Jan. 31, 2000
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – With a single raised arm waving them down, Irish head coach Matt Doherty earned the respect of the Notre Dame student body and fans.
On Saturday, Doherty taught another lesson but this time he taught it to the whole student body. He taught them how to celebrate.
After defeating the 23rd ranked Red Storm of Seton Hall, 73-60, Doherty and his teams waved the students out of the student section and on to the floor of the Joyce Center. Saturday’s upset registered as the team’s biggest home win of the season thus far.
“I felt a little corny waving them out,” Doherty said after the game. “They have to learn how to celebrate big wins.”
After a moment of confusion, the student began to trickle down. Some chose to celebrate with others while some opted to embrace Doherty to thank him for all that he has done.
In almost one-year, he resurrected a dwindling program. When Doherty accepted the job of head coach, he may not have realized what he had gotten himself in to.
“I hope you don’t mind that I waved the students on the floor,” Doherty said. “When I saw Carolina beat Maryland, their students stormed the floor. I wanted our students to be part of this win because I thought they were very instrumental in helping us beat a very good St. John’s team.”
Saturday’s game marked the first time that the Joyce Center has reached a capacity crowd in two years.
In the past, the Notre Dame program never played in front of a packed house. The student section was never full. The only time fans jumped up and down was when the leprechaun threw free t-shirts.
Saturday’s packed house, the sellout of student season tickets and the fact that the fans are more concerned with what is happening on the court rather than the free merchandise is proof of the Doherty’s success.
The coach has not changed too much about the program. He added Dillon and Carroll to the starting lineup and a little positive energy to turn the team around.
At the March 30th press conference announcing his hiring, the rookie head coach was asked how long it would take to turn around the program.
He had no answer for the question stating, “I think that if you give a timetable, you kind of back yourself into a corner.”
An answer like that is not what Notre Dame fans wanted to hear. If anything is in demand at this school, it is results from the sports team. It was his follow-up statement that hinted at the coach’s brilliance.
“If I were to say in five years, I’d like to be this, then I am cheating these guys,” Doherty said about his current team. “Because then they, say, well, you don’t think we can win.”
He believed in them and look at the results he has produced.
Already this season he has produced a winning record at 13-8 and 4-3 in the Big East. The team has also registered big upsets over Ohio State, UConn and St. John’s. And with all this success has come talk of a possible NCAA bid.
What more could a person ask for?
Not much more in a coach’s first year. The student body does not even care so much about all that. All they expect is someone to share the passion that they do for Notre Dame. And they got that from day one with Doherty.
With just over a month to go for his one-year anniversary, Notre Dame students and fans hope that March 30 is day that they can look forward to celebrating for a long time to come.