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April 2, 2003 Conference Notes No Comments

The Morning Dish – Wednesday, April 2nd, 2003

by Michael Ermitage

The top college basketball news story from Tuesday did not come from the NIT semifinals or the women’s NCAA tournament, although we’ll get to that later, but from Chapel Hill, North Carolina. In a somewhat expected move, Matt Doherty resigned as coach of the Tarheels. Doherty just took the job three years ago but has failed to meet massive expectations. North Carolina has missed the NCAA tournament the last two seasons. Its promising start this year was cut short by injuries. Recently, rumors of player unrest ran rampant and ultimately the pressure got to Doherty.

“You have to have an environment where you can be successful, and I can understand why Matt would feel that the rumors and speculation were making it very difficult,” athletic director Dick Baddour said. “I admire Matt for valuing the traditions of this program and the needs of this program over his own. That takes a lot of courage.”

Who will replace Doherty? That is not clear, but Baddour did say that it will be a national search not necessarily focusing on those in the “Carolina family.” There is no doubt that the Tarheels will first dial Kansas’ coach Roy Williams, a Carolina alum, who flirted with taking the job three years ago. Other potential candidates include Illinois’ Bill Self and Marquette’s Tom Crean. Whoever gets the job will start the annual coaching dominos, although some may argue that has already begun. It looks as though Pitt’s Ben Howland is set to return to his home state by taking the UCLA job.

The Los Angeles Times is reporting that Howland and UCLA have already agreed to a deal. UCLA and Pitt officials both deny that Howland has accepted the job. Howland would replace Steve Lavin, who was fired last month.

Side Dishes

Georgetown, St. John’s advance: It’ll be an all Big East NIT Final Thursday night as Georgetown and St. John’s won their respective semifinal matchups Tuesday night. Georgetown received yet another huge game from Michael Sweetney, who poured in 32 in the Hoyas’ 88-74 win against Minnesota. In the other semifinal, St. John’s completed a comeback victory over Texas Tech when Marcus Hatten had a steal and a basket with 16.2 seconds left to give the Redmen a 64-63 win. St. John’s won its only matchup with Georgetown earlier this season.

Connecticut and Texas to Final Four: The Huskies of Connecticut held off a late charge from Purdue to earn a Final Four berth, 73-64, Tuesday night. Huskie star Diana Taurasi scored 21 in the victory in keeping Connecticut alive in its quest for a second consecutive national title. The Texas women’s team joined the men’s team by earning a trip to the Final Four with a 74-60 win over top-seed LSU. The win ended a 16-year Final Four drought for the Longhorns.

A-10 keeps St. Bonaventure: The Atlantic-10 conference decided not to expel St. Bonaventure from the conference in a Tuesday meeting of its Presidents Council. The Council made the decision after hearing from the school about its use of an ineligible player during the season. The Bonnies forfeited its remaining games after being suspended from the A-10 conference tournament causing a national uproar.

“St. Bonaventure remains a member of the Atlantic 10 Conference and reports to the contrary should be put to rest,” the Rev. Nicholas Rashford, president of Saint Joseph’s University and president of the A-10’s Presidents Council said in a release.

Tonight’s Menu:

• It is a rare off-night in the world of college basketball. Games do not resume until Thursday night when the NIT’s final game and third-place game are played.

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