Matt Doherty (basketball)
February 25, 1962 |
East Meadow, New York
|Coaching career (HC unless noted)|
|Accomplishments and honors|
ACC Regular Season Championship (2001)
AP National Coach of the Year (2001)
Matt Doherty (born February 25, 1962) is a former American college basketball coach. He is the former head men's basketball coach at Southern Methodist University. Doherty accepted the job in April 2006 after a year as head coach at Florida Atlantic University. He is best known for his tumultuous three-year stint as the head basketball coach at his alma mater, the University of North Carolina from 2000 to 2003. He coached at SMU. Now he is a NCAA basketball analyst for ESPN.
Doherty played high school basketball on his native Long Island at Holy Trinity High School before being recruited to North Carolina by legendary coach Dean Smith in 1980. Doherty was a four-year letterman and sometimes starter for North Carolina, and in those four seasons the Tar Heels amassed a record of 117 wins and 21 losses and won the NCAA National Championship in 1982.
Doherty was drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers in the sixth round, with the 119th overall pick, of the 1984 NBA Draft. Doherty never played in the NBA and went on to work on Wall Street for several years.
Assistant coaching career
In 1989 Doherty was hired as an assistant basketball coach at Davidson College by head coach Bob McKillop, who coached Doherty at Holy Trinity High School in Hicksville, New York. In 1992 Doherty moved to the University of Kansas as an assistant coach under Roy Williams, who had been an assistant to Dean Smith during Doherty's years at North Carolina. During Doherty's time at Kansas, the Jayhawks won four Big 8 and Big 12 titles and advanced to the NCAA Tournament every year. Doherty was an active recruiter during his time at Kansas, and many of the players he coached there went on to play in the NBA, including Paul Pierce, Drew Gooden and Kirk Hinrich, among others.
In 1999 Doherty was hired as the head coach at the University of Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish had struggled ever since Digger Phelps retired in 1991, but in Doherty's only season as their coach they posted a 22–15 record and advanced to the finals of the NIT.
North Carolina head coach Bill Guthridge retired in 2000 and it was commonly believed that the job would go to another member of the "Carolina Family" of coaches. The school very publicly courted Roy Williams, who had left North Carolina for Kansas in 1988, but Williams refused the job. After other candidates such as George Karl, Larry Brown, and Eddie Fogler (all North Carolina alumni) refused the job or did not pan out for various reasons, North Carolina turned to the 38-year-old Doherty to lead the Tar Heels.
Doherty's first season was largely a success as the Heels shot to the #1 ranking in the polls in the middle of the Atlantic Coast Conference schedule. Fans and players alike seemed energized by his boisterous, in-your-face coaching style, which seemed refreshing to many when compared to the low-key Smith and Guthridge. (In fact, Doherty received a standing ovation when he was hit with a technical foul in the team's first game of the season.) However, a string of unexpected losses in the latter part of the year set the Tar Heels reeling. They still finished with an impressive 26-7 record and tied for the ACC regular season title. However, their season ended on a sour note, with a second-round upset loss to Penn State in the NCAA Tournament. Doherty was named as national coach of the year by the Associated Press.
The 2001-02 season would not be nearly as enjoyable for Doherty and the Tar Heels. The loss of the previous year's seniors, combined with the unexpected loss of Joseph Forte to the NBA and two football players who had played significant roles the previous season declining to return to the basketball team (Julius Peppers and Ronald Curry), plus a roster full of untested freshmen, proved to be disastrous. The Tar Heels finished the season with a record of 8–20, finishing with a losing record for the first time since 1962 (Dean Smith's first year as coach). They missed postseason play entirely for the first time since the 1965–66 season (including a record 27 straight NCAA Tournament appearances). The 20 losses were easily the most a Tar Heel team had ever suffered. They also finished 4–12 in the ACC—only the Tar Heels' second losing record in ACC play ever. The 12 losses were five more than the Tar Heels had ever suffered in a single season of ACC play, and placed them in a tie for 7th place—the program's first finish below fourth place ever. The season also saw the end of UNC's run of 31 straight 20-win seasons and 35 straight seasons of finishing third or higher in the ACC.
In 2002–2003, the Tar Heels rebounded but still fell short of what North Carolina fans had come to expect, finishing 19-16 and earning a berth in the NIT. The team started extremely well, winning the preseason NIT with decisive victories over Kansas and Stanford, but an early, season-ending injury to center Sean May left the team with almost no presence inside. Throughout the year, many players (particularly May) and other program insiders had publicly voiced their displeasure with Doherty, and fans began to call for Doherty's firing.
According to Blue Blood by Art Chansky, a longtime historian of the UNC program, Doherty was told on March 31 that he would not be allowed to return due to an irreparable rift with his players. Given the option of resigning or being fired, he resigned the next day.
According to Chansky, the seeds for Doherty's downfall were planted by decisions he made soon after being named as coach. He announced that he would bring his entire staff from Notre Dame, leaving assistant coaches Phil Ford, Pat Sullivan and Dave Hanners out of jobs. He also forced out several longtime secretaries in the basketball office. In his first address to the team, he stated that he felt they had not done enough—something which jarred a group that had managed to make a Cinderella run to the Final Four in the previous season. The day after the resignation, Inside Carolina's Thad Williamson reported that UNC officials were very concerned about the lack of a respectful environment in the program. In part because of this, three scholarship players had transferred—an unusually high number for any college basketball program, especially one of UNC's stature. Several more were threatening to leave if Doherty had been allowed to stay on. Doherty had reportedly been given a year to make things more harmonious if he wanted to keep his job. According to Chansky, apparently this didn't happen, as only two players supported Doherty's return for the 2003–04 season.
A commonly held theory portrays Doherty as being forced out by athletic officials at UNC in order to make way for Williams, who was tapped to replace Doherty. Doherty said as much during an ESPN interview shortly after his resignation. Finally in 2006, with years separation from his supposed resignation, Doherty no longer spoke positively about his time at UNC and admitted he felt he was pushed out of his job. Williams refused to talk negatively about his former assistant coach Doherty. Although Williams would later admit that he felt the 8–20 season was a disgrace, he would never specifically mention Doherty's name. After taking the job, Williams never publicly voiced strong criticism in various interviews of what some viewed as the heavy-handed manner in which school officials handled Doherty's dismissal, especially the press conference held by Chancellor James Moeser and Athletic Director Dick Baddour.
Doherty kept a low profile immediately following his resignation from North Carolina. He served as a college basketball analyst on such outlets as ESPN and the now-defunct C-SET over the next two seasons and also covered a few Big 12 games on ESPN Plus.
Florida Atlantic University
On April 18, 2005, he was named as the new head basketball coach at Florida Atlantic University, becoming the fifth coach in FAU's history. In Doherty's one year there, FAU compiled its best-ever conference record (14-6) and only its third season winning record in school history. In April 2006, Matt Doherty left FAU for a coaching position with Southern Methodist University.
Southern Methodist University
After a year at Florida Atlantic University, Doherty accepted an offer to become the 16th coach in Southern Methodist University history on April 23, 2006. The Dallas, Texas campus was the fourth stop in Doherty's head coaching career. In his first year at SMU, Doherty made an immediate and positive impact on the program. He assisted in raising the funds and planning for the all new state-of-the-art Crum Basketball Center, a practice facility for the men's and women's basketball teams. The center opened in February 2008. In addition, Doherty helped spearhead the Moody Coliseum renovations, including a new state-of-the-art jumbo-tron, replacing the court, moving the athletic offices to Gerald J. Ford Stadium, and general improvements to the facility.
On the court, Doherty began building the foundation for the future while leading SMU to a record of 14-17 in 2006-2007. While losing leading scorer Bryan Hopkins to eligibility, and accepting the job late enough to only land one additional scholarship player, SMU increased their win total from the previous year. Positives from the year included an 11-3 non conference record, a 59-52 loss at Florida State, a 53-48 victory over the University of Dayton, and a near upset of the #6 ranked Memphis Tigers in the final regular season game. Yet Doherty's team regressed on the court, compiling a 10-20 record in 2007–2008.
Doherty was fired from SMU on March 13, 2012 after compiling a record of 80-109 in six seasons. He had one year remaining on his contract, for which he was purportedly slated to earn $500,000. Doherty is currently working for ESPNU as a sports analyst of SEC and Big 12 basketball games. Ironically, his successor at Southern Methodist was once again another North Carolina basketball alum, Hall of Famer Larry Brown.
Head coaching record
|Notre Dame Fighting Irish (Big East Conference) (1999–2000)|
|1999–2000||Notre Dame||22–15||8–8||T–6th||NIT Finals|
|Notre Dame:||22–15 (.595)||8–8 (.500)|
|North Carolina Tar Heels (Atlantic Coast Conference) (2000–2003)|
|2000–2001||North Carolina||26–7||13–3||T–1st||NCAA Second Round|
|2002–2003||North Carolina||19–16||6–10||T–6th||NIT Quarterfinals|
|North Carolina:||53–43 (.552)||23–25 (.479)|
|Florida Atlantic Owls (Atlantic Sun Conference) (2005–2006)|
|Florida Atlantic:||15–13 (.536)||14–6 (.700)|
|SMU Mustangs (Conference USA) (2006–2012)|
|SMU:||80–109 (.423)||30–68 (.306)|
- Stewart Mandel, From Tobacco Road to Boca: Matt Doherty has made most of second chance at FAU, Sports Illustrated.
- FAU Season Review, 
- CBS article on Doherty at SMU: Doherty: 'I'm 50 times better now than I was then
- SMU Men's Basketball Blog: Matt Doherty's blog at SMU
- Prince Peruna: Prince Peruna
- Rapidly Elevating: Doherty Rapidly Elevating SMU from Obscurity
- Crum Basketball Facility: Crum Basketball Center
- ESPN article on Doherty's acceptance of head coach at North Carolina
- Chansky, Art. Blue Blood:Duke-Carolina: Inside the Most Storied Rivalry in College Hoops. New York City: St. Martin's Press, 2006. ISBN 0-312-32787-0
- Scout.com: Thad: The Matt Doherty Era - What Went Wrong?