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The Daily Tar Heel

Basketball Tab: Tar Heel Men Hope New Look Leads to Instant Success

There was Baddour, facing his toughest task to date in his relatively young tenure as the director of athletics at North Carolina. Coach Bill Guthridge had decided to retire, leaving the men's basketball program in its first true state of instability in almost 40 years.

Baddour had a number of candidates to consider, although Roy Williams looked like the clear favorite. Doherty eventually emerged as the choice.

Doherty knows he has a choice of his own to make that will impact how successful the Tar Heels are this season. He must also find a leader, a coach on the floor for the Tar Heels.

Ed Cota's four-year rein as UNC's point man is over. UNC's starting point-guard position has been vacant since he walked off the floor of Indianapolis' RCA Dome on April 1.

North Carolina's first-year coach will have to rely on a first-year starter to sit in the driver's seat during the Tar Heels' trip through the 2000-01 season.

"To give the keys to an inexperienced freshman or sophomore is always going to make the head coach nervous," Doherty said.

Just as nervous as Doherty's hiring made former coach Dean Smith, who pushed for NBA coaches Larry Brown or George Karl.

Doherty, who compiled a 22-15 record in one season at Notre Dame, may have been Smith's fourth choice, but the expectations put on his team won't reflect that. Fans and athletic boosters will want Doherty to win immediately, just like Guthridge did in his first season, when he led UNC to the Final Four.

The difference is Guthridge had a

21-year old sophomore to help his cause. Cota had only played one season before Guthridge took over, but that season included a trip to the Final Four.

None of the four players contending for the starting point-guard position this season - freshmen Adam Boone and Brian Morrison and sophomores Ronald Curry and Jonathan Holmes - have that one year of tangible experience.

"The only question we really have is point guard, but we have plenty of guys who can play point guard," UNC forward Jason Capel said. "Not up to the ability that Ed did, but just as capable of providing point-guard skills."

Whoever fills that position for the Tar Heels will have a bevy of talent to ease his transition. And one of those players might even handle some of the point-guard duties.

Sophomore Joseph Forte worked on his ball handling during the summer and could run the offense at times for the Tar Heels.

But Forte will undoubtedly be counted on to score in bunches like he did a year ago, when he averaged 16.7 points. Forte was named MVP of the NCAA South Region after pacing the Tar Heels with 25.0 points a game in wins against Tennessee and Tulsa.

Forte will be a central figure in an offense Doherty hopes utilizes UNC's secondary break more effectively.

Once the Tar Heels get into the halfcourt set, Doherty has no problem using the shot clock. He just doesn't want UNC to let defenses find a comfort zone.

"Even at Notre Dame, I wanted to run and get a shot in the first 10 seconds of the shot clock or the last 17 seconds of the shot clock," Doherty said. "The middle part of that you soften up the defense and try to get them to commit some fouls."

Opposing teams might have no other choice against the Tar Heels' front line. Capel creates matchup problems with his size, and power forward Kris Lang is healthy for the first time since his freshman season.

And then there's Brendan Haywood, who returns as one of the top centers in the nation. Doherty said Haywood, who averaged 13.6 points last season, has benefited the most from his rigorous conditioning.

Haywood has used his increased mobility to become an even bigger factor on the defensive end. Haywood, who blocked 91 shots last year, has made a habit of stepping into passing lanes and deflecting post entries during the preseason.

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"I think our goal is to make the other team shoot contested jump shots, box out and get the rebound," Doherty said. "We all want to pressure and deny and do those kinds of things, but I want to win."

Sounds like a simple enough philosophy. But it has extra credence coming from the mouth of Doherty, who has commanded the respect from his players. Players that have the same amount of respect for their new coach.

"It's going to be a fun and exciting year, you'll just have to wait and see," Lang said. "It's been a new makeover, a new face change.

"It's been a facelift."

One that Baddour and Doherty hope ultimately helps the Tar Heels return from a Final Four with a national championship trophy.