Joseph Forte went to the NBA along with Brendan Heywood. Ronald Curry and Julius Peppers decided to stick with football.\nHead Coach Matt Doherty knew this season would be hard for North Carolina, considering what he lost from a team that fell to Penn State in the second round of the NCAA Tournament last March. \nPlus, the Tar Heels have to run through the rugged ACC, which is loaded with No. 1 Duke and No. 5 Maryland among others.\nBut were things supposed to be this bad this early? Lose at home to two unranked teams some people haven't even heard of to open the season? That bad?\nDoherty probably wasn't expecting so much trouble to start his second season as coach of his alma mater.\n"Our guys are still fragile," he said. "They need to get more comfortable, and I think they have in the past few days. Hopefully that will show."\nThe Tar Heels (0-2) needed to improve this week as they prepare to take on the Hoosiers tonight at the Smith Center as part of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. \nNorth Carolina opened its season with a 77-69 loss to Hampton and followed that with another disappointing performance by falling to Davidson, 58-54. In fact, the only win the Tar Heels do have this year is a 107-76 win against EA Sports All-Stars in their exhibition opener. They lost their other preseason game to Nike Elite, 81-70.\nDoherty wasn't as surprised as most people by North Carolina's two losses to open the season.\n"To me, Hampton was as good as I expected them to be," Doherty said. "Davidson is probably better than people think."\nSome might have pointed to this happening in Doherty's second season at Chapel Hill, especially after Forte left early and the loss of Curry and Peppers. The questions have caused Doherty to re-evaluate what he is doing and look back at what he has been through as a player and a coach. \nDoherty spent four years as a player for North Carolina and spent seven years under Roy Williams at Kansas before coaching Notre Dame for a year. He took the North Carolina job in the summer of 2000 after several other candidates said no.\nAll of those experiences have helped him as he tries to get his team on track.\n"There are times it weighs on me. Sometimes you question yourself," Doherty said. "I've been coaching with coach Williams for seven years and played for Smith for four and coached through some tough times at Notre Dame and last year.\n"You draw on your own experiences and try to control what you can control."\nThe players Doherty is in control of this year are led by seniors Kris Lang and Jason Capel. Capel leads the Tar Heels with 13 points per game and Lang is averaging 12 points per game.\nDoherty mentioned a meeting he had with Lang at the Smith Center that had them talking basketball past midnight. Having had that meeting, Doherty said he has been pleased with the way Lang and Capel have taken responsibility for the team's poor open to the season.\nBeyond his players, Doherty continues to turn to the deep Tar Heel family for encouragement during this tough stretch. He said he talks to former North Carolina coach Dean Smith almost every day and has been in contact with Williams at Kansas.\n"Coach Williams called me the other night. He told me, 'hey, you need to hang in there.' There are people that will put things in perspective for you," Doherty said. "Someone told me it's not a matter of if but a matter of when." \nThat might be true if some of the younger Tar Heels step up. Freshman forward Jawad Williams has struggled to live up to the hype surrounding him. North Carolina is also looking for more production from Adam Boone and Melvin Scott.\nThe Tar Heels will need to get things together. After its contest with IU tonight, North Carolina has a schedule that includes a trip to Kentucky before the ACC season beings.\nDoherty might not have expected things to go bad so quickly, but he said he knows how to rectify matters.\n"The only way I know to get through things is work and work intelligently. I've got to put a plan together and make them believe in it," he said. "At some point, we hope it will click for us.\n"They've come back and they've worked. I think we'll be better this week"
Get stories like this in your inboxSubscribe