Mike: Tough irony

Dick Baddour is has made what is probably the toughest – and best decision of his career as an Athletic Director. For this, he will quite possibly lose his job.

Matt Doherty undoubtedly did everything in his power to win basketball games at North Carolina, yet his zeal (and temper) ultimately cost him his dream job.

Larry Brown has expressed publicly in the past that he wants to coach at Carolina, Roy Williams has, well, done just the opposite, and somehow it looks as though Roy is still a primary candidate to get the job with Larry as a backup.

Dean Smith went into retirement to get away from all the mindless drama surrounding college basketball. He now is involved at some background level in the Carolina version of Julius Caesar.

Of course, within all the plots and subplots of the past three seasons in Chapel Hill, the most stunning story to me is that of the way the team played over the last month of this season. While all the facts will probably be documented, sealed up, and flown to Area 51 in a black helicopter for safekeeping, I think it is safe to say that at some point this season Matt Doherty lost this team.

Despite the fact that the players were clearly not "with Matt," somehow they managed to perform at an extremely high level on several occasions over the last month. I am guessing that while Matt was taking the better play as validation of his methods, just the opposite was occurring. This team managed to close ranks and do some spectacular things on the basketball court, despite the whirlwind going on around the entire program. For this, we should all be very proud of them.

The irony here is that they performed a near miracle, and are being chastised from many quarters as being selfish and "inmates running the asylum." Had they simply let their displeasure be known by just playing out the string, more 40-point beating would likely have been in store for them, and decisions about Doherty would have seemed more obvious to everyone. But they didn't, they played for the program, the tradition, and for pride – and did so under extremely difficult circumstances.

Yet, playing well has actually made their current situation more difficult.

It doesn't surprise me to see all the criticism directed at Carolina right now. Piling on is the easiest and most profitable (from a media standpoint) thing to do. Coaches like to criticize any event that provides another way for coaches to get fired. I understand their professional courtesy up to the point that many of them have no problem condemning a firing while they are privately making overtures to fill the same positions.

The media loves it because it is a big story, rife with juicy unknown details, a well -known cast of characters, and, ironically, happening at a place whose reputation was built on stability and consistency.

Everybody seems to be having fun these days except those of us who love the Heels. The worm will eventually turn, though, thanks to the short attention span of sports fans everywhere. The irony next year will be that whoever comes in will have a battle hardened, mentally tough team that will be capable of great things due to all of the current adversity and criticism. Their perseverance will pay off, and so will ours.

Mike McCracken is entering his sixth year as a columnist/reporter for Inside Carolina. He resides in Birmingham, Ala., and strives to keep the faith despite being in the midst of the SEC.

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