As if a 10-22 ACC record during his final two seasons weren't reason enough for North Carolina fans to regret the Matt Doherty era, Chris Paul's former high school coach offered another piece of evidence.
David Laton said in a Q&A with USA Today that the seven-time NBA all-star point guard likely would have signed with North Carolina instead of Wake Forest had Doherty not told him he'd need to walk on for at least his first year.
"He actually grew up a North Carolina fan," said Laton, who coached Paul at West Forsyth High in Winston Salem, N.C. "That was his favorite basketball team growing up, but Matt Doherty was there at the time. Doherty told us, and I'm not saying it wasn't true, but he told us that they didn't have any more scholarships. When we visited the school he was trying to get Chris to pay his own way for a year. I knew that wasn't gonna happen."
To be fair to Doherty, he indeed had few scholarships to offer in 2003 unless he resorted to asking one of his current players to transfer. North Carolina only had two seniors on its 2002-03 roster, forward Will Johnson and guard Jonathan Holmes.
Nonetheless, most coaches would have done everything in their power to make room for a player of Paul's considerable talent.
Paul earned state player of the year honors from the Charlotte Observer and a spot on the McDonald's All-American team after averaging 30.8 points, 8.0 assists and 6.0 steals as a senior in 2003. The year before, he led West Forsyth to a 26-4 record and the semifinals of the state tournament by averaging 25 points and 5.3 assists.
The lone player Doherty did land in 2003 was ironically also from Winston Salem, but didn't go on to have anywhere near the career that Paul has enjoyed. Reyshawn Terry, a highly touted 6-foot-7 small forward, averaged 7.3 points and 3.5 rebounds in four seasons at North Carolina, a career that peaked as a junior when he tallied 14.3 points per game. Justin Bohlander, another 6-foot-7 forward from Winston Salem, joined North Carolina as a recruited walk-on in 2003 and scored only 22 points as a freshman before leaving the program after the season.
The one silver lining for North Carolina was Doherty did have another pretty good young point guard in the program already. Raymond Felton signed with Doherty the previous year and went on to lead the Tar Heels to a national championship under Roy Williams in 2005.