Thursday, July 01, 2004

Roy Williams, Matt Doherty and UNC tradition

The Raleigh News & Observer has two good stories about the family atmosphere that UNC basketball fosters. Of course, these feelings of good will were strained during the short but tumultuous Doherty years. The good news is twofold: Roy Williams has done a great job of bringing former basketball greats back to Chapel Hill on a regular basis and Doherty, through the magic of hindsight, has seen the err of his ways and admits that he would probably do things differently the second time around.

"I learned a lot, first-hand, got an MBA in basketball.

...It's not just about X's and O's. [Coaching is] about managing a program. It's about leading people. All coaches are not formally trained for that.

...I was one year removed from being an assistant. An assistant focuses on recruiting and scouting, not management.

..."It happened so fast (on being named UNC head coach). It was in the middle of recruiting. I don't think I made some of the best decisions.""
Some might say that's an understatement, but at least Doherty takes responsibility for how things turned. And despite how things ended in Chapel Hill he still keeps in touch with Coach Williams and would eventually like to get back into coaching. From the N & O:

His loyalty to Carolina hasn't wavered. He recently visited Tar Heels coach Roy Williams, for whom he worked as an assistant coach at Kansas.

"I told him: 'You're the right guy for this job,' " Doherty said. "Everybody who played or coached at Carolina believes that.

"I look for things to be moving in the right direction. Hopefully, I helped in small ways to lay a little foundation."

Doherty still wants a career in basketball.

In what capacity is the question.

"Coaching is where my passion lies," he said.

"And there are good opportunities in the TV field. I'm talking with some networks now. That's not a bad lifestyle. You have summers off, relax a little, spend time with your family.

"And when the game is over, you're done. You don't have the highs you have in coaching. But you don't have the lows, either."
On a lighter note, Roy Williams has the Dean Dome abuzz once again with the annual summer battles pitting alumni against current players. This is one of many things that makes the UNC experience a unique one. And Coach Williams is looking to revitalize the traditions that waned during the last four years.

There was a buzz in the Smith Center last Wednesday when Raymond Felton, Rashad McCants, Sean May and the 2004-05 Tar Heels challenged a pro team composed of former Carolina players.
The pros won, rallying for a 100-93 victory while several hundred wide-eyed youngsters at UNC's basketball camp ooohed and aaahed.

They saw Antawn Jamison, a multimillion dollar NBA player, dive on the floor for a loose ball that led to a fast-break basket. They watched Donald Williams knock in long jumpers, Brendan Haywood throw down dunks, and Makhtar Ndiaye drain a 3 that enabled the alumni to reach the 100-point mark needed for victory.

Carolina coach Roy Williams didn't like hearing that his current Tar Heels had been beaten, but he enjoyed having the old-timers back in town.

That old Carolina family atmosphere is back.

Michael Jordan brought his two sons to Williams' camp. Shammond Williams, Ed Cota, Jerry Stackhouse, Eric Montross, Derrick Phelps, Bill Chamberlain, Curtis Hunter and Dante Calabria are among others who have been around.

"Having these guys come back is something that's very important to me," said the folksy, friendly Williams. "Every player who ever played at North Carolina, I want them to still feel it's their basketball program."

That special bond was prevalent throughout the 36-year era of Dean Smith and continued when Bill Guthridge became the head coach.

But after Guthridge retired in 2000, the situation changed.

Doherty accepts some blame for the breakdown in relationships.

In an interview last Friday, Doherty said not retaining assistants from the previous Heels staff -- Phil Ford, Dave Hanners and Pat Sullivan -- created "hard feelings" among several former players.

"Some took that personally," Doherty said. "They were very close to Phil, Pat and Dave. As a result, some guys were not as supportive as I would have liked. I understand that.

"I think that set a tone for three years for a lot of people who were very much a part of the Carolina family. It was such a traumatic transition. In hindsight, I would have handled that differently. I would have tried to be loyal to my staff [I brought from Notre Dame], but try to use creativity to include the staff at Carolina."
If nothing else, Matt Doherty should be commended for standing up and taking his medicine. And while everyone is saying, "it's not Doherty's fault," you get the feeling that many people were thinking just that -- even if they said something else. Of course, having Roy Williams finally take the job (after initially turning it down in 2000 -- leading to Doherty being hired) has certainly lessened the memories of an 8-20 season.

When Williams was named head coach at UNC, he contacted all former players. Then last season he held a reunion weekend, an effort to revive the unity that Smith and Guthridge had established.
It's good to see things are getting back to normal in Chapel Hill. Now as soon as the Heels win the NCAA's I can all but forget about the Adam Boone/Brian Morrison experiment.