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Doherty Says He Doesn't Feel Like A Black Sheep Anymore

Two pieces.

The first is an article in the N&O in which Matt Doherty basically says he has been welcomed back into the Carolina Family following a few years of hard feelings.

Six years after being forced to resign at his alma mater, the starter on UNC's 1982 national championship team says viewing the artwork is finally more sweet than bitter.

"I felt a little dirty for a little while; I'd see this former [UNC] player, and think, 'Will he shake my hand? How does he really feel about me?' " said Doherty, now in his fourth season at SMU. "...But now, I don't feel like a black sheep anymore."

His tiptoe back into the Carolina basketball family, he said, stems from a long-overdue heart-to-heart last September with Roy Williams - an assistant coach when Doherty was a player in from 1980-84, a mentor when Doherty served as his assistant coach at Kansas from 1992-99, and the man who ultimately replaced him in Chapel Hill when Doherty was given the boot with three years left on his contract.

Williams said Doherty has always been a talented coach and Tar Heel in his eyes. After all, he won 117 games playing alongside the likes of Michael Jordan, James Worthy and Sam Perkins; then went 53-43 as UNC's coach before player complaints, two straight failures to make the NCAA Tournament and questions about his aggressive coaching style led to his resignation.

Doherty said he's wanted to return to the "family" fold for years, but before he could fully do so, he requested something more.

"There needed to be a conversation ... why did this person do this? Why did they say that? What was the timing of this, or did this conversation take place?" Doherty said last week. "We all need to learn how to forgive, and I was struggling with that. I wanted to forgive, but I think in order to forgive, there had to be a conversation first, so I could let go of that."

The second is an extensive interview given to the N&O where Doherty still expresses some bitterness, mostly over the fact that he recruited the starting lineup of the 2005 title team and no one bothered to thank him:

Hard. It was my team, my starting five. To see them climb the ladder and cut down the nets, [there] were really mixed emotions. And the tough thing was, I was doing TV at the time, for CSTV, which is now CBS College Sports. And I’m sitting in the green room, and we’re taking notes, and it’s a group of about 10 people, and I’m watching this. And I get real quiet, and people are talking, and they’re like, ‘Hey, we need to go on the set.’ And I’m like, ‘I need a minute.’ I just sat there. And the phone rang, and it was [ECU athletics director] Terry Holland, and he just said, ‘I’m thinking about you. Congratulations. You put that team together, and you should feel good about it.’

My assistants that were with me at North Carolina texted me, and called. And it was really weird, because selfishly, it was good – because I was almost like the general manager that put that team together. But emotionally, to see those other coaches climbing the ladder to cut down the nets was really tough, really tough.

And I don’t think we as a staff every got a lot of that recognition. It’s hard when I see the coaches at North Carolina wearing those rings. It’s like, it would have been nice to get a note, it would have been nice to get maybe a picture of the ring. You know, some acknowledgement that ‘you guys put together a heck of a team.’ So that was hard.

Doherty also believes that the shakeup he wrought in the UNC program when he arrived was not his fault because no one told him otherwise. Ultimately I guess this is water under the bridge given he sat down and had the reconciliation conversation with Roy Williams, who as the current head of the Carolina Family, can offer absolution of sorts. Still, it appears Doherty is still not happy with having recruited players only to see them win a title with another coaching staff. It is hard to blame him for feeling that way though let's not act as though Doherty would have gotten the same results. He might have but he also probably does not bring in Marvin Williams who was a key factor on that team. Not to mention the dissent among the players was real. The general dissatisfaction within the program in general was real as well. So while it sucks for Doherty that a team he recruited pulled down the ultimate prize, he honestly has no one to blame but himself. He made his bed and part of that is watching UNC win a title without him. As for the rest of it? It is what it is. Doherty made huge mistakes and he paid a price. The good news is Doherty is back in the good graces of the powers that be in Chapel Hill as well as the players. Will this ultimately lead to some sort of recognition where the fans can finally make their peace with him? Who knows is such a thing is really necessary or prudent since many UNC fans still have trouble letting go of what happened. For now, it is nice to see the relationship has been restored with the principals running the Tar Heel program and hopefully the reconciliation can proceed from there.