Doherty Gets First No. 1 As Coach

Monday, February 5th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) — Matt Doherty became accustomed to being No. 1 when he played for North Carolina in the early 1980s. The Tar Heels were the top-ranked team in The Associated Press poll 29 weeks during his career.

The feeling was quite a bit different for Doherty on Monday.

He achieved his first No. 1 ranking as a coach after the Tar Heels beat highly ranked Duke on its home court and then Georgia Tech on Saturday.

Stanford, No. 1 the previous four weeks, fell from the top spot after a weekend loss at home to UCLA.

``As a coach you are more concerned about a lot more things,'' Doherty said when asked to compare being No. 1 as a player and coach. ``As a player you were concerned about yourself and that's about it. As a coach you worry about the opponents, your player's psyche, all those kind of different things.''

Doherty joins former North Carolina coach Bill Guthridge as the only coaches in Atlantic Coast Conference history to take their teams to the No. 1 ranking in their first year. Guthridge did it with the Tar Heels on Dec. 15, 1997.

Not many programs have had such a smooth transition after losing a legendary coach. The Tar Heels were to two Final Fours in three years after Guthridge took over for Dean Smith, and now Doherty has the program at No. 1 again.

``We've got great players,'' Doherty said. ``That is a big, big part of it. Coach Guthridge left me with some good players and those kids are playing hard. They've matured and been through some wars over the last few years.''

This is the 80th time North Carolina (19-2) has been ranked No. 1 and it's the first time since the final poll of the 1997-98 season.

The Tar Heels, who extended their winning streak to 16 games with a victory over the Yellow Jackets, received 60 first-place votes and 1,787 points from the nationwide media panel in making the move from No. 4.

The 80 polls at No. 1 puts the Tar Heels third on the all-time list behind UCLA (128) and Kentucky (87). Duke is next on the list at 75 polls.

North Carolina started the season 3-0, then lost consecutive games to Michigan State and Kentucky. The latter, on Dec. 2, was the last game before the winning streak began.

The Tar Heels will defend their No. 1 ranking against No. 19 Wake Forest on Tuesday night in Winston-Salem. North Carolina beat the Demon Deacons 70-69 a month ago at the Smith Center.

``It's earned on past performance and every time you step on the floor you have to prove it,'' Doherty said of the ranking. ``Nobody is getting ready to hand us the NCAA championship trophy right now. It makes it more challenging.''

Stanford (20-1), the last unbeaten Division I team, dropped to second after losing 79-73 to UCLA. The Cardinal got nine first-place votes and 1,677 points, 22 more than Duke (20-2), which dropped one spot following the loss to North Carolina.

Michigan State (18-2), which beat Michigan and Purdue last week, got the other three first-place votes and moved up one place to fourth.

Kansas, which lost at Missouri last week, dropped two spots to fifth. Virginia, which beat Maryland and Wake Forest, jumped from 11th to sixth, followed in the Top Ten by Illinois, Florida, Syracuse and Tennessee.

Arizona, which lost to Oregon then beat Oregon State, dropped four places and leads the Second Ten, followed by Iowa State, Maryland, Iowa, Georgetown, Wisconsin, Boston College, Alabama, Wake Forest and Notre Dame.

The last five ranked teams were Oklahoma, Southern California, Fresno State, Xavier and Mississippi.

North Carolina became the fifth team to hold the No. 1 spot this season, joining preseason pick Arizona, Duke, Michigan State and Stanford. It's the most teams to be ranked No. 1 since 1994-95, when six teams did it: Arkansas, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Connecticut, Kansas and UCLA.

Mississippi (17-4) fell out of the poll last week after losing three of four, but the Rebels were back following wins over Arkansas and Auburn.

Seton Hall (12-8), which saw its slide stretch to three games with Sunday's loss to Rutgers, dropped out from 22nd. The Pirates, who have lost six of eight, were ranked No. 10 in the preseason poll and got as high as seventh this season.

Georgia (13-9), which moved into the Top 25 last week for its first appearance in more than three years, was out after one week. The Bulldogs, who were ranked 25th, lost to Kentucky and Florida last week.