Doherty: From East Meadow to NCAA's Big Stage

Matt Doherty is the head basketball coach of Southern Methodist University.

When Matt Doherty grew up playing pick-up basketball games at , he dreamed about playing with the best.

Doherty, 49, won a National Championship in 1982 with Michael Jordan as his teammate at the University of North Carolina.

"It was easy," Doherty said. "I had the best player in the world as a teammate."

Doherty, who is currently the head basketball coach at Southern Methodist University, was raised in East Meadow, attended and was a two-sport athlete through sixth grade.

"Once I realized that I couldn't hit the ball after it was off the tee, I knew I needed to focus on basketball," Doherty said.

After four years and a National Championship win at UNC, Doherty was drafted in the sixth round of the 1984 NBA Draft by the Cleveland Cavaliers. He was cut shortly thereafter.

"I just wasn't good enough to play in the NBA," he said.

After his playing days, Doherty worked on Wall Street, and he admittedly “wasn't happy." He eventually quit and joined Davidson College with Bob McKillop, who coached Doherty when he attended Holy Trinity High School.

"It's funny how things come full circle like that," Doherty added.

In 1992, Doherty became an assistant at the University of Kansas until he secured his first head-coaching job at Notre Dame in 1999.

"Being the head coach at Notre Dame as an Irish Catholic kid growing up in East Meadow was pretty big," Doherty said. "It certainly made my mother happy. She thought I was going to be a Catholic priest growing up."

After just one season, Doherty left Notre Dame and became the head coach of UNC and led the top-ranked Tar Heels to the ACC regular season title in his first season, when he was also named the Associated Press' Coach of the Year. He coached at UNC through the 2002-03 season.

Doherty was known for his hard-nosed coaching, and former UNC player Julius Peppers, who now plays for the NFL's Chicago Bears, "believed in his coach."

“Matt is a great coach," Peppers said. "He’s a great motivator. I loved him -- all the guys loved him. He was hard on the guys sometimes but at the end of the day we all knew it was for our own best interests.”

“He motivated me to work hard to be the best at what I do," Peppers added. "Whether it was basketball, football or anything outside of athletics.”

After a short stint in television, Doherty returned to the bench at Florida Atlantic University. After just a year there, he joined Southern Methodist University as head coach.

"When I looked at it, I thought it was kind of a sleeping giant," Doherty said. "This was a great opportunity for me. I think we’re getting ready to take off as a program."

When he thinks back, Doherty credits East Meadow for much of what he's accomplished.

"Playing basketball in East Meadow was my life and I loved it," he said. "It had a big influence on my life and career."


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