New York Matt Doherty confided he really didnÃ¢ÂÂt know what to do, not after his North Carolina basketball team had dissected No. 2-ranked Kansas and his former boss, Roy Williams.
Ã¢ÂÂItÃ¢ÂÂs uncomfortable after the game is over,Ã¢ÂÂ Doherty said. Ã¢ÂÂYou donÃ¢ÂÂt know what to say, how to act.Ã¢ÂÂ
Then Doherty harked back to that NCAA Final Four semifinal back in 1991 in Indianapolis, when Williams had turned the tables on his mentor, Dean Smith.
Ã¢ÂÂHis first game, he coached against coach Smith,Ã¢ÂÂ Doherty said, Ã¢ÂÂand his team beat coach SmithÃ¢ÂÂs team.Ã¢ÂÂ
This wasnÃ¢ÂÂt the Final Four. This was just the Preseason NIT Four, and itÃ¢ÂÂs a long, long way from late November to early April.
Ã¢ÂÂI know coach Williams is happy for me,Ã¢ÂÂ Doherty said. Ã¢ÂÂAs we move forward, this will just be one game on that record Ã¢ÂÂ: I think heÃ¢ÂÂs just proud and happy for me. I know thatÃ¢ÂÂs how he feels in his heart.Ã¢ÂÂ
Williams did say he loved Doherty. At the same time, Williams was not loving how his players failed to respond to CarolinaÃ¢ÂÂs attacking offense and withering defense.
Doherty praised his players, of course, but he knew his youthful team had the mental advantage on this night.
Ã¢ÂÂI thought our defense was very good,Ã¢ÂÂ Doherty said, Ã¢ÂÂand obviously it was not KansasÃ¢ÂÂ best night. I think they were a little out of synch.Ã¢ÂÂ
Carolina had a big crowd ÃiÂ¿Â½" the Tar HeelsÃ¢ÂÂ basketball pep band was even on hand ÃiÂ¿Â½" and the players responded to the home-like atmosphere. A 121Ã¢ÂÂ2-point underdog, Carolina took it right to the Jayhawks.
Ã¢ÂÂItÃ¢ÂÂs easy to play when youÃ¢ÂÂre the underdog,Ã¢ÂÂ Doherty said. Ã¢ÂÂWhen you have that No. 2 tag on you, thatÃ¢ÂÂs tough. Kansas is a great team and have great players. But they were a little out of synch.Ã¢ÂÂ
Carolina caused most of the JayhawksÃ¢ÂÂ woes, but Doherty re-emphasized the mental factor.
Ã¢ÂÂAgain, itÃ¢ÂÂs an easy game for us to play because they are the ones that are No. 2 in the country,Ã¢ÂÂ the Tar HeelsÃ¢ÂÂ third-year coach said. Ã¢ÂÂThey are the ones with the expectations, and IÃ¢ÂÂve been there as a player. IÃ¢ÂÂve been there as a coach. ItÃ¢ÂÂs easy to come in with nothing to lose.Ã¢ÂÂ
North Carolina will meet Stanford in the title game at 8 p.m. Friday.
Ã¢ÂÂThey didnÃ¢ÂÂt hand out any championship rings tonight,Ã¢ÂÂ Doherty said. Ã¢ÂÂWe are fortunate, very fortunate to beat a very, very talented, well-coached Kansas team. But now, if we donÃ¢ÂÂt get our minds right for Stanford, weÃ¢ÂÂll be saying, Ã¢ÂÂ'Well, you didnÃ¢ÂÂt play well against Stanford.Ã¢ÂÂÃ¢ÂÂ