Monday, December 21, 2009

More with Matt Doherty

In a story that ran in Sunday's N&O, former North Carolina coach Matt Doherty said that, thanks to a February heart-to-heart with current head coach Roy Williams, he doesn't feel like a black sheep in the Tar Heel family anymore, and has "forgiven the people that really matter to me,'' after being forced to resign six years ago.

Here are some additional excerpts from the hour-plus long interview, which took place in Doherty's office last Thursday at Southern Methodist University in Dallas:

Q: What was it like to watch that national championship game in 2005, knowing that most of the guys playing were your recruits?

A: Hard. It was my team, my starting five. To see them climb the ladder and cut down the nets, [there] were really mixed emotions. And the tough thing was, I was doing TV at the time, for CSTV, which is now CBS College Sports. And I'm sitting in the green room, and we're taking notes, and it's a group of about 10 people, and I'm watching this. And I get real quiet, and people are talking, and they're like, 'Hey, we need to go on the set.' And I'm like, 'I need a minute.' I just sat there. And the phone rang, and it was [ECU athletics director] Terry Holland, and he just said, 'I'm thinking about you. Congratulations. You put that team together, and you should feel good about it.'

My assistants that were with me at North Carolina texted me, and called. And it was really weird, because selfishly, it was good - because I was almost like the general manager that put that team together. But emotionally, to see those other coaches climbing the ladder to cut down the nets was really tough, really tough.

And I don't think we as a staff every got a lot of that recognition. It's hard when I see the coaches at North Carolina wearing those rings. It's like, it would have been nice to get a note, it would have been nice to get maybe a picture of the ring. You know, some acknowledgement that 'you guys put together a heck of a team.' So that was hard.

Q: What do you think, six years later, that you took away from those three years at UNC?

A: I learned a lot from that experience, from a personal standpoint, as far as trying to balance a career with your family, your career with God. I think I'm closer to my family as a result, closer to God as a result. I think you realize, like anything in a relationship ... in anything, it's a team effort. They made mistakes, I made mistakes.

What were my mistakes? I was young, I was eager, and I tried to institute change too rapidly in an institution that was set in its ways -- that, quite frankly, needed some change, but didn't welcome change. What I had success with was the change we incorporated at Notre Dame [where he was head coach for a year before taking the Tar Heels job], and that was welcomed. They wanted change. And I instituted change and it was successful, and I was rewarded for it, celebrated for it.

I get the job [at UNC] in July - most people get hired in March or April, I get the job in July, right in the middle of recruiting season - so instead of going slow with change, I go fast with change. And it's drastic change. I told them I was going to bring my own staff -
'Is that OK?' Well it wasn't OK, but I asked the question, but maybe I should have asked that question of Dean Smith.

Q: So you asked the question to....?

A: I asked the question to [athletics director] Dick Baddour, but I probably should have asked the question to Dean Smith. And I said, 'Hey, I'm going to bring my own staff; is that OK? And if it's not OK, I'll stay at Notre Dame.' But it wasn't OK, because of how it was viewed - yet Coach Williams brought his own staff. But that's the political side of it that I didn't understand as a head coach - the politics of being the head coach at a place like North Carolina. And I'm embarrassed to say that, because I played there, I was an assistant at Kansas for seven years, I was a head coach at Notre Dame for one, but I wanted the change. So I thought I asked the right question, but ... part of me, I should have recognized that, but part of me, I should have gotten better answers. You know?

Instituting change right away was like - hey, I want everybody on the same computer system at work. We had four secretaries, and they all have four different operating systems; it didn't make sense to me. So OK, we need to get on this, let's do this right now. I walked in the office, and the office was a mess. Coffee stains on the carpet, same pictures hanging - the wooden clock from the Stanford Invitational Tournament from 1983 was still on the wall ... there was no picture of Michael Jordan in there. And I was thinking, in terms of recruits, when they come in here, there's a dead plant in the corner. So I told my assistant, Doug Wojcik, get this place cleaned up.

...Well, it was done in a week. My mistake was I didn't ask for input from the people that were already there. That's what I learned in some classes I took afterward about leadership; people say sometimes 'don't change anything in the office that is within 25 feet of someone's desk without their input'. But I got the job July 11; I went to see Carmelo Anthony the next day on the 12th - boom, we've got to get it done, because recruits are coming on campus the end of August. I was put in a bad position, but I also didn't have the experience to help manage it.

And that's where they [the administration] could have helped me by saying, 'Too fast, you can't do that, no you can't bring your staff,' or 'Bring your staff' but what I should have done was bumped everyone down a position and retained a Phil Ford. I should have done that, I should have been told to do that.

And then my style was different than Coach [Bill] Guthridge. I was very much demanding, I yelled, I was a product of Roy Williams. ... [where] you don't accept certain things. You can't just walk off the court because your back bothers you. You can't not dive on a loose ball - and I'm going to let you know it. That team almost didn't make the NCAA tournament the year before. If it wasn't for Julius Peppers, they wouldn't have. In fact, my Notre Dame team deserved to be in the NCAA tournament more than North Carolina did. And what as worse, they went to the final Four, so now I've got players who think they can just wade through things. No, no, no. ... So I'm incorporating these changes into a successful program. And it wasn't embraced for a lot of reasons. And I understand those reasons now. Politics is real, but I'm very anti-politics. ... Within the first 90 days on the job, you forge your reputation, whether it's accurate or not - that's another thing I've learned. So if you come in and the first 90 days, they think you're a good guy, and you're not, they're always default to, 'well, he's really a good guy.' If you come in and the first 90 days, they think you're a hard-butt, and they don't like you and you do something nice, well, they'll default to, 'I don't trust him. He doesn't respect the program, he doesn't respect the tradition, he doesn't respect the previous coaches, he didn't retain the staff.'

Q: How are you a different coach now?

A: At times, I think I'm a little guarded. Like I'm afraid to let go, or be too fiery. Because you have a reputation. You have that in the back of your mind. I've asked my staff, 'Was I too hard on that kid? How did I handle that situation?' But maybe that's good.

Also, I'm more experienced now, I'm older. And I think I probably manage things more like Coach Williams does now. He's probably not as fiery as he was at 38 and the head coach at Kansas. There were classic stories of him then, and there were classic stories of me at Notre Dame. There are classic stories of Mike Krzyzewski during his first couple of years at Duke - I talk to Jay Bilas all the time. So as you get older, you mature a little bit and change, and hopefully for the better.

Q: So if Carolina was once the dream job, what's the dream now?

A: The dream is to get SMU basketball back to relevance, to get it turned around. I told my team the other days, you've got to have dreams, and you know, I would love to see us win 20-plus games and go to the NCAA tournament. That would be as big of an accomplishment of any of had, certainly as a coach. -- Robbi Pickeral


Anonymous said...

Hes right about having Pep on the team. If he werent on the team, they would have gotten pushed around all season down on the blocks. They were soft until Pep finished football and joined the hoops team.

Anonymous said...

Any man worthy of being handed the reins at THE UNIVERSITY OF NC should not need a lesson in people managment. Common sense says that don't walk in the door and make all those changes. I think at the end of the day, MD is not the nicest guy, listen to this article. you can sense resentment in his voice, he has no humility.

Jason said...

Matt wasn't ready to be a head coach at UNC or any other top-tier team when he was hired. He still may not be. He thinks too much of himself and not enough of the program or the kids. He's still bitter, and he has a right to be - he was put in an impossible situation. But if he thinks he was fired because he changed the computers and the carpet, he's delusional.

AMARQUE said...

I could not agree more with the previous postings. It sounds like Matt Doherty is still fooling himself. He was fired because he was a poor couch. He got the job at Notre Dame and UNC because he was a "friend of Michael."

He is bitter and somehow wants people to credit him for the championship. Good grief! He need to recognize that his 10 minutes of fame have expired.

cb said...

I am an NC State fan so this is very hard for me to say....I know Matt personally. He is one of the nicest, most humble people you will ever meet. There were mistakes on the part of the players, their parents and the administration. Matt has admitted his mistakes and he has learned from them. I, for one, wish him nothing but success.

Anonymous said...

He's still not at a major gosh SMU!! haven't been a winner in anything in years and years.Now after reading the articles you can tell that he still has a grudge against the best University in the World. They are winners and SMU is losers

Anonymous said...

Being a successful head coach requires you to have strong relational skills. These cannot generally be taught unless you had parents with good relational skills (which is pretty rare in this culture, given that we have no way to inititate men into manhood). They can be learned over time by trial and error if you are lucky. Roy Williams was lucky. Essentially raised by his Mom (most women are intrinsically relational) and mentored by Dean Smith gave him two great relational role models.

Matt Doherty was not so blessed. His inability to grasp the importance of human relationships insured his failure at UNC more than anything else. You can call it politics all day long and the truth is it is always about human relationships and seeing and respecting each human being just as they are and assessing how deeply you need to connect and support them before you institue change that impacts them.

Anonymous said...

Matt Doherty makes it sound like he is the victim of other people who "matter to him" who need to step up and make it right for him. What he needs to do is suck it up and admit that he was in over his head as a head coach in terms of persoanl relations and that his failure was his own creation and no one else's. Hey Matt, just say "I screwed up" and feel the shame of losing that you hold inside of you and keep breathing. The world will get a lot lighter in a short matter of time and you will find that you can go on living. The only person who needs forgiveness here is you by you.

Anonymous said...

It is obvious by this article that Doherty is still bitter. I think it is very pompous of him to say he has forgiven other people. He should be the one who asks for their forgiveness for his rash behavior. The biggest mistake was made by Baddour who should have never hired this novice coach in the first place. And ANYONE, including Doherty, who think he would have won it all with this team is delusional. He had totally lost control of this team and he would never gotten them to perform the way Roy was able to.

ViewFromThePorch said...

Matt made mistakes, and Carolina made mistakes. As an alum I was embarrassed by the way the University let his players (the ones with talent to win) and their parents run over him, with the passive if not active complicity of the former staff. He was not nurtured by a Carolina staff still smarting that their first choice (Williams) rejected them. Almost seems in retrospect they wanted a failure to help plead their case for how badly Williams was needed. Things seem rosy now (except when Roy calls out a single fan in a blow-out game, tacky) - but I feel badly for all that Matt (a classmate) and my school parted so poorly. I wish him well at SMU (if the Horned Frogs can be a power in football, maybe there's space for the Mustangs down the line!)...

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