Lessons Learned, Leadership and Lake Life: A Conversation with Mooresville’s Matt Doherty

by NATALIE DICK
photography by LKN IMAGES

Matt Doherty may have been raised in New York, but he has long called the Lake Norman area home. It’s where he took his first coaching job as an assistant under Bob McKillop at Davidson College in 1989; where he met Kelly, his wife of 32 years; and where their two children, Tucker and Hattie, graduated from high school. 

The lure of lake life and the sense of community is what drew Doherty back to Mooresville twice over the last 34 years after coaching stints at Kansas, Notre Dame, UNC, Florida Atlantic and SMU. The family settled here for good in 2012 when Doherty rewrote his professional playbook, turning his coaching skills on the court to the C-suite. In addition to executive and peer coaching (DohertyCoaching.com), he appears on WBT and WFNZ radio every Wednesday afternoon, is a motivational speaker, hosts a monthly talk show on Bloomberg TV and produces segments for his own podcast, “Rebound,” where he interviews business and sports leaders. His book “Rebound: From Pain to Passion, details his personal journey after being forced to resign as head coach at his alma mater (UNC) to his renewed purpose of leadership. Beginning in January, Doherty will share his hard-learned wisdom with our readers in a special Coach’s Corner series featuring businesses in the Lake Norman community. We sat down with him to talk lessons learned, leadership, lake life and what’s next. (Responses may be slightly edited for brevity.) 

 

LKN Magazine: 

Most people are familiar with Matt Doherty, the starting player on the UNC 1982 National Championship team with Michael Jordan or as Head Coach at Notre Dame and UNC. You have said those were the best of times and the worst of times. How have the tough lessons learned shaped who you are today?  

Doherty: 

Losing my job at UNC was the most emotional scarring thing that has ever happened to me. I went from being named 2001 AP National Coach of the Year and our team winning the ACC Regular Season Championship to, two years later, being forced to resign in a very public way. It was personally and professionally devastating. I knew I had to embrace my mistakes, so I embarked on a mission to “learn and grow,” beginning a leadership journey that took me to the UVA Darden School of Business and The Wharton School. Now, my mess – getting fired at North Carolina – is now my message. I want to help people avoid the landmines I stepped on during those years.

LKN Magazine:
How is coaching business executives to become better leaders like coaching college players on the court? 

 

Doherty: 

I always say business is a contact sport. Leadership is a learned behavior. It takes practice. It’s a skill that you must consistently develop. Whether you are a player, a coach, a small business owner or CEO of a major corporation, you must be willing to embrace failure. We need to allow ourselves to be vulnerable to failure and examine it. That’s how real progress is made. 

LKN Magazine:
What is it about the Lake Norman area that kept pulling you back here? 

Doherty:
We had a network of friends from our first time living here. Plus, the school system has a great reputation. The icing on the cake was that my son was entering 9th grade and wanted a good lacrosse program. Lake Norman has a great program led by Coach James Brugger. Tucker played varsity as a freshman, and the team went to the state finals. In his senior year, the team went to the state finals again, and Tucker was named All American. He ended up getting a Division I lacrosse scholarship to Bellarmine University in Louisville, Kentucky. In addition, my daughter, Hattie, swam at Lake Norman High School and ended up getting a rowing scholarship to The University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. The Lake Norman community has served the Doherty family well! And, of course, we love the water. 

LKN Magazine:
What’s next for you? 

Doherty:

In the immediate future, I’m excited to host the second Quarterly REBOUND Podcast LIVE event on December 14th from 4-6 pm at Community Matters Café. Our special guest is Fred Whitfield, Hornets Sports and Entertainment President and Vice Chairman. The event brings together Charlotte’s top leaders in sports and business with a portion of the proceeds benefiting Community Matters Café. For more information, you can go to thereboundpodcastlive.eventbrite.com

I also look forward to sharing more leadership lessons with your readers in our upcoming Coach’s Corner series. 

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