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Doherty resigns after 3 year tenure at UNC

CHAPEL HILL -- After a week of intense speculation, the University of North Carolina made it official Tuesday evening: Matt Doherty will no longer be the Tar Heels' head coach.

Officially, the 41-year-old Doherty chose to resign after completing just three years of the six-year deal he signed in 2000. Doherty was absent from Tuesday evening's 8 p.m. press conference that featured UNC Athletic Director Dick Baddour and University Chancellor James Moeser, but issued a three-paragraph statement on his resignation.

"Effective today, I have resigned the position of head basketball coach at the University of North Carolina," the statement read. "Clearly, this has been a most difficult day for my staff, our families and for me."

For his decision to step down, which Baddour and Moeser both praised as illustrative of the former coach's "class," Doherty's will receive a buyout package that adds up to roughly $337,500, including 15 months of extended salary ($187,500) and a payment for his work on North Carolina basketball camps ($150,000).

Doherty compiled a record of 53-43 in his three seasons. He earned many national coach of the year awards during his first season when he guided the Tar Heels to a 26-7 mark. The 2001-2002 campaign ended disastrously though, North Carolina finished dead last in the ACC with a record of 8-20.

Doherty's squad rebounded this season after an influx of three McDonald's All-Americans. The 2002-2003 Tar Heels finished 19-16, despite suffering the loss of freshman Sean May, the Tar Heels' lone low post threat, early in the season due to a broken foot.

Baddour repeatedly emphasized that the University held Doherty's accomplishments during his tenure in high regard.

"Coach Doherty's resignation is a not a result of the number of wins and losses we achieved this year or in the past three years," he said. "This year's team won 19 games against the toughest rated schedule in the ACC and one of the most challenging in all of college basketball... they were the youngest team in major college basketball and the youngest team in our school's history. They accomplished a great deal for which we are very proud and thankful."

Despite beating current NCAA Final Four participant Kansas on his way to a surprise victory in the preseason NIT, which earned the Tar Heels a top-20 national ranking, Doherty's success this season came at a price. Many players, including May and fellow star freshman Rashad McCants, were continually linked to transfer rumors. In addition, rumors surfaced that Doherty might have offended people within the Tar Heel community with an abrasive attitude.

Baddour met with players and basketball staff members over the last two weeks, asking for their unvarnished opinion of Doherty and the basketball program's current state. Although he refused to acknowledge what complaints he heard during these sessions, Baddour acknowledged that valid or not, the negative speculation surrounding Doherty greatly influenced the program's decision to push for a new head coach.

"I think that weighed heavily on Matt," Baddour said. "I think you have to have an environment where you can be successful. I can understand why Matt would feel that the rumors and speculation was making that very difficult. I admire Matt for valuing the traditions of this program and the needs of this program over his own."

Baddour's praise for Doherty's willingness to place the needs of the university became an oft-repeated theme of Tuesday evening's press conference. He balanced these compliments with frequent assertions that Doherty lacked the proper leadership and communicative skills to fully succeed as the Tar Heels' head coach.

Baddour refused to specify as to what these concerns were. He commented that Doherty's short tenure and recent rumors surrounding his personality might reflect negatively on the University.

"I think that there probably are aspects of [our national image] that we have to be concerned about," Baddour said. "If we've lost any luster I think we can replace it quite easily."

Baddour hired Doherty after just one season as head coach at Notre Dame. Doherty appeared then to be a great candidate towards having a decade-long tenure, especially since he had played collegiately under legendary North Carolina head coach Dean Smith.

Three years later, Baddour admitted that more experience in running a program will be a key component in choosing the Tar Heels' next leader.

"Certainly [experience] will be a factor," he said. "But I want to go into this search knowing that every candidate who might think that he can fit in to Carolina would get due consideration. I don't want to set out a parameter here today, that I'm looking for this model or that model. Hopefullywe will find someone with a good deal of experience."

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