UNC Players Talk About N&O Article, Relationships

CHAPEL HILL - Rumors have been running rampant for the past six weeks regarding North Carolina basketball coach Matt Doherty's relationship with his players, primarily his three prized freshmen.

Some of the rumors were addressed in a piece by Raleigh News & Observer writer Barry Svrluga in Saturday's edition--Growing Pains.

After yesterday's win over No. 6 Connecticut, Matt Doherty urged media members to talk to the players about the issues."I encourage you to ask my players about me and my relationship with them," he said.

And that's just what Inside Carolina did.

Jawad Williams

Do you have a comment about the piece that was in the paper today?

Everything's great. People are just killing us with these rumors and we have no idea why. But the best thing to do is to try not to let those (detractors) get us down.

Do you ever check out message boards?

Ah man, I stay away from those. Either somebody is killing you or someone is praising you too much. So, we just gotta stay away from them.

Do you think this has helped you guys pull together lately, especially considering this has really intensified over the last couple of weeks?

Yeah, we hear rumors as far as how the freshmen and sophomores not getting along. It's far from being true. We get along real well with everybody and our coaching staff.

Do you think the evidence is that even with the on-court issues you guys have faced that you have been able to win some close games of late and are clearly making progress?

We are not out there arguing or pointing fingers whether we win or lose. We continue to play hard and (know) good things will happen for us.

Melvin Scott

Coach implored us to ask you guys about the piece in today's paper, what are your thoughts?

We all gotta look out for each other. We are a family and if we want to keep winning we have to be on the same page.

With some of the stuff being true, is that typical for a team that is together so much?

No family has perfect relationships with no arguing, or coaches fussing at the players. If there's an environment like that, show me where it is. I'd love to go, that is heaven. It's just life you know. We have accepted him as our coach and he's accepted us as his players. And we are just going to play ball for him and do what we gotta do.

Do you think evidence that the problems aren't so great is how you guys are coming around, and winning two close games this week?

Exactly. That's definitely evidence. If we are having all of these problems than why are we winning games like this, tonight? If we had problems we would have fallen apart a long time ago. ... It's pretty weird to see articles like that when we're just trying to focus and win games and we have improved from last year and have a better record. And it's pretty weird to see these articles. We're winning games now. Why can't people just be happy and accept it for us.

Rashad McCants

Do you have any comments on the piece that is in today's paper?

No, not really.

Do you think the rumors have helped bring this team closer together?

Nah. We really don't pay any attention to anything you guys write.

Damion Grant

Have all the rumors surrounding this team helped bring you guys closer together?

We've always been a close-knit team. There are going to be rumors around a program like the University of North Carolina, one of the elite programs in the country. People are always going to want to find bad things to say about the program. And of course like any family, if (we) have a disagreement, just like in any family, and that's what we are, a family, we have to work through it.

Are this week's close wins and how you guys have dealt with on-court adversity, like Sean being out, Rashad's foul trouble Tuesday night (against Clemson), examples of how you guys are not affected by the rumors or by what may be going on, or would you win regardless because you are competitors?

We learn from the games we've lost like Miami and Iona and we've grown as a team. Those loses definitely helped us learn to win these games. And in my opinion, teams don't learn well under the kind of stress and problems that many say we've been dealing with.

Sean May

Your reaction to the piece in the paper today?

I haven't chance to read the article yet but from what I understand it's a lot of rumors. And to my knowledge everyone here is really happy. Any time you have a team that did so well in the beginning and started to fall off there are going to be questions. We will all stick together and we are a big family her so we're gonn have our ups and downs like any family. And the stuff about him being too tough on us, yeah, we all knew that when he came here that is a tough and intense guy, and there is no reason for us to say we lost games because he is tough on us.

Is the recent play on the court, especially how hard the team plays, evidence there really are no major problems here?

That's part of what he makes us bring. He's intense. No matter what, you need to bring effort and concentration every time you play. And if you step on that floor and you don't have that for him you're not going to play. So, we know that when we go out there, we're young and we're gonna struggle. And at Virginia we struggled in the first half but didnt quite and had a chance to win the game. And I think that's evidence of what kind of person he is and it penetrates through us out on the floor.

Byron Sanders

Was the article in today's paper discussed by the team at all today?

No. Uh, I don't even know what article you are talking about.

Do you have anything to say about the rumors of internal problems with the team?

I have heard about some but never really took it too seriously. Being here every day on this team, I just didn't take the rumors too seriously.

Senior writer Andrew Jones is in his seventh year with Inside Carolina. He hosts a late afternoon radio show on ESPN Radio, WMFD AM630 in Wilmington and can be reached via e-mail at: AndrewJones@AM630.net.

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