Matt Doherty (basketball)

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For other people with the same name, see Matt Doherty (disambiguation).
For his North Carolina Tar Heels teammate, see Brad Daugherty (basketball).
Matt Doherty
Sport(s) Basketball
Biographical details
Born (1962-02-25) February 25, 1962 (age 55)
East Meadow, New York
Playing career
1980–1984 North Carolina
Position(s) Small forward
Coaching career (HC unless noted)
1989–1992 Davidson (asst.)
1992–1999 Kansas (asst.)
1999–2000 Notre Dame
2000–2003 North Carolina
2005–2006 Florida Atlantic
2006–2012 SMU
Accomplishments and honors
ACC regular season championship (2001)
AP National Coach of the Year (2001)

Matthew Francis "Matt" Doherty (born February 25, 1962) is a former American college basketball coach and current scout for the Indiana Pacers of the National Basketball Association (NBA). He is the former head men's basketball coach at the University of Notre Dame, the University of North Carolina, Florida Atlantic University, and Southern Methodist University. He has also worked as an NCAA basketball analyst for ESPN.

Playing career[edit]

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[edit]

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.

Notre Dame[edit]

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[edit]

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.[1]

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 contrasted with the low-key approach of 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.)[2] 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. But 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 departure 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 (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 2002–03, 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.[3]

According to Blue Blood[4] by Art Chansky, a longtime historian of the UNC program,[according to whom?] 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, 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.[5] According to Chansky, 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 confirmed as much during an ESPN interview shortly after his resignation. By 2006, 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 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[edit]

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[edit]

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. In his first year at SMU, Doherty assisted in fundraising and planning for the all-new Crum Basketball Center, a practice facility for the men's and women's basketball teams.[1] The center opened in February 2008. Doherty also 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 led SMU to a record of 14-17 in 2006-07, with an 11-3 non-conference record. Despite losing leading scorer Bryan Hopkins to eligibility, and Doherty having accepted the job late enough to only land one additional scholarship player, SMU increased their win total from the previous year. The following year SMU's record was 10-20.

After 5 losing seasons in 6 seasons, Doherty was fired from SMU on March 13, 2012, with an overall record of 80-109. He was purportedly[citation needed] slated to earn $500,000 for the remaining year on his contract.

After coaching[edit]

Following his departure from SMU, Doherty moved into a role working for ESPNU as a sports analyst of SEC and Big 12 basketball games. The Indiana Pacers subsequently hired Doherty as a scout.

Head coaching record[edit]

Season Team Overall Conference Standing Postseason
Notre Dame Fighting Irish (Big East Conference) (1999–2000)
1999–00 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)
2000–01 North Carolina 26–7 13–3 T–1st NCAA Second Round
2001–02 North Carolina 8–20 4–12 T–7th
2002–03 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)
2005–06 Florida Atlantic 15–13 14–6 3rd
Florida Atlantic: 15–13 (.536) 14–6 (.700)
SMU Mustangs (Conference USA) (2006–2012)
2006–07 SMU 14–17 3–13 11th
2007–08 SMU 10–20 4–12 11th
2008–09 SMU 9–21 3–13 12th
2009–10 SMU 14–17 7–9 7th
2010–11 SMU 20–15 8–8 7th CIT Semifinals
2011–12 SMU 13–19 4–12 11th
SMU: 80–109 (.423) 30–68 (.306)
Total: 170–180 (.486)

      National champion         Postseason invitational champion  
      Conference regular season champion         Conference regular season and conference tournament champion
      Division regular season champion       Division regular season and conference tournament champion
      Conference tournament champion

External links[edit]