March 11, 2003
Let me share a few thoughts about North Carolina coach Matt Doherty. He got a big win over Duke at home on Sunday, a much-needed victory that guarantees at least an NIT berth for the Tar Heels. Still, some critics have claimed that Doherty should step down.
I say no way, baby! It's totally unfair for anybody to ask for his departure. I'm not saying it because he just beat Duke. Doherty stepped into an incredibly difficult situation, where the recruiting suffered before he arrived. What North Carolina did earlier this season showed the potential of this club. Beating Kansas and Stanford en route to the Preseason NIT championship showed the Heels' potential, especially with three diaper dandies leading the way as dominant players.
|It was clear from his first game on the UNC bench that Matt Doherty was a new breed of Tar Heel coach.
It's ludicrous to think the Tar Heels would perform miracles when they lost freshman sensation Sean May to a foot injury (the other two key freshman are guards Rashad McCants and Raymond Felton). May was a big inside presence, a post player with tons of ability and interior foot speed. But this team would not quit.
People keep pounding and pounding Doherty. Get off his back and let him coach! His players came through with tremendous courage and heart against Duke in an 82-79 victory.
The Tar Heels battled and battled, playing as if they were fighting for a national championship. That shows me there are no signs that they're ready to throw in the towel.
Let Doherty coach for five seasons in order to arrive at a true evaluation. The UNC alum is nearing the end of his third full season in Chapel Hill. Over a five-year plan, let him install his program and get his recruits in place. Then, if he doesn't have North Carolina back to its days as an elite program, then consider making a change.
This year, North Carolina's record is 16-14 (6-10 ACC). Last season was Struggle City, with an 8-20 record (4-12 ACC). In Doherty's first year, the Tar Heels went 26-7 (13-3 ACC) and shared the regular-season conference crown.
Doherty has faced major adversity this season with the loss of May. Let him coach and stop making negative evaluations day after day. I can hear it now if North Carolina loses to Maryland in the ACC quarterfinals -- some fans will scream for a change.
Let Doherty coach for five seasons in order to arrive at a true evaluation.
That's flat-out unfair, baby! Evaluate and judge after five seasons. Doherty's struggles are reminiscent of what happened to Tubby Smith at Kentucky. Now Smith is past that, ripping off 20 straight wins to close the season (and finishing with an unblemished 16-0 record in the SEC).
Who knows what will happen next season if the Tar Heels have Felton, McCants, a healthy May, Jackie Manuel and Jawad Williams in the lineup? All I can say to North Carolina's opponents is this: Watch out if that lineup is together.