This is the first of many columns that will discuss UNC’s basketball teams from previous years. I wanted to focus on the team from the year, 2000. This team was coached by Matt Doherty. Coach Doherty played on several great Carolina teams from 1981 to 1984. This particular season was Doherty’s first year as the head coach for the Tar Heels. North Carolina was led by freshman stud, Joseph Forte. Forte had the sweetest jump shot. His trademark shot was a mid-range jumper, that he would bank off backboard. The starting lineup consisted of Ed Cota, Joseph Forte, Jason Capel, Kris Lang, and Brendan Haywood. Julius Peppers, Ronald Curry, and Will Johnson were the primary players who came off the bench.
The most interesting thing about this team was their refusal to give up. This team finished the regular season, 18-13. This Carolina squad was swept during the regular season by Duke and Virginia. They also lost two out of three games to Wake Forest. The 2000 Tar Heels also had a stretch where they lost four straight games, which is rare in Chapel Hill. Despite these setbacks, the 2000 Tar Heels were a #8 seed. In the second round, this Tar Heel squad was matched up against the overall number one ranked team, Stanford. UNC beat Stanford in the second round of the 2000 NCAA Tournament, 60-53. This win was a key factor in catapulting this squad to the Final Four. Carolina lost to a Florida Gators squad led by current Miami Heat players, Mike Miller and Udonis Haslem.
This Tar Heel squad did not have a 25 or 30 win season; however, they were two wins away from becoming the national champions. Many people do not give Matt Doherty enough credit for what he did during this season. The current Tar Heels should look at the 2000 season as motivation. In the famous words of the late Jim Valvano, “Never Give Up.”