The decision was made. They're trying to make the program better to the best of their abilities and it just had to be done.
So this had to be done for the best of the program?
Definitely. We want to be able to play for a coach we have full confidence in and be able to make it to the Final Four every year we play. I think that Dick Baddour and Chancellor Moeser made a good decision.
Can you talk about your team's decision to keep these issues in-house and not talk about it until now?
It's still an in-house thing. We didn't really want to bring all of our business about what we do inside out to the public.
What would you like to see happen next?
Just let the process begin so we can start preparing for next year.
Are you happy to get what you want?
It's not about what we want. It's about opportunity and things that just happened. All year me and Coach Doherty didn't see eye-to-eye. A lot of other players really didn't like his style of coaching. It's just something that kind of happened.
What about Doherty didn't you see eye-to-eye on?
It's a lot of things, I really don't want to speak on that. We just didn't have that connection that he had with other players on the team and I guess that happens with some teams, but it probably happened with more players than he expected.
What would you like to see in the next coach?
Just being open and being real and being truthful. Just enjoying our presence and giving us the respect that we would give him.
It sounds like the major issues were trust and respect …
Definitely. There were some times in the season where guys really didn't respect Coach Doherty to a certain extent and that we felt he didn't really respect us. That's not what you come to North Carolina to do and to play for.
Did you give him the benefit of the doubt because he's been a college player before?
Coach Doherty's very competitive and that's what we've seen in the course of the year. He competed in everything he did and that's what brought me here – other than the program itself – he was a competitor, he was out there with you and that was one of the positive qualities he had as a coach. He was very competitive and he always wanted to win.
So it wasn't the guy you saw on the recruiting trail?
Definitely. I guess I was persuaded to some extent, all college coaches do that. But I was definitely surprised. I really wasn't ready for what this whole year brought to me, but I definitely learned from the experience.
If Coach Doherty had stayed here, would that have affected your decision to stay?
Definitely not. This program is probably the best program in the country and whether or not he stayed … I had to fight it out and then at the end of the year we came to a lot of agreements and I told him things that I thought he wasn't doing right and I kind of gave him some insights and pointers to talk about with the other players. It started to get a bit better at the end of the year, but regardless of anything that happened, I was going to be here next year.
Do you think other players would have left had he stayed?
Definitely so. Teammates really weren't happy, as I was or any other player was. As a teammate you don't want guys to leave because they are not happy with the coaching staff. We are all a family and when somebody's gone it's like a dog died or somebody is out vacationing.
Would a coach with NBA experience be attractive to you?
Any kind of coach with any kind of experience would be attractive. We definitely want to win and we want somebody in that's been part of a winning program and has went far. And I think any kind of NBA coach would be a good look for us because our goals are to make it to the NBA.
Are you excited about the possibility of Larry Brown?
Larry Brown's a nice guy – I've met him personally. I think he's a great coach and like I said, any [NBA] coach is good for us.
What other names have you heard that appeal to you?
I haven't heard any other names.
Phil Ford's always been that guy that everybody thinks should have a chance at being the coach, but we'll see what happens.
There were some reports that there was a split among the team about Doherty?
I mean, it happens. Some players are treated differently than others. Some players didn't have a reason for him to go, so that made it difficult for everybody.
Individually, what did you do to cope with not seeing eye-to-eye with your coach?
I just talked to my parents and a bunch of family members that calmed me down. There were a lot of ups and downs for me, especially coming in and having a good first half of the season and then the ups and downs with the coaches – you really don't expect that to happen coming in as a freshman. I really wasn't ready for it, so I kind of had to get my head back into the game and start to feel it again.
Did you expect this outcome?
I couldn't understand why anybody that watched any of our games couldn't see that there was a problem. That it showed in our losses and some of the wins, too. There was always something wrong regardless of whether it was people taking more shots than other people, not defining roles … just being comfortable with the decision making. And there were a lot of things that were up in the air, as far as the respect for the coach and everything like that.
Did you ever feel like some players might reach a breaking point during the season?
I felt that way for myself, especially when I started to get benched. I really just didn't love the game anymore and I just really didn't feel like playing because I thought I was totally being taken advantage of as far as my skills and the things I could bring to the team. It was kind of frustrating getting out there and not knowing what you can and cannot do.
Did you ever consider transferring?
I considered it throughout the whole year. I always had to look up and look at the banners in the rafters and just think about reaching my goals.
In your view what would have happened to the program had Coach Doherty stayed?
I really don't know. I couldn't really speak on what could happen. I think we'd have a good run at the NCAAs and take it from there.
Do you feel a lot of pressure has been taken off now?
Not really. I think it's going to be a harder transition coming into a new coach and a whole new system, from a system we learned all year long. I think it's going to be a harder transition coming into a new system and things like that. But I think every other player on the team is going to be happy to make that transition and that we have a fresh new start.
Was there anything that could have been done to repair the relationship between the coach and the players?
I don't know – I can't really speak for all the other players. For me, I went through more than I'd went through my entire life this year. I've just been put through so much, I don't know if I could really do that.
Considering the tough season, is this a relief for you?
I wouldn't say a relief because I think we deserve to be playing right now and Coach Doherty was a good guy and I'm sorry to see him go. Right now the deal for me is just the way the season ended. I still want to be playing, so it's not really a relief. We're just trying to get better next year.
What were you put through that made this such an unpleasant season?
I'd rather not talk about it.
Was there any one player that held the team together through the turmoil?
It was sort of everybody saying, ‘Look, we've got to do this for us and we've got to win these games for us.'
Did you ever understand why you were benched?
He gave me a reason, but I didn't really think that reason was accurate enough to be benched because I feel like if you're going to point me out for something I didn't do, you should point everyone else out doing the same thing. I felt like the games that we were losing it was my fault and I was being benched for it. And I didn't agree at all. I just felt like I was at a disadvantage totally because of how at the beginning I put the team on my shoulders – not being any selfish player or anything, but we were on a roll and all of a sudden things go wrong, we lose games because of breakdowns and I get blamed for it. So it wasn't really fair.
How fine of a line is there between trying to motivate a player and alienating him?
It's a fine line. You need more motivation than you need more pointing the wrong and the right, and I feel that all year I was pointed out all the wrong things I did more than the things that he needed me to do for us to win.
Did you ever feel like it was mean spirited as supposed to trying to teach you?
I didn't feel like he was doing it for any particular reason. I just felt like it was something that he didn't understand he was doing. It was just totally frustrating for me to see my team losing a game or down points while I'm on the bench with one foul or so. Just no reason not being in the game.
After going through this, is your opinion of the University or the basketball program here changed?
Why would it change? My bad experiences have nothing to do with the program. It only had something to do with the coach. The program's still in my heart as deep as anything. I'll be here until I graduate.
Can you talk about Phil Ford, and the role he played this season?
He definitely kept guys' heads on straight and kept them motivated and still ready with the passion to play every game. We respect Phil Ford with the most of our abilities and so we really thank him.
What's your reaction to all of this today?
I feel the same way I've felt two weeks ago. It's not like we're being bombed by Iraq or anything, so I'm going to live my life as just another day. This is like a job for us, we've got to come to work, smile and be happy we're still here.
Has this experience changed you for the better or worse?
It made me for the better – realize what you have to do to stay focused in the season and what you need to block out and what you don't need to block out. Certain things that you have to deal with and certain things you have to block out.
What kind of coach would best suit you and this team?
I just want a coach that I can be very close with from the start and develop a friendship early on so I won't have those kind of problems I had last year.
How much did the turmoil affect the team as a whole?
It definitely affected the team. Guys just didn't feel like playing, ready to go home. It was such a long season and so much controversy and frustration. Guys didn't really want to be around anymore. It wasn't just because of the basketball and losing, it was mostly just because we had to go to basketball every day saying ‘Man, we've got to practice … we've got to deal with this guy.'
The national media has portrayed that the players forced this decision …
Definitely not. As Dick Baddour and Chancellor Moeser said, it's definitely not just because we had a meeting. We had a lot of misunderstandings during the year – not just me and Coach Doherty, but a lot of players. And you can't win championships with players unhappy. We're here to win championships.