Coaches Corner: No. 4 North Carolina

Inside Carolina attended ACC Operation Basketball a week ago. In the sixth of a nine-part feature which will roll out a new team every day, IC's Tommy Ashley has transcribed the comments of North Carolina head coach Matt Doherty. The Tar Heels were picked No. 4 in the conference by the media.

Has anyone emerged in the point guard race?

"I have probably narrowed it from four to three, where Brian Morrison has been playing pretty exclusively at the ‘2' spot. However, that doesn't mean Brian Morrison is not going to be a primary ballhandler for us. Doesn't mean he's not going to bring the ball up. Doesn't mean he's not going to get the outlet pass and race it up the floor. But, I think right now, in terms of ‘ok, who's your starting point guard', probably Adam (Boone), Jon Holmes or Melvin Scott."

Is one person ahead right now? Adam because he's a sophomore or….

"You know, I probably can't say that right now. We are still evaluating. We will probably get closer as we [approach] our November 4th exhibition game."

You watched the scrimmage the other night and you've seen him practice, can you talk a little bit more about Neil (Fingleton) and how far he's come along. For many of us, we were a little surprised how much he could run up and down the court.

"I thought the Blue-White game was great for Neil. He needed to have some success. To sit out a year is real hard. Then, we went through a pretty tough two weeks of practice. Especially the first week where we went through two a days. You know, with Brian Bersticker not being able to practice, Neil had to go pretty much every possession in practice. And that's hard. I think he was getting a little frustrated. And, to go into the Blue-White game and have good game and get some cheers from the crowd and have the media surround him and ask him questions, I think that was the perfect timing for him. I think he needed that. We had a little scrimmage yesterday in practice and he played well again. His progress has been great. I think Neil has a chance to be an NBA basketball player. I just don't know how steep the learning curve is. Is it like this or like this? But, I think he's got a bright future."

Has the curve in your mind, changed at all from seeing him during a period where he was trying to recover from back surgery. Do you feel more optimistic about it now than you did then?

"No question because last year, he really didn't practice much. He had surgery, came back, practice probably for a couple to three weeks and then sat out a lot last year. To see him do some things, I was joking with the other table, I gave him the nickname of "Chief" the other day. I don't know if it's going to stick but the movie One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, you know where Chief didn't talk. Then Jack Nicholson offered him a piece of gum and the Chief said ‘thanks'. Nicholson, I can't repeat what he said, but like that with Neil, he sometimes struggles through practice like you would expect a 7-5 kid to do that hasn't played in a year. But then the lights come on and he plays pretty well. In the scrimmage in practice yesterday, the ten-minute scrimmage, he played pretty well. Or, if I put a time limit on his sprints. In the first week of practice, I basically said to myself, just let him run as hard as he can run. I said, Neil, you have to be at this point by this time and if not, you are going to run it over again. And, he made the time pretty easy. So, he's got something there and I think he'll be very good player. I just don't know will it be this year or will it be next year or the year after that. But, he'll contribute to our team this year, that's for sure."

What about people underestimating the team this year?

"I can understand your (the media) perspective. I can understand you saying, "Duke's got everybody back, Maryland has everybody back, Virginia's got everybody back, Wake Forest has everybody back, we'll pick Carolina fifth or sixth or fourth in the league." I can understand you saying that. That's kind of neat because it will be to show what kind of competitive kids we have. How will the answer to that? How will they respond to that? I think we are all anxious to prove people wrong. It's a great motivation for our team."

Is that the sort of motivation, the streaks in trouble, and things like that, that they need?

"Jason (Capel) is a very competitive kid. They have pride and they know the streaks that are there. They know. He doesn't want to see that happen on his watch. So, he's going to do everything in his power to have this year be a successful one. Not only for Jason Capel but for North Carolina basketball."

You are in a situation, everybody is, that you are evaluating kids that you are recruiting. It seems younger and younger. Do you have to evaluate sophomores and where does it become dangerous as far as where can you reasonably project a kid that is so young?

"I think it's dangerous to go ahead…you can evaluate a sophomore and he could be very good. But that same kid may not develop for two years. If you offer a scholarship to a sophomore and he takes it, that can be a risk. Unless the kid's 6-10. That can be a risk too. It's hard because there are a lot of kids that do develop that we have not seen yet. Then there are kids that stop developing. So, there is some risk involved. It's like the Futures Markets, Interest Rates…I couldn't do that either. (Laughter)

When you were here as a player, Carolina was the standard that everyone was measured. Is Duke the standard now or what is the standard?

"I think it's gone in cycles. If you give me a 30-year window, I'd say Carolina is the standard in the country. I think that is what I am trying to maintain, what Coach Guthridge and Coach Smith have put together over that time period. Again, like a stock, you track it and there may be a little down tick, but over the long haul, it's been a pretty good stock and will continue to be a pretty good stock. So, you have to look at the big picture there. The thing with Duke, what's impressive with them obviously, they had five guys that can put the ball in the basket. Five guys that can really guard. Five guys that can handle the basketball and they had great leadership, from Coach Krzyzewski to Shane Battier."

Coach, are you concerned, again back to recruiting, with the Internet now and the message boards are very active and fans giving their opinions and there is no more popular topic than recruiting. Are you concerned that negativity from Carolina fans could be making your recruiting process [tougher] than it already is?

"I don't know. I don't read the message boards. I just don't like them because there's no accountability. It's water cooler talk that gets published. It's dangerous stuff. It really is dangerous stuff because the people that print that aren't sitting at this table. They are not professional. So, it is dangerous and I don't like it. It goes up and down. You can be god one minute then you could be bad guy the next. So it is bad stuff and it does get printed. It does get probably put to recruits from opposing coaches. You just hope that kids have enough sense not to read it whether it would be good or bad."

Given the youth that you are mixing in with this group, how much longer does that mean it will take to gel defensively.

"Probably defensively, they maybe gel quicker than offensively. It doesn't have to do as much with the timing of cuts. You are reacting as opposed to initiating the action. So, I think hopefully our defense is going to gel quicker than the offense. But, we only have two players that played over ten minutes a game last year. Adam Boone was right at ten. We are a pretty inexperienced group. So, we are going to have to grow up pretty quick."

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