Q&A with Dave Glenn

It's on the minds of every die-hard Carolina fan. This week's <I>ACC Sports Journal</I> included a controversial article about the North Carolina basketball program that sent shockwaves through the program and fan base. The article prompted <I>Inside Carolina</I>'s readers to demand answers to some tough questions. We took those hard-hitting questions to the author of the article, and the editor of the publication, Dave Glenn.

We asked our readers Wednesday evening to send the questions they wanted answered by Glenn. Within the four-hour window, hundreds and hundreds of emails flooded our inbox. Considering that we received well over a thousand questions in total, Glenn obviously couldn't possibly answer every single one. We did our best to group them by category, eliminate repeat questions, and cover the most important questions in the time frame available. And, in order to clear up any possible misunderstanding, Glenn was not paid to answer these questions.

Before we get to the questions and answers, here's a little background and bio info on Glenn and his publication, as was also requested by our readers.

The ACC Area Sports Journal, which has been covering the conference since 1977, has approximately 10,000 readers to its print publication and thousands more to its web site, www.accsports.com, which runs articles from the magazine. The staff, which includes a long list of well known ACC beat writers and experts, is headed by editor and lead writer Dave Glenn, who has covered the league for more than 15 years. Glenn is the author of seven ACC-related productions/publications, including "Royal Blue: The History of Duke Basketball" (Raycom), "Tar Heels On Tape" (Village Companies) and "The History Of The ACC Tournament" (Raycom). He also has contributed to dozens of publications, including the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Durham (N.C.) Herald-Sun, the Chapel Hill (N.C.) News, The Sporting News, the ACC Basketball Yearbook, the ACC Football Yearbook, the ACC Basketball Handbook, Lindy's Annuals, Athlon Annuals, College Sports, Carolina Court, The Wolfpacker, Cavalier Corner, Basketball News and many other others. Glenn also remains very active in radio, serving as a host and regular guest for 850 The Buzz in Raleigh and participating in more than 150 shows each year throughout the ACC area. He also is an attorney, licensed and practicing in North Carolina since 1994.

On to the Q&A …

IC Readers: Why did you report this story? You're a UNC grad so why are you trying to tear down your alma mater?

Glenn: Those who know me well, including people at UNC, understand with certainty that I simply try to treat all schools equally. As for those who don't know me well, I absolutely understand their initial skepticism when they see something they don't like, because they have no context/background about me or our publication. I don't think those (angry) folks are crazy; in their shoes, I'd want to know more, too.

Bottom line: I try to seek the truth and print the truth, good or bad, about everyone in the ACC. A month ago, when I wrote a lengthy article praising John Bunting's football recruiting class, I was called a UNC "homer" by literally hundreds of fans from the other eight schools. This month, I'm the bad guy at UNC. That's the way it works with all nine ACC schools; our subscribers and my listeners know we criticize/praise everyone, while those with limited exposure to me/us have all kinds of crazy conspiracy theories. I've been accused of being "pro" and "anti" all nine schools, which means either I have more personalities than Sybil or I'm doing something right. The part of me that's writing right now hopes it's the latter. [smile]

In my personal life, I'm extremely fortunate to have a lot of close friends, the kind of friends who would throw themselves in front of a truck for me. They, along with our regular readers, know I'm not trying to tear down my alma mater. In my professional life, I have many supporters, plus some others who'd probably like to throw me in front of the truck, or maybe even drive the truck themselves. It's sort of ridiculous, but I love and admire the passion that drives all of these intense feelings.


IC Readers: Why now? Why did you choose this particular moment to publish this story, considering that it is damaging to the morale of the team as they enter a very challenging opponent in the first round of the ACC Tournament? Why did you pick this specific time, right after Doherty wins possibly the biggest game of his UNC career, to release this article? Are you trying stir up controversy while UNC is in the national spotlight? Why not wait until after the season? If Doh were 20-10 at this point of the season, would you release the article?

Glenn: Of the hundreds of questions I've received, that first one is the most fair and relevant. In fact, I'm kicking myself for not making it more clear in the article. Bottom line: The majority of the quotes in the article, including the longest one, came this month (March 2003). They weren't from a month ago or a year ago or two years ago; they were from very recently. (The Forte quote was the only "old" quote, and it was labeled as such in the article.) Without the most recent quotes, that article could not have been written as it was written. We have a bi-weekly publication, so the first opportunity I had to run that story was this week. I don't "hold" a ready-to-run article for a school's convenience. It just doesn't work that way. I had the story. It was ready to run, so I ran it. It's really that simple.

Like many of the mainstream writers, I've been collecting information on this story for some time. Generally speaking, there were lots of reasons a lengthy article couldn't have run in the past -- parents, coaches and others who didn't want to be quoted (even anonymously), key people who were unreachable for long periods, etc. Giving UNC the benefit of the doubt, as I do with all schools in these cases, I wasn't going to run an article based on (just as examples) some parent who was upset about his kid's playing time or what position he was playing. (If we wrote about that stuff every time it happened at every school, there would be no room for anything else in our magazine.) When the story became a bigger issue -- repeated confirmation that players were describing one thing to the media, but something dramatically different to parents, coaches and friends -- we tackled it. By any reasonable definition, the large disparity between those two versions of the truth is newsworthy.

The idea that we decided to run the article because the Tar Heels beat Duke is just crazy, and it would have run regardless of the Tar Heels' record. (As the story states, the W-L record is not even close to being a primary factor in this story.) Personally, I can tell you that I'm not capable of writing a 2,500-word article in six hours while also performing my writing and editing responsibilities for a 24-page magazine. The Duke-UNC game probably ended at 6:30 or so Sunday night. We left the office after midnight, and the magazine was on the press Monday morning. In fact, the article was finished before the Duke-UNC game, and there was no "replacement article" that was going to run if the Blue Devils had won. That's one conspiracy theory that, while creative, would have been almost impossible to execute.


IC Readers: I noted that the primary focus of your article was the negative relationships between Coach Doherty and his players / families. Why was there no attempt to contact anyone closely associated with the basketball team or the athletic department to get their response to the allegations mentioned? Based on the article, I can only assume this was the case since there was no mention of any attempt to contact anyone at the University. Have you ever sought out supporters of Coach Doherty, in the same manner you've sought out others who are generally known to be critical of Matt?

Glenn: Through a university spokesman, the school was given an opportunity to respond to the article. I was asked how late I would be reachable for a conversation, and I said that as a courtesy I would stay at my office until midnight on Sunday. I stayed at the office well past that hour, but nobody from UNC ever called. They had every right to decline to respond, and they exercised that right.

Regarding your last question: When I call someone for the first time, I usually have no idea what they're going to say. As I continued to call ex-coaches, parents and others, I realized that literally everyone who was willing to talk to me admitted a significant disparity between the public quotes and what was going on behind the scenes. (Those who didn't want to talk declined to offer any -- positive or negative -- quotes about player-coach relationships.) In other words, I didn't leave out anyone who said: "The rumors are a bunch of bull, with no basis in fact." Despite lots of phone calls, nobody said that to me. Nobody.


IC Readers:

Why can't you seem to print an article that actually names its sources? Any journalist can get an "unnamed source" to say just about anything, and then take the quotes out of context. Why do you quote at length an anonymous source whose credibility cannot be ascertained?

You repeatedly cited anonymous sources throughout the article, and it appears there is more than one anonymous source you have gathered information from. Why have these sources not been willing to be directly quoted if Doherty's actions have been as bad as implied in the piece?

Did the parents refuse to be quoted "on the record"? Were they asked to be?

How many of your anonymous sources plan to go on the record and be named after the season, and why will they not do so until then? Is there any information that you have been asked to withhold until that time?

I would like to ask Mr. Glenn what he would think if I posted an article on a public web site saying that anonymous sources close to his organization have told me that he is known for lying and making up nonsense in his articles just to attract attention. No names...no concrete evidence...just anonymous sources who, take it from me, are legitimate. How would he like that?

Glenn: We print literally hundreds, probably thousands, of articles every year. In a 12-month period, there may be a dozen articles that utilize anonymous quotes extensively. Those are difficult judgment calls for editors, but that's not a very large number. I can't answer your question about the specific motives of the sources who request anonymity, because I can't speak for them; I'm sure the answers are different in each case. Generally speaking, only those sources who request anonymity are quoted that way; in other words, they're told they will be quoted with their names unless they request otherwise. My sources obviously requested otherwise. As the story indicated, some sources are waiting to see how things are handled before they decide whether or not to speak out later. We'll see.

That last one is a good, perfectly fair, question. My answer: I have absolutely no fear of such an article (as you described it) about me, anonymous sources or not, because your premise is untrue. I deal with more ACC writers and photographers than any person on the planet. If my approach to my magazine were unfair in some way, there would be hundreds of potential "anonymous sources," ready to tell you stories about me saying "we need to write something negative about so-and-so," or "let's get so-and-so fired." As it is, you'll never find such a person, anonymous or not, because I've NEVER -- I don't use that word often, but it applies here -- said those things or anything like them. In fact, my writers will tell you that I most often tell them to be more cautious with their criticisms, not more aggressive with it. I follow that same rule myself. Sometimes, even the cautious approach results in a very critical article. Also worth noting: As the writer of your article, you're responsible for it. If you make up quotes, you'll be sued and you'll lose. As an attorney, I'm very aware of such realities. As a husband and father, I have no desire to complicate my life with fictional accounts. As you see, things can get complicated enough when you stick to the truth.

If your premise were true -- Glenn can be a real pain in the ass to work with at times, Glenn drank too much in college, etc. -- then I'd absolutely support your right to print such an article. It wouldn't be very interesting to most people, but I would certainly defend your right to print it, even with anonymous sources. The truth hurts sometimes.


IC Readers: I understand Duke has been successful lately, but they haven't done it without their share of scandal, controversy and/or gossip from the rumor mill. Why haven't you and others in the press bothered to follow up on any of the stories in the same fashion/vigor as shown with the Tar Heels and other ACC schools? I'm not buying the typical cop out answer that winning excludes them from such treatment. Is K's program really above such treatment, like most outside the program believe? If enough leg work was done, could not the same article be written about Coach K or Gary Williams?

Glenn: We're back to the perspective thing here. Our readers and listeners know me and our publication, and all of them know we criticize and praise everyone. Those who are less familiar with me/us understandably have these questions, which I totally understand. I can't possibly ask someone to have perspective if they're never/rarely seen our publication.

The reality is this: When it comes to my publication, the this-school, that-school argument is just a very, very poor one. (I'm talking about our magazine with me as editor; I can't speak for the first 20-plus years.) Our readers will tell you that. Among our non-regular readers, an NCSU fan may see my Bunting article and say we love UNC. A UNC fan may see my Amato article and say we "falsely celebrate" what's going on in the Wolfpack football program. Someone may see a negative article and assume we just go out of our way to bash a particular school. Those who read us regularly know such arguments are ridiculous.

To use your example, we are one of the only publications on the planet that has criticized Coach K … for anything! We had a huge, exclusive, critical article within the past year on his bizarre behind-the-scenes interaction with the media. (We may even have a "free" link on ACCSports.com with this article.) You'll never, ever see an article like that anywhere else. (As you might imagine, that was my month to be hated by Duke fans.) In the same edition as the Doherty article, we (1) wrote about Coach K's continued prickliness with the media and (2) we referred to an exclusive factoid we reported earlier, that guard Daniel Ewing (and others) have been contemplating transfer possibilities, even to the extent that someone in the Ewing camp has been in contact with Texas. That hasn't been reported anywhere else, either. Again, those fans who (1) want good and bad news and (2) choose to open their eyes a little wider generally have an appreciation for us. Those who don't, don't. There are plenty of media outlets who have different approaches, and I enjoy many of them. There's more than one way to do things, and I respect those who take different routes.


IC Readers: How can Dean Smith, Bill Guthridge and Phil Ford stand by and do nothing? If things were that bad I would think they would do something to change things. It just makes no sense.

Glenn: I think I agree, but I'm not sure I understand the question. Only Coach Smith and Coach Ford, in particular, have those answers, and they don't talk much. One thing seems obvious to me: They're amazing, incredibly loyal guys who love UNC basketball as much as humanly possible and want to do what's right for Matt and for the program. It's conceivable that their view of "what's right" in those two instances is a very complicated matter. They want to let Matt do his job without interference, but they want to help him as much as possible, too. I'm sure there are times when those two goals come into conflict.

On the other hand, if by "do nothing" you mean they've been inactive behind the scenes, that's definitely not the case. Especially in the case of Coach Ford, there are those who believe that his presence is the main reason this situation hasn't completely exploded. Without him as a trusted resource for the players, who knows what would have happened? The article mentions ways in which Coach Smith has tried to help Coach Doherty. I'm one person who will never question Coach Smith or Coach Ford in any matter that has to do with their good intentions about the future of Carolina basketball.


IC Readers: How come none of the major newspapers or television stations are covering this at all? I don't understand why we should believe you when none of the mainstream media are reporting any of this?

Glenn: Another good question. I'm one of those rare people in the media who has done work for TV stations, radio stations, daily newspapers and periodicals. I can tell you that they all have unique goals, and they all have different rules about what they publish or don't publish. For a wide variety of reasons, which I think most people understand, this kind of topic is just a terrible fit for most TV stations; I won't bore you with the details there.

As for newspapers, as I mentioned somewhere else, there have been plenty of writers working on this topic for some time. Some have printed articles already, including critical comments from a variety of players' parents. I'm sure that one of the reasons their articles have not been as controversial is that most newspapers are permitted to use anonymous sources only under very specific conditions. (It's a myth that nobody uses anonymous sources. Everybody uses them. It's just a matter of how/when they use them.) We decided that our anonymous quotes fit our policy. To this point, they've decided that theirs don't fit their policies.


IC Readers:

Can you be more specific about the actual types of "abusive behavior" that Doherty has been accused of? It'll be hard to let him go for most forms of verbal abuse, but your story alludes to something more.

You indicate the things have gotten better this year. Is the progress substantial enough to indicate a trend that if given another year Matt would be in the acceptable range or is he still so far off the charts that there is no hope of correction at UNC?

What is your *personal* view on the matter? Do you think Doh is as overbearing as the quotes portray? Or do you think that he's getting a bum rap?

Glenn: I'm not sure what that first question is asking about, but I have absolutely no knowledge of any kind of physical abuse, if that's what you're asking. I really can't answer that second question, either. I think the players' answers to that second question are what really count, and those answers could go a long way toward determining Coach Doherty's future in Chapel Hill. As I wrote in the article, I don't know how this will end.

My personal view: I think Coach Doherty is an incredibly hard-working guy who truly loves UNC. I think his public persona is a wonderful match for Carolina basketball; most fans, media members, coaches and prospective recruits seem to have very positive interactions with him in public settings. Behind the scenes, obviously, something changes. He clearly has rubbed a lot of players and parents the wrong way, and it's enough of a trend at this point to be a serious cause for concern. It's very difficult to run a basketball program successfully when everyone is on such an emotional roller-coaster. Stay tuned.


IC Readers:

Please respond to this quote from Sunday by Rashad McCants: "I didn't think the media could dig so deep and create controversy. I sensed that when we started to lose, and some things weren't going right for us, some of (the media) wanted to try to make things bad for the players and the coaching staff. That ran our team down and killed our chemistry for a while."

Glenn: Rashad: You're a good kid with a wonderful future, and I respect your point of view. However, in 15 years as a sportswriter, I've never seen a greater disparity between what players stated in the newspapers and what they told their parents, coaches and friends. It's part of my job as a journalist to pursue such things, and to print what I find. Sincerely, DG


IC Readers:

Do you think your story is negatively impacting UNC's recruiting efforts?

Glenn: At least one UNC target who signed with another school in the fall mentioned the uncertainty about Doherty's future as a factor in his decision, so obviously that was an issue long before our article. Another UNC target signed in the fall, so it couldn't have been a factor there, either. Most high school juniors don't narrow their lists and make big decisions until the summer, and in my experience these kinds of articles are very, very old news by then. Either there will be a new coach at UNC, or the Heels will have sorted through their problems, etc. In either case, as always, Carolina basketball will have a lot to offer. No single article of any kind is going to change that fact.


IC Readers:

I think you're just doing this tabloid story to sell newspapers and get web site hits. Isn't that what this is all about - $$$? Isn't the magazine going to be sold at the Greensboro Coliseum this weekend? Coincidence? I think not!

Glenn: I think a closer look at the facts will discourage these theories as well. My favorite accusation was that we wanted more message board hits. (We don't have a message board.) As for website hits, we're a premium/pay service, so our income -- unlike many websites -- isn't tied to hits, because we have very little advertising on the site. Do we want to sell magazines? Sure we do, but that's the case with every edition we print. We have one of the highest renewal rates in the entire publishing industry, and we're literally the most successful magazine of our kind (literally every other attempt -- ACC Athlete, ACC Week, Big East Briefs, etc. -- has gone under) in the history of the publishing industry, so it's not like I'm under some pressure to rile things up. We're doing better than at any time in our 25-year history! By the way, your assumption is that controversial articles always result in more subscriptions/sales. That's incorrect. Negative articles always generate cancellations, too.

Many people have made me the story here, and I've done everything to discourage that. I turned down almost every TV and radio request (there were many) I received this week. (The only exceptions were those stations who have me on regularly, throughout the year, plus one station in Charlotte.) If I was really just looking for publicity, why would I turn them down? I decided to do this Q-and-A with Inside Carolina because (1) I've always enjoyed the site and (2) I was told by people I trust that I would be treated fairly in this part of the site.

Additionally, let me volunteer information that contradicts what lots of people seem to think: I am not the owner of the ACC Sports Journal. In fact, the terms of my contract are not even tied to sales, hits or anything along those lines; I get the same check every two weeks, regardless of the ups and downs of subscriptions, etc. I'll further volunteer that our publisher has never -- not once in four years -- prodded me to write something controversial. He handles the business side of things, and I handle the editorial side of things. We keep each other informed, of course, but there's a pretty strong dividing line there.


IC Readers:

Do you stand 100 % beside what you reported and do you feel so strongly in this story that you are willing to put your reputation on the line for such?

Glenn: When it comes to what I wrote -- not somebody's recollection or strange interpretation of what I wrote, but what I actually wrote -- my answer is simple: absolutely.

Two years ago, UNC fans were angry at the media for writing about problems behind the scenes; months later, they learned the media was right. Last year, UNC fans were angry at the media for writing about problems behind the scenes; thanks to three transfers and public comments by a couple of players and parents, they learned the media was right. At some point in the future -- it could be next month, or it could be later, perhaps when coaches/players are able to talk or joke about it retrospect (everyone talks more openly later) -- more details about this year's problems will come out, too. We've already seen some other articles on this topic in recent days, and I'm sure more are on the way.

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