Leadership of the organization that represents college basketball coaches criticized North Carolina today for its treatment of former coach Matt Doherty, who resigned under pressure Tuesday after three seasons.
The criticism centered on Athletic Director Dick Baddour's meetings with several current UNC players and their parents to discuss the program.
While most were careful to say that all the facts around the situation have not been revealed, the perception that players forced Doherty's ouster -- a charge university chancellor James Moeser flatly denied Wednesday -- is troubling to many.
"To me, what happened at North Carolina, it sends a message . . . 'Let's go talk to the AD because the coach isn't playing us like he should be playing us,' " said Jim Haney, executive director of the National Association of Basketball Coaches. "It sends a bad message."
Oklahoma Coach Kelvin Sampson, a Pembroke, N.C., native and a member of the NABC Board of Directors, also was wary of situations in which players have the ability to dictate a coaching change.
"You don't know what you don't know, but if all it is what has been reported, then obviously I'd be very concerned," Sampson said. "I'd hate to know my AD was soliciting opinions. Not all players are supposed to like a coach. That's not what a team is about. I've always said I'd rather have my players respect me than like me."
Said Stanford Coach Mike Montgomery, another NABC board member: "With the salaries of coaches getting to where they are, you are going to have some of these instances where high-profile programs are going to make quick decisions.
"I'm disappointed with the forum in which it seemed to have happened. It sets a dangerous precedent."
Doherty's departure and Ben Howland's parting with Pittsburgh to fill the UCLA vacancy has created some significant turnover among the nation's top programs. If there's any truth to the current speculation -- much of which focuses on Kansas's Roy Williams, Kentucky's Tubby Smith and Indiana's Mike Davis changing venues -- the NABC's annual convention, always held in conjunction with the Final Four, could be more of a job fair than usual this year.
Already this season, 20 coaches have retired, resigned, been fired or moved on, with just six new hires made. In a business where the average turnover rate hovers around 15 percent, this year figures to stand out. The record for coaching changes is 66, after the 1986-87 season. There were 47 changes last season.
Meantime, an NCAA committee on Friday will present to the NABC what is expected to be a preliminary version of an academic reform proposal. There have been discussions about tying scholarship or recruiting limits, or possibly even barring teams from the NCAA tournament, based on their players' academic performance. Haney said he is unsure what to expect Friday.
In particular, the NABC is sensitive to how the NCAA will define graduation rates. Currently, players who leave school for any reason -- including turning professional, transferring or dropping out -- count against their school if they do not graduate from that institution. The NABC would prefer that schools not be penalized for players who leave in good academic standing.
Haney also said he has been encouraged by discussions with the NBA and its players' association regarding the establishment of a minimum age requirement.