it all in the last 15 years.

    Smith had been coach for over 30 years and understandably had and should have had a strong influence in his successors and yet at the same time, there are alumni and taxpayers like those of us on these site, who also deserve a say. Smith doesn’t automatically have the best interests of the university in line with his own, although his career merited a great deal of leeway. Ultimately, it appeared that Coach Smith’s influence (like most people who leave a position) was less strong than he thought by the time Roy Williams turned us down.

    At that point, even Guthridge was behaving quite badly and apparently refused to speak to Roy Williams after Williams did what he thought was right by remaining at Kansas. I think we see now what many of us don’t realize when we are wide-eyed children and admirers and that is that great coaches are not necessarily great politicians and that what works when a coach is in charge, might not once he has moved down the hall.

    I don’t even know how Doherty could ever even operate freely with Smith still in the same building everyday. Williams could because he had reach the level of being Smith’s almost equal, as could Brown and Cunningham, but it would have been difficult for anybody else with Dean right down the hallway.

  24. Santiago says:

    Hilarious. Although I doubt Dean ever took a 3, thinking it was too low a percentage shot.

  25. villageheel says:

    true true santiago. i bet i could retire on all the saved timeout buyback options dean cashed in at the secret ram’s club end of year banquet.

  26. william says:

    Another thing that this interesting discussion calls to memory is the state of the internet back in 1999. There used to be an incredibly good non-authorized UNC web site that was far better than anything available today. The University was not enthused by its criticism of Guthridge’s recruiting and I believe that Carolina ended up purchasing the site which now simply forwards to the official site, which is good, but for obvious reasons, strays from controversy and hardhitting journalism.

    All of this preceded the beginning of blogs being commonplace and thus for about five years, due to Carolina being down and there not being interesting sites, I quite spending much time on the Net reading about Carolina.

  27. Santiago says:


    Did william just insult your site? 😉


    If what you say about recruiting is true, how does Duke recruit? If I were a HS senior, my mom and I would be seriously creeped out by a call from Shane Battier or Christian Laettner.

  28. villageheel says:

    Water seeks it’s own level. duke is a bunch of a-holes recruited by a-holes.

  29. william says:

    That wasn’t any slight of this site, goodness knows I spend enough time here, but back then there seemed to be basically two sites, the official site and the really good non-official one. I think it was called Carolina Blue.

    On another topic re Doherty, his generally excellent first season really petered out at the end and recalls the 1986 Dean Smith Tar Heels, who were number one in the nation and undefeated in February and ended up losing six games, all of them after the christening of Dean’s new arena. Even though Duke and Carolina both lost to eventual titlist Louisville, Carolina had the bad fortune to play them in the round of 16, while Duke went all the way to the finals.

    I was out of the country on the Junior Year Abroad Program and remember listening to score updates on the Armed Forces Shortwave Network at 4 in the morning and learning that Carolina had lost a game that was closer than the final score to Louisville. It was an uncharacterist finish for Smith, whose teams usually excelled in March, but that squad truly had a bad February and March in a very tough league that had Dawkins, Bilas and Mark Price, similar to the 2001 ACC, which had two teams in the Final Four and three excellent teams all around. Strangely, Carolina had little problem with Maryland, who gave Duke fits, and who should have won it all that year, but had to wait one more year and torment poor Kansas.

  30. william says:

    Bilas, yes, but I meant to say, Bias, who unfortunately passed away the day I got home from Europe.

  31. Triadboy says:

    Santiago said,

    “Brickbats to Triadboy for being so wrong..

    Doherty coming to UNC from Notre Dame was not Dean’s decision. How we wound up with Roy was discussed at my post.

  32. william says:

    It was actually, that I was trying to remember.

  33. Santiago says:

    Huh? I guess you’re trying to say it wasn’t Dean’s fault Doherty left ND and was hired at UNC? Can’t really tell. I thought you meant it wasn’t Dean’s fault Doherty was fired. That’s where I thought you were so wrong. Mea culpa if I misunderstood you.

  34. Tar Heel Fan says:

    The lack of a serious internet presence like blogs and my inability to see most of the games made feeling connected to what was happening a little more difficult. It would have been interesting times blogging during the 8-20 season and beyond. I was in full swing for the end of the John Bunting era and even wrote an extensive treatise asking for his demise. But this thing with Doherty was so divisive in the fan base I cannot really get a grasp of what my position would have been.

  35. 52BigGameJames says:

    I’m sure this might offend someone, but someone needs to say it. Karl and Brown could’ve passed muster, although neither had the genteel pedigree desired by most UNC fans, but both were accomplished coaches, and both were proven fiery players, who could’ve commanded the respect of their players. Matt wouldn’t have been able to play the role of the tough Irish coach for very long, as someone would’ve dug up clips that showed what a puss he was as a player. Smart players always sniff out inauthenticity. Brown had his issues with AI, but I guarantee you there was/is begrudging respect from AI towards Brown, precisely because he knows Brown was a tough-as-nails player—same with Karl and Payton. Matt could very well be a decent coach, but he had neither the credentials, nor the authenticity to play that role.

  36. Tar Heel Fan says:

    My biggest worry about those two was the possibility of NCAA violations because you had Brown’s history and the fact Karl had never run a college program. That is not saying they are necessarily dirty coaches but rather not used to the nature of the NCAA.

  37. 52BigGameJames says:

    If ever there was a coach–no, not fair–there are plenty of coaches who bleed Carolina Blue, but I’m not sure if there’s ever been one who’s given his heart so completely to UNC as George Karl. I love the guy, and much as I like Roy, I do hurt a little for GK to never have a shot at his dream-job. Can you imagine the fireworks from the GH incident were Karl or Brown steering the ship? We just might have found out if there really is any reality basis for that “Chicago/South-side”.

  38. william says:

    I can’t follow all your abbreviations, 52BigGameJames, but I agree that George Karl was basically pleading for the job and basically got ignored. I guess the feeling was that just being a good pro coach wasn’t enough without titles, or maybe Karl was too much of a scrapper, going back to the wars with USC and John Roche and company.

    Larry Brown would have been hired had he agreed to interview but I agree with Baddour that it was not appropriate to hire him without interviewing him. Larry wanted to be coronated. Plus, Larry had already been the head coach at Kansas and UCLA, so I think he saw this as his deigning to come back and save Carolina. Whatever the reason, if Brown truly wanted to coach his alma mater, he botched it in the worst way and certainly no one at Carolina now regrets his decision, given that it led to Williams coming.

  39. 52BigGameJames says:

    sorry…..”GH”–Gerald Henderson
    “Chicago/South-side”–referring to Coach K’s supposedly street-tough upbringing

    Roche was quite possibly the nastiest character to ever come thru the ACC–this subject (most-hated) might make for a good thread THF.

  40. rbl says:


    You make a good point about negative feelings about Frank McGuire due to his defection, after a stop in pro ball, to South Carolina. For years I hated SC and disliked McGuire, primarily due to his last group of thugs there, e.g., John Roche, John Ribock, and Tom Owens, and the manner in which they withdrew from the ACC. I finally stopped hating the Gamecocks when they hired Fogler, and came to accept how irrelevant they are.

    However, I never had any animosity for Carolina players who played for McGuire. On the contrary, I loved Lennie Rosenbluth, Pete Brennan, Tommy Kearns, Doug Moe, York Larese, and many others. I resided in the Philly area when BC coached the Sixers, and I have deep respect for him as well. Bobby Jones was the sixth man on the 1983 Sixers team that won the NBA title.

    It was Donnie Walsh who assisted at SC, by the way.

  41. william says:

    Yes, Walsh, not Walters.

    I am a huge Frank McGuire fan and particularly interested in his USC years, where he created his own version of Hoya-paranoia. Everybody in the ACC hated the Gamecocks and vice-versa. McGuire held a recruiting grip on New York and got virtually all of the best New York players. Dean Smith said that McGuire seemed to know every alderman, fireman and cop on the beat in the city and that recruiting against McGuire in NYC was all but hopeless.

    As everyone knows, he coached UNC in 1957, but what some might not know was that he left to take a job coaching Wilt Chamberlain in Philadelphia, which as like coaching Kobe today, but much, much bigger. Wilt, with the possible exception of Jordan, was by far the biggest star in the history of the NBA and coaching there was a much bigger deal than coaching at UNC. He offered Dean Smith an assistant’s job but Smith wanted to stay in college ball. After a couple of years, the Warriors moved to California and McGuire couldn’t stomach that, being an East coast guy and having a son who needed constant care.

    So, of course, McGuire pulled a Rick Pitino and went to coach one of the biggest rivals of his former team and hired an ex-Carolina player Donnie Walsh as his top assistant.

    John Roche was a great player and future ABA and NBA star who became infamous for screaming “F-you Dean, we beat you, after the 1971 ACC title, when Dean made probably his worst overt coaching mistake in his career on a last second jumpball with Davd Chadwick standing in the opposite part of the circle from where he should have been. Tom Owens was another excellent player who went on to play for the Carolina Cougars and successfully in the NBA.

    Surprisingly, one of the Gamecocks got on fairly well with Dean Smith and would later be a sort of ally in the conference versus Driesell and Coach K: that young man’s name was Bobby Creamons.

    The Gamecocks were rowdy and two of them actually got into a fight with Lefty during a game, but when asked, McGuire stated that he was pretty sure that Lefty just hit himself.

    I was too young to remember, but from what I piece together, neither Carolina nor Duke has ever been close to being as hated as were the 1968-1971 USC Gamecocks.

    What people might not remember was just how successful McGuire was in his two stints in the ACC. He went 14-0 in conference on two different occasions, something Smith later equalled and K surpassed by going 16-0. (Norm Sloan went 12-0 twice when they played fewer games after USC left the conference).

    His winning percentage, both in conference and post-season is still among the top coaches in the ACC.

    He coached Number one ranked teams at both UNC and USC. Players that he coached or recruited who went on to excellent pro careers include: Larry Brown, Doug Moe, Billy Cunningham, John Roche, Tom Owens, Kevin Joyce, Brian Winters and Alex English.

    He also was much more of an innovator than he is given credit for and was apparently using points-per-possession analysis back in the 50’s. He and Dean did not agree, however, on the merits of using a zone defense, which McGuire liked and which Dean delighted in tormenting by going to the Four Corners regularly against the Gamecocks, who had not practiced much man-to-man.

    The story is that Carolina torched USC the first time they played in 1971, using the Four Corners. McGuire then had Walsh quickly implement a man-to-man scheme and the Gamecocks took the last two games against Carolina, winning the tourney and getting the automatic bid, while Carolina won the NIT, beating Duke in the Semi-finals.

    Here is a link to a series of articles that are about the best that I have ever read in a periodical about that era. The are better even than SI articles in their quality and depth of coverage and I highly recommend them:

  42. Chris says:

    Dean did Carolina a great disservice by not announcing well in advance his retirement and then just stepping away and allowing a new coach to be chosen in the usual manner. As he ended up orchestrating it, we ended up with a large hiccup in Carolina basketball with the Guthridge/Doherty “era.” If Dean had stepped away in the usual manner there would have been a seemless transition to Roy Williams.

  43. villageheel says:

    Getting back to the point of the blog, nothing good came of matt doherty coaching Carolina except i think Roy felt like he would be rescuing a sacred program that had been desecrated. Tar Heels are eternal optimists and look for good where there is none, so they point to Doherty’s recruiting or his youth and energy. I say B.S. As a coach the number one prerequisite is the respect of your players. He didn’t have command of the team because he sank to the peer level with foul language and arguing. He didn’t deserve McCant’s respect because he didn’t approach the job in the Carolina tradition. And once again booooo to Dean and Uncle Gut for allowing it to happen. Doherty disgraced the Tar Heel tradition and thank God Roy was able to do an about face with such a mess. In all families there is a Fredo. Doherty is dead to me.

  44. rbl says:

    Let’s not be too hard on Guthridge and Doherty. All that’s behind us now.

    William, you are correct in your assessment of McGuire. he was a great coach and, now, I have deep respect for him and what he accomplished at UNC. He made a huge coaching mistake in the 1970 ACC Tournament when he called his players out to press State, rahter than sit back. it cost him the game and the chance for a very good team to play in the NCAA. Your are also correct in saying the Gamecocks of the last ACC years were hated, although this didn’t inlude the 1968 team. I attended teh Carolina-South Carolina game in CH in 1968 with a law student who had been a Duke undergrad. As McGuire received a standing ovation, the Dukie commented, “I never saw such goodwill at a basketball game.” The Gamecocks won that night, and began to show the arrogance that led to being despised. The 1971 South Carolina team got in repeated fights, and John Roche actually kicked Duke’s Randy Denton. We destroyed the 1971 Gamecocks on January 4, 1971, my birthday. I was living in Germany, and didn’t know who won until the enxt day.

  45. william says:

    I appreciate that insight. Art Chansky wrote some about this in his book Dean’s Domain and what you are saying seems absolutely correct. I think you may have seen the game that Bobby Creamons credits with the demise of his virginity, due to his heroics in an 87-86 victory.

    I also know what it is like to miss those big Carolina moments, as I was in France during my Junior year and missed the opening of the SAC and the 95-92 victory over Duke, but on the fortunate side, I missed the subsequent unraveling of the 1985 season from undefeated and number one in February to first round loser in the tourney and early exiter from the NCAA’s.

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