Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Tar Heels' Doherty Still on Thin Ice

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Tar Heels' Doherty Still on Thin Ice

Article excerpt

Byline: Bob Thomas, Times-Union staff writer

North Carolina coach Matt Doherty will gladly accept the official reprimand from the Atlantic Coast Conference office for Sunday's chest-to-chest encounter with Duke assistant Chris Collins in exchange for a few more victories like the Tar Heels delivered over the Blue Devils.

Carolina may have salvaged a season and Doherty's job with its 82-79 win over Duke. If nothing else, it saved face. The upset win assured Tar Heels fans that they wouldn't be at the Greensboro Coliseum for tonight's ACC Tournament play-in game against Florida State. After all, that wouldn't be any way for Carolina -- the winningest program in league history -- to celebrate the conference's 50th anniversary.

Such a predicament, on the heels of last season's embarrassing 8-20 campaign, may have been too much for Doherty to overcome. The third-year coach has already fallen out of favor with the Carolina faithful, as much for his brusk demeanor as his failure to win enough games. Former UNC coach Dean Smith could be short and curt with the very best, but as college basketball's all-time winningest coach, he was Teflon-coated. Doherty has become a lightning rod for criticism, which he doesn't handle well.

"We are in eighth place with a chance to be in fifth," Doherty said two weeks ago, before the 'Heels rallied to beat Georgia Tech. "People are saying, 'What's wrong, what's wrong?' You guys picked us here. Nothing is wrong. Everything is right on schedule, except Sean May got hurt. We wish that didn't happen. So, I don't understand sometimes the line of questioning and the articles when we are where you picked us to be."

For the record, UNC was picked to finish seventh in the preseason ACC media poll and is the No. 7 seed for the tournament after tying Virginia for sixth.

Sunday's outburst, after freshman guard Raymond Felton was felled by a Dahntay Jones elbow, perfectly depicts the emotional complexity of the embattled third-year coach. The Long Island native and UNC alum is as passionate today as he was when he was setting screens and grabbing rebounds in support of star teammates Michael Jordan and James Worthy. …

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