At least as far as the Tar Heel fan base goes.
This crossed my mind at the Pro Alumni Game. Since UNC is kicking off a celebration of Tar Heel basketball over the past 100 years, at some point one would think that would include some sort of recognition of Doherty. According to Doherty's Twitter feed there has already been some manner of reconciliation with both UNC coaches and his former players:
Just left Chapel Hill. I had a great visit with Roy Williams this morning. Then we talked basketball with a bunch of former players and... 6:53 PM Sep 3rd from txt
...including Larry Brown. It was great to be back. I visited w Dean Smith, Bill Guthridge and former players Raymond Felton, Sean May...
...Jackie Manuel, Rashad McCants and many others. I was fortunate to be a part of that program.
I think the fact Doherty was in Chapel Hill and reuniting with the former players is outstanding news. The Carolina Family is a long running motif on which the basketball program is run. If UNC basketball is a family then ostensibly Doherty is the prodigal son who was given the keys to the family car and promptly wrecked then thrown out of the house. His presence in Chapel Hill this week with the coaches and probably more importantly with the very players whose quasi-rebellion led to his ouster means that steps have been taken behind the scenes to welcome him back into the fold.
The question is whether there will be a public moment to allow the fans to express appreciation to Doherty for his contributions to the UNC program. Yes, he oversaw the 8-20 season and made some huge mistakes in the way he ran the program. Still he was an integral part of the 1982 title team and two very good teams after that. Doherty also passionately took up the job as head coach of the Tar Heels. You could question his methods, but no one could question his fire for UNC. Just ask Chris Collins.
During one of the first half timeouts on Friday night, Bill Guthridge was recognized for his contributions to the UNC program and even accepted an ovation at center court. At some point it would be nice for Doherty to have that kind of moment on the Smith Center floor where the UNC faithful can show appreciation for him despite the way his tenure ended. The only possible reasons I can think of for not doing it would be fear the crowd might not be as gracious as one would think and the penchant for the media to create a firestorm over it. Still, this season is to be a celebration of UNC basketball over its entire history and like it or not, Doherty is a major part of that history. He was, for three years, head coach of the University of North Carolina men's basketball team which puts him in some rare company by itself.
Roy Williams has indicated there will be another gathering of UNC alumni players at some point in February. The Pro Alumni Game was done now to get the NBA players before the season started. Since Doherty was never an NBA player or coach, his presence there would not have been appropriate. Roy said another event would be held to honor the other alumni, especially the older ones. It may not work in terms of scheduling since Doherty will be in the middle of coaching SMU's basketball season but I sincerely hope a way can be found to recognize Doherty before the Tar Heel faithful as a means of putting the nastiness of 2003 behind us. In my opinion not doing so is a mistake.