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Blue Heaven - Paradise Lost?

Despite the big win over Duke on Sunday, this hasn't been a great week for UNC sports,
and for the two basketball teams in general. Sylvia Hatchell, who has now lost nine
straight games to Gail Goestenkors, followed her earlier "Duke-got-lucky"
comments, about the first game this year, with some even pettier comments about how UNC
would have won: "[i]t is pretty simple. If we had boxed out and made layups we still
would have won despite the difference in free throws. We missed six or seven
layups in the second half." In case you missed her point, she also said this: "[Duke] came out in the second half and upped their
intensity level. For the second half, they played a different game ... basically, Beard
and Tillis could do no wrong in the second half in anybody's eyes out there."
And then there's Matt Doherty.

The Duke win was marred by Doherty's eruption and his physical altercation with
Chris Collins and Andre Buckner. We have held off on commenting on this because we
didn't want to get into a sour-grapes situation right after the game, but at this point,
it's pretty clear that Collins was speaking to the referee and Doherty was the one who
blew up. The most hilarious part was after almost setting off a riot he held his
hands up and walked away, sort of the basketball equivalent of the Monty Python French
character who said "Now go away or I shall taunt you a second time!"

Doherty was reprimanded by the conference, as were Collins and Buckner, and we have no
problem with the reprimands, particularly in the case of Buckner. Andre's a good
kid, but he shouldn't have pushed Doherty. However, the whole situation would never
have happened had Doherty not lost his cool.

But that episode, as interesting as it was, and as much as it recalled some classic
Duke-UNC tensions, like between JR Reid and Danny Ferry, or Art Heyman vs. Chapel Hill in
general, may be either subordinate to, or trumped by, the allegations
printed in the ACC Sports Journal
, aka The Poop Sheet.

The article is available to subscribers only, so we can't give you the whole thing.
But we can tell you the general nature of the article and a few tidbits to ponder.
The general nature: Doherty is by no means secure, and the University has drawn up
buyout plans as a contingency (though no decision has been made). The tidbits:

  • Two parents of players are seriously furious, one saying his/her kid has been through
    "hell.". Neither wishes to be identified at this time. The same parent who
    said his/her kid had been through hell also says "[n]obody’s happy. They can’t
    stand the coach."
  • Doherty's future depends on his relationship with the players.
  • You already knew this - six players have left the team since Doherty took over - Julius
    Peppers, Ronald Curry, Joe Forte, Neil Fingleton, Adam Boone, and Brian Morrison -
    and several others hav considered it as well. The first three are significant; the
    last three aren't. The common denominator, though, is the unhappiness with Doherty.
  • According to this article, there is some truth to the rumored near-walkout earlier this
    season, but you'll have to do business with the Poop Sheet to read the rest.
  • The situation is affecting recruiting, with a couple of big recruits already saying the
    uncertainty affected their decisions. For schools who use negative recruiting (we
    can think of one ACC school that does and one former ACC coach who does as well), this
    article will be faxed far and wide.

There are a lot of people who are in difficult situations as a result of this mess, not
least of all Dick Baddour, whose track record is spotty to say the least. He hired
Bill Guthridge ( not that he had a choice), and Gut did make two Final Fours in three
years, Carl Torbush, and Matt Doherty. The jury is still out on John Bunting.

Along the way, he negotiated deals with Frank Beamer of Virginia Tech and Roy Williams,
but failed to get signed contracts before they left town, and both reconsidered once they
got back to their respective schools, according to published reports at the time.
After the Williams situation, Larry Brown said he felt humiliated when he was
interviewed, getting the clear impression, he said, that he was too old for the position.

There's no doubt that Dean Smith is a tough act to follow, and for that matter, so was
the much-criticized Mack Brown. Nonetheless, UNC is at a crossroads: do they cut their
losses now? Or hope that Doherty can manage to put his house in order? Are the
players as upset as this story suggests they are? Are the parents?

That the decision will be made by Chancellor James Moeser and Dick Baddour makes it
even more difficult: Baddour, you'll recall, left Carl Torbush twisting in the wind
before finally giving him one more year, and Moeser, despite many fine qualities, is
not exactly a forceful presence. For Baddour, it's a particularly devilish choice:
does he admit he made a mistake and can Doherty? Or does he take a chance and completely
tie his fate to Doherty's?

Self-preservation would argue that he won't, but that's just a guess.

However, this is not a guess: instability in Chapel Hill started when John
Swofford became the ACC commissioner. It probably won't stop until he has a worthy
successor. Falling behind Duke is bad enough; when Wake and State motor ahead as
well, heads are about to roll. The question, really, is whose and how soon.