Doherty resigns post at North Carolina

Posted: Wednesday, April 02, 2003

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- Three years ago it seemed so right. North Carolina hired a young coach who had played college ball for Dean Smith and alongside Michael Jordan.

It all ended so badly for Matt Doherty and the Tar Heels on Tuesday.

Doherty resigned after a bumpy run marked by feuds with players and his failure to lead North Carolina back to national prominence.

''You have to have an environment where you can be successful, and I can understand why Matt would feel that the rumors and speculation were making it very difficult,'' athletic director Dick Baddour said. ''I admire Matt for valuing the traditions of this program and the needs of this program over his own. That takes a lot of courage.''

The team's failure to make the NCAA tournament in two of his three seasons was secondary to Doherty's leadership deficiencies, and his inability to get along with players and UNC athletic department staff.

''We want coaches who are tough and who have high demands, but whose toughness is coupled with love,'' chancellor James Moeser said. ''That's what we're looking for from our athletic leaders.''

Baddour and Moeser said they had been monitoring Doherty's activity for some time.

''We want good athletes and we want to win, but on this campus coaches are also responsible for creating an environment for learning, for character development and building a team of good leaders and good citizens. That's the Carolina standard,'' Moeser said.

Doherty leaves with three years left on a six-year contract that paid him $855,000 a season. He will receive $337,500 from the school, which will include $150,000 from the upcoming basketball camp, Baddour said.

''Our responsibility has been immense, given the outstanding tradition of the University of North Carolina,'' Doherty said in a statement. ''I have always recognized and taken very seriously the responsibility entrusted to us as a coaching staff. That responsibility extends to our players and fans and ultimately to the tradition I have personally been a part of since 1980. I continue to wish the best for this program and this university.''

Doherty's resignation came after Baddour held a series of meetings with players and parents, some of whom complained about the coach's intense practices and drastic mood swings. Three players transferred last season and others talked about it this year.

But Baddour said Doherty's resignation wasn't solely based on those meetings.

''It would be extremely unfair to those players, and it would be an unqualified mistake to say the resignation was a result of only their concerns and questions,'' Baddour said.

The 41-year-old Doherty was a fixture for the Tar Heels long before he took over the program, having played with Jordan in the early 1980s.

He left his job coaching Notre Dame and returned to North Carolina to succeed Bill Guthridge, and for the first season, things were fine. The Tar Heels went 26-7, but they slipped to 8-20 last season -- the worst record in the program's history.

This year, his young team finished 19-16.

Baddour picked the inexperienced Doherty after Roy Williams -- a former assistant to Smith -- turned down UNC to remain at Kansas. It's unclear whether Williams, whose team is in the Final Four, will be a candidate again.

''This is a very exciting, very satisfying time for me, my players and Kansas basketball,'' said Williams, who hired Doherty as an assistant at Kansas. ''I'm just planning to enjoy the hell out of this week. I'm not letting anybody bother me with any junk that doesn't have to do with Kansas basketball, great places to eat and rivers to spit in.''

Pitt's Howland nearing move to UCLA

PITTSBURGH -- The arena isn't as nice, the money would be about the same, and the players -- at least now -- wouldn't be as good. All those disadvantages apparently won't prevent Pittsburgh coach Ben Howland from leaving for UCLA.

Howland, who met with UCLA officials Sunday, was talking about a contract Tuesday, and it wasn't with Pitt. Sources close to Howland said his representatives were finalizing the details that would make him the Bruins' next coach -- UCLA's eighth since John Wooden coached them to 10 national championships from 1964-75.

Pitt was willing to improve the $5.9 million, seven-year contract Howland signed only last year, but the sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said there were no discussions between Howland and the school Tuesday.

The Los Angeles Times reported on its Web site Tuesday that Howland would be introduced as UCLA's coach as early as Wednesday, following a meeting with chancellor Albert Carnesale. UCLA sports information director Marc Dellins declined to comment on the report.

That would follow the timeline Howland spelled out Monday when he met with his Pitt players and told them he wanted the issue resolved by Thursday, when he's leaving for the Final Four in New Orleans.

Howland was an avowed UCLA fan while growing up in Southern California -- he played at Cerritos High -- and only last week he called the position with the Bruins his ''dream job.''

Howland is nearing the upper echelon of Division I coaching salaries. Pitt is willing to guarantee him about $1.1 million per year, and UCLA cannot substantially improve on that. However, it can offer the prestige of one of the most storied coaching jobs in any sport, a more fertile recruiting base than Pittsburgh and a greater opportunity for ancillary income, such as commercial endorsements.

Howland's biggest concern about UCLA appeared to be the arena issue. While Pitt just opened a $96 million, luxury-laden arena that is one of the best in college basketball, UCLA has spent decades in Pauley Pavilion, which is filled with history but lacking in amenities.

Howland said last week that Pauley needs substantial upgrades that might force the Bruins to play one season off-campus. However, lining up the money for an upgraded arena at a state-supported university might prove difficult in the immediate future, especially given the current economic climate.

Howland also wants to take his assistant coaches to UCLA, two of whom -- Jamie Dixon and Chris Carlson -- are native Southern Californians. Dixon, however, is under consideration for the Wright State and Illinois State jobs, and he might be a top candidate at Pitt should Howland leave.

Dixon is Howland's top recruiter -- Pitt's incoming class of four recruits is by far its best under Howland -- and also handled some of the coaching in practice.

While Howland weighed his tough decision, Pitt also faces one with his impending departure. The school would have to decide whether it can afford to hand over the job to a promising but untested assistant coach such as Dixon, an on-the-rise Division I coach like Howland was 1999, or an established winner who's already a head coach.

Howland's departure would be Pitt's second major personnel loss in only four months. Athletic director Steve Pederson left for alma mater Nebraska in December after overhauling Pitt's athletic program. He made numerous personnel changes, built the new basketball arena and football practice facility, and tore down Pitt Stadium, moving the Panthers' home football games to Heinz Field.

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