Matt Doherty, former head coach of the UNC men’s basketball team, sat down with The Daily Tar Heel for an interview about his new book, "Rebound: From Pain to Passion," which is available beginning March 2. Doherty was the basketball coach from 2000 until 2003.
Eighteen years later, Doherty has taken what he learned from his experiences to give advice to younger people about how to come back from failure.
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
The Daily Tar Heel: What is the main takeaway or focus of the book?
Matt Doherty: I think rebounding from failure, that's the biggest takeaway — how to rebound from adversity.
DTH: What was the most challenging aspect of writing it?
MD: I think, emotionally, it was revisiting a lot of the things that were painful and emotional times going through loss. Whether people go through the loss of family members or loss of a job, (it was) the pain of reliving some of that. That was probably the hardest part besides time. Writing a book, it's work. I didn’t use a ghostwriter. I did it myself and with the publisher. You want to be accurate, you want to be fair and you don't want to leave people out. I wanted it to be a positive book on how to learn from past experiences and grow from them.
DTH: When did you decide that you wanted to share your story and your advice and experiences about growth and leadership?
MD: For years, I've put some notes to paper, and it was really more therapeutic — to get things out because there was a lot of hurt inside from my departure. You try to be a big man, but you're hurting. To get it out is very therapeutic. I feel better now than ever before. Then there are all these triggers, whether it be coach (Roy) Williams winning the championship in 2005, to Mike Brey getting an extension, whatever it might be. So the emotional pain, I needed to manage that. Whether that’s going to visit with a psychologist, which I have done several times, to writing the book. Now I feel like my role here is to help people deal with setbacks and deal with failure and teach young people how to be better leaders. The good thing was that I was the head coach at North Carolina. The bad thing was that I was the head coach at North Carolina. Whatever mistakes I made were magnified.
DTH: It's like a catch-22.
MD: Yeah. I would have been better off cutting my teeth on a smaller job where, if I made a mistake, there weren’t a whole lot of people watching. We all lead in some way, shape or form. You might lead on a team, you might lead just by the way you present yourself walking into the classroom. Parents lead their households, and we as parents can have coaching scars. In terms of choosing your words wisely and being intentional with how you communicate, if you're reckless and talk just out of emotion, that can cause irreparable harm. So those are the kind of things that I try to teach.
DTH: Looking at the phrase natural-born leader, do you think anybody can be a leader, even if they're not born with it?
MD: Exactly. We sometimes look at a good-looking person that has a personality, gets good grades and isn't afraid to speak up as a leader. Maybe they're starting on second base or third base, but maybe they don't have the emotional intelligence part of it down. That's where I lacked. I didn't understand emotional intelligence when I got the job in 2000. I never heard about emotional intelligence until I went on my leadership journey. I'm sitting in the class at The Wharton School taking an executive course, and they're talking about emotional intelligence, and I'm literally smacking my forehead saying, “If I would have taken this class before, maybe I'd still be the head coach at North Carolina.”
DTH: So where, or who, did you go to for inspiration when writing this book?
MD: I think that the inspiration came from people telling me at corporate events that I should have a book. That kind of got the thought in my head. Then I needed to get some validation from truth-tellers. I said in the book that one of the most important things a leader can do, besides knowing themselves, is knowing the truth. So I wanted to know, “OK, tell me the truth, should I write a book?” I went to two people: John Black, who's a Carolina alum, and Scott Stankavage, who played football in North Carolina and has written a book, and asked them for their advice. They were both very supportive of it, so that's what kind of launched me to write the book.