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Friday, August 11, 2006

SMU......The Duke of Dallas ???

Blog Q&A With ... SMU's Matt Doherty

As the first in a series of blog Q&As with college hoops figures leading up to the season, I spoke with new SMU coach Matt Doherty, who may be the first blogging coach in the history of college basketball -- even if he's only writing the Mustang Hoops Blog twice per month. (If he has a predecessor, let us know in the comments.) We covered a variety of topics, from the "Cuban" genesis of his blog, to his rep in Dallas, to his plan for rebuilding the Mustangs' program.

SI: How did you decide to become a blogger?

Matt Doherty: When I got to SMU, [Dallas Mavericks owner] Mark Cuban and his stockbroker, a guy named Charlie McKinney, an SMU grad who's involved with a youth basketball program called the Dallas Heroes, came over to my office and talked. It was cool; we sat around for at least an hour, and I picked [Cuban's] brain about a lot of things, like marketing basketball in Dallas. I just sat there with paper and pen, taking notes. One of the things he said was to have a blog, because it's a great way to interact with fans, and be honest and insightful -- and you don't have to talk only about basketball. Mark told me that, from his blog, he gets lots of great ideas from fans about how to better run or market his team, so I decided to start one of my own.

SI: I see you've blogged about everything from SMU, to the Mavs, to misplacing rental cars on the summer recruiting circuit. How has it been going so far?

MD: Like Mark said, it's fun, and it gets you to tell your story the way you want to tell it, because not every quote gets put in the paper. There's a lot of value in that, but I realize you have to do it consistently. Coach Dean Smith had a saying: "Start how you finish." If you're going to commit to something, do it. In July I did it two times, and might continue twice a month, because it does take a good hour of concentration to do it. I enjoy writing; I have a bit of a sarcastic style sometimes.

SI: What has the feedback been like?

MD: I'm getting notes from fans all over the country. A lot of Carolina people, actually. I don't know if it got linked on a Carolina website or what....

SI: Are they harassing you?

MD: You know, they're actually wishing me well. There have been notes saying, "Sorry about what happened in Chapel Hill," or saying thanks for helping build the team that won the championship [in 2005]. Some people who I haven't communicated with in a while tracked me down through the blog. Old friends. It's cool, and I'm definitely going to continue it during the season, but I might bring in a guest or one of my assistants to help me keep it up.

SI: There was a list of the "50 Most Powerful People in [Dallas] Sports" that ran this summer in the Dallas Observer, and you were No. 23 -- one ahead of Dirk Nowitzki. Too high? Too low? Or just right?

MD: Well, when they put T.O. at No. 1, I thought it lost all credibility, because it's hard to beat Mark Cuban or Jerry Jones. But to be frank, even though I don't put a lot of stock in those, to be mentioned was kind of neat. There's a new day in SMU basketball, and Dallas is recognizing that, and hopefully we can put a product on the floor that validates my ranking. But it's not like I went to bed the night [the story ran] thinking, "I'm the man," because there are certainly people like Cuban, Jones, Troy Aikman and Dirk who are far more prominent. I'm just a new guy on the block.

SI: Are you using any kind of model for rebuilding the program?

MD: I'm using the Duke model. We're not a quick-fix kind of place; we're not going to load up on transfers or juco players. We want to build a foundation. When Mike Krzyzewski got to Duke, he had one or two recruits his first year. The second year he brought in Johnny Dawkins, Mark Alarie and Dave Henderson, and he played them all early, and they got their butts kicked. The next season Tommy Amaker came in; they still lost, but not as bad. And in the fourth year, everything clicked -- they beat us [North Carolina, where Doherty played] when we were ranked No. 1, and went on to the NCAA tournament. The next year, Duke was in the Elite Eight, and the next, the Final Four. That's the model we're using.

SI: Duke and SMU ... interesting.

MD: It's eerie how similar SMU and Duke are -- and this is coming from a Carolina guy. Moody Coliseum reminds me a lot of Cameron Indoor, and we're really similar in terms of academic profile and alumni base. I tell recruits, we're the Duke of Dallas.

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