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.