DALLAS -- Jon Killen is a smart guy. His mom is a judge, and he didn't fall too far from that tree. So naturally, when word spread back in April that Southern Methodist was targeting Matt Doherty as its next basketball coach, the Mustangs junior jumped on the computer and started surfing around, trying to find out anything and everything he could about the man from which he would soon be taking instruction.
"I remember doing a lot of research and reading up on him, and one interesting thing I read is that one coach in the ACC said that had Sean May not broken his foot, Coach Doherty would probably still be at North Carolina," Killen said. "It's interesting that things happened the way they did."
|Matt Doherty's rehabilitation tour takes him from Florida Atlantic to SMU. (US PRESSWIRE)|
You miss a flight, end up in an airport bar and meet your future wife. You run to the store to get a gallon of milk, somebody blows through a red light and you're paralyzed forever. It's all completely random and unpredictable, and often you have absolutely no control over the best and worst things that happen to yourself, the best and worst things that shape your direction, legacy and place in this world.
Some folks are lucky.
Simplified, that's how it breaks down. And who could possibly understand this better in college basketball today than one Matt Doherty, the man who recruited national championship talent to North Carolina only to watch Roy Williams coach it to a national championship?
After suffering through an 8-20 second season that was at least in part a result of the previous staff's lack of recruiting, Doherty had the Tar Heels off to a 7-2 start -- featuring victories over Kansas and Stanford -- in 2002-03. But in the 10th game, May broke the fifth metatarsal in his left foot, which limited the big-bodied center to just one more appearance during his freshman season and forced North Carolina to manage through the ACC without its primary inside presence.
The result was a 19-12 finish, a trip to the NIT. And while Doherty had the Tar Heels ranked No. 1 in the nation just two years earlier and clearly had the talent in place to return to such a level going forward, the administration opted to move him, bidding adieu to the 2001 Associated Press National Coach of the Year in favor of the guy they really wanted all along.
Broken contract, bought out and thrown away.
"The Man upstairs drives this train," Doherty said. "If Sean May doesn't break his foot, yeah, I'm probably still at North Carolina. But he did."