Andrew: The Time is Now

Dick Baddour needs to make a decision, and soon.

North Carolina's athletics director has spent the last two days meeting with Tar Heel basketball players – both as a group and individually – to gather information which will ultimately play a role in whether or not Matt Doherty is retained as the school's men's basketball coach.

Fans can surmise almost anything they want regarding Baddour's "delay" to make a public statement about Doherty's future. Reports by reputable journalists have surfaced over the last few days: one saying as many as six players will consider transferring if Doherty is retained; the other that the starting five wants the coach back, and the only real discontent within the program being largely due to individual's playing time.

Fans and onlookers might conclude that the delay has more to do with the school not appearing as if it is making a rush to judgment on the third-year Carolina coach, even though his fate may have already been determined. It's reasonable to presume that Baddour and any of the other powers involved already have plenty of "goods" if Doherty's relationship with his players and athletic department personnel has been as strained as some publications have reported. If so, they might be attempting to make the investigation appear more thorough than it might necessitate at this time.

Yet, it's also understandable to suppose Baddour will only use what he began learning on Thursday to make his decision, which would certainly be the fairest approach. If there have been serious relationship issues such information would certainly surface during the on-going process. Moreover, Doherty wouldn't be dealing with pre-determined prejudices that have possibly been slowly and naturally building by layer over the past two months in some influential minds.

It is also easy to believe the players' public support of Doherty (according to published reports, some haven't been as supportive off the record), and based on two pieces that came out by reliable journalists on Friday, that he will be back for a fourth season next year, which is why Baddour needs to speak up now.

If Doherty is going to be retained, two days of meetings should suffice. Some of the players may say they deserved more minutes - a claim that was actually made by former Tar Heels that played for Dean Smith, believe it or not – but if that's the extent of it then an announcement in support of Doherty should be forthcoming, and soon. Perhaps an extension could be part of the press release.

Group and individual meetings with each member of the team over two days is a long time for everyone to say they are relatively happy with the coach. So, if that's the case, say it.

Doherty certainly deserves it. The university deserves it. The tradition that is Carolina basketball - the ghosts from the White Phantoms, the 1924 Helms Foundation title, the 1946 Dillon gang, triple overtimes in 1957, Charlie Scott's and Smith's courage of the late 60s, the once-in-a-lifetime Phil Ford, Michael, James, and Sam, The Donald dialing long distance, to the lightning quick Antawn Jamison – also deserves it. Heck, even the fans deserve it.

What is often said in public isn't always what that person truly believes. Then again, many times people simply speak their minds. Baddour knows this isn't about basketball, because if it were, no announcement would be necessary. Doherty would be secure. So there is no game-film evaluation or report card from Smith grading Doherty's hoops tactics necessary here. Just a simple statement on the future, especially if what he heard over the last two days was essentially, "I want him back."

The school will likely make the right decision, whichever way it goes. But as each hour passes, Doherty is hung out to dry that much more, and the natives grow even more restless with the situation, and clearly with Baddour, whose track record in this area isn't without its black marks.

So for the sake of everyone interested, it's time for Baddour to speak out if Doherty is staying. Because if he is, Baddour already knows it. If he's not, he knows that too.

Senior writer Andrew Jones is in his seventh year with Inside Carolina. He also covers the ACC for the Wilmington Star-News/Morning Star and can be reached via e-mail at:

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