Doherty feels connection with current Tar Heels

Updated: February 4, 2005, 8:52 PM ET
Associated Press

Matt Doherty is waiting for his moment.

The former North Carolina coach is enjoying work as a college basketball broadcaster and spending time with small business ventures, but he acknowledges it's getting harder to ignore the pull of the sidelines. Nearly two years after he went from one of the nation's hottest young coaches to a castoff, Doherty wants to coach again.

And, he says, he's ready to apply the lessons learned from three tumultuous seasons at his alma mater.

"I'm motivated," Doherty told The Associated Press in a phone interview Friday. "I've got the energy of a 42-year-old, but I've got the experience of a guy that's been around the block a few times.

"It's time. It's time for me to go back to work and do what I have a passion to do."

Doherty boasts a resume that features four years of Division I head coaching experience, a career marked by a rapid rise and even faster fall.

After leading Notre Dame to the 2000 NIT final, he took over at North Carolina, guiding the Tar Heels to a No. 1 ranking and becoming the AP national coach of the year in 2001.

But his second team at North Carolina went 8-20, the school's first losing record since Dean Smith's first season in 1962.

Then came an ugly public split between Doherty and the school in April 2003, which included reports that players and parents complained to athletic director Dick Baddour about Doherty's intense practices and drastic mood swings.

Doherty -- who played for Smith and alongside Michael Jordan on the 1982 NCAA championship team -- said he is not bitter, calling his time as coach of the Tar Heels "a positive experience."

He knows he made mistakes, including making drastic changes to the program from the start, and said the players should not have been blamed for his departure.

"It's all about how you handle situations and whether you're tough enough to bounce back," Doherty said. "And I'm tough enough to bounce back."

Both sides sound as though they've buried the past. Doherty said he has enjoyed watching successor Roy Williams lead his former players to the nation's No. 2 ranking.

"I have a lot of pride in what they're achieving," Doherty said.

"I prefer to look back on those times as, 'Wow, we did make a difference,' " he said. "That team is successful ... I feel I had a little to do with that, and it's satisfying."

Meanwhile, school spokesman Steve Kirschner said Baddour would support Doherty in his pursuit of another coaching job, while senior Jackie Manuel -- a freshman on Doherty's losing team -- said he didn't hold anything against his former coach.

"There's no harsh feelings or anything," Manuel said. "I'm pretty sure he feels the same."

Doherty has spent the past two seasons in broadcasting, which has given him the chance to talk with coaches across the country and observe them at practices.

He's tried to pick up pointers everywhere he goes, so much so that Davidson coach Bob McKillop -- who coached Doherty in high school and gave him his first break in the business as an assistant in 1989 -- likened Doherty to a sponge.

"I think he's clearly determined to get back into coaching, and I think he's going to have an opportunity down the road without a doubt," McKillop said. "People will be making a mistake if they don't do it. He's got a tremendous amount to offer."

Doherty, who talked with St. John's and James Madison about openings last year, said that he is looking for the right fit. Meanwhile, he stays busy by dabbling in commercial real estate in Mooresville, N.C., a NASCAR-crazy town north of Charlotte where he now lives.

He also started a marketing firm that does some NASCAR-related business, indulging his growing interest in the motor sport.

But he's ready to drop everything to start coaching again.

"I've done some things well and, of the things maybe I didn't do well, I've certainly learned from those experiences," he said. "I want to put those things to use. I want to think I'm more ready than most to take advantage of an opportunity."


Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press