One-On-One With: Dick Baddour, Part 4
ACC Sports Journal correspondent Jed Williams recently sat down with UNC athletic director Dick Baddour for an exclusive, one-on-one interview.
Due to the length of the conversation, this article has been divided into four parts.
Today, in part four Baddour talks about the second attempt to bring Roy Williams to Chapel Hill, Matt Doherty’s ugly exit from UNC and how Baddour handles criticism.
Let’s talk about Roy Williams. Your critics, of course, don’t want to give you any credit for his presence at UNC. But many others have said, “Dick Baddour doesn’t get enough credit for his handling of the Roy search, part two.” What did you learn from the first search that perhaps made a difference in bringing Roy to Chapel Hill the second time around?
If you go back to that moment in 2003, I decided that a strong philosophical base needed to drive the search. This was the philosophy that I told the chancellor I wanted to use: that North Carolina needed Roy Williams, so let’s do what is important and necessary to get Roy here. I told the chancellor that there was no downside for UNC, that if Roy didn’t come the second time, that North Carolina would be able to attract a first-rate coach. North Carolina was enough of a strong basketball program that others would still be interested if Roy turned us down.
The downside to not getting Roy would be to Dick Baddour. “What are you doing? The guy turned you down once before. You’ve been turned down by other coaches in other sports. Why didn’t you have the resources together to get him?” So there was downside to me personally.
The second thing was how soon could we have conversations with Roy and find out what was important to him. I was able to do that and talk with him directly to understand what was important. So if I marry those two together, what was important to him was that he have some time. So that ties back into the first philosophy, which is “What does it take?” It takes time, so let’s be patient.
Having patience, during a closely followed search, with lots of UNC fans screaming and some pushing the panic button, can’t possibly be easy.
It was extremely difficult. But it was not only what I had to do, but what I wanted to do. I never second-guessed it. In waiting the time, I was never thinking, “Is this right?” This was right. In my view, rushing was not going to achieve what we wanted.
Williams’ predecessor, Matt Doherty, had an ugly exit. What did you and your administration learn during his difficult tenure that you could apply to high-profile coaches in high-profile sports in the future?
All along when Matt was here, I felt very good about my relationship with him and the discussions we had and the kinds of things I was able to help him with. I don’t have a lot of second-guessing as we move along the way. I would certainly script a different kind of press conference and absolute conclusion. I’ve never felt good about that, and I’ve always understood why Matt was upset. He and I have talked about that press conference extensively.
The really disappointing part was that before we went into that press conference, I wrote some thoughts down and shared them with Matt about how that press conference was going to go. And, unfortunately, it didn’t. There was just so much going on. You think back on it, and there were details that we could have done a better job with. I just regret that we didn’t do a better job there.
You have a high-profile job. You also have a job that often gets a lion’s share of criticism, but not much praise. Are you at a point in your career where criticism falls off your back, or does it still bother you?
I feel very appreciated by the chancellor, the Board of Trustees, by the people that work with me. Where I get upset with criticism is when it gets focused at “does he really understand the University of North Carolina and what’s important to Carolina?” That’s a core value for me. That’s the one area where it bites.
So let’s say I’m trying to find a resolution where we’re going after a 28-sport program and we’re moving toward a sponsorship, and I’m getting criticized for even thinking about that, that somehow I don’t understand what I’m doing. Then there’s an example where it bothers me.
Let’s wrap up with an idea we started with: loyalty. During your 43 years at UNC and more than two decades in athletics, there certainly have been times when you’ve taken one for the team, or fallen on your sword. Have there been times where you’d like people to understand and appreciate that?
Yeah, absolutely. There are some things that happened where, in retrospect, I wish I had been more public about why decisions were made and how decisions were made. I think what’s important to the University of North Carolina is that people in leadership positions take the high road.
I could have helped myself at times by explaining some things that may have sounded detrimental to others. It may have sounded defensive. I could have helped myself in some situations. If I had to go back in time, would I do some of those things differently? I don’t know. I guess I trusted in the end that people would understand. That was probably naïve.
It’s been more than an hour, and you haven’t raised your voice a single decibel the entire time. In this job, there has to be something that ruffles your feathers. So what makes Dick Baddour genuinely mad?
Oh, yeah, I get angry sometimes. I will admit that there aren’t many times where I show it. Or maybe I show it, and I don’t know it.
Some people say that I wear my emotions on my sleeve. Like the other day, I had three people ask, “Are you worried?” And I thought, “Does it show on my face?” So anger maybe doesn’t show, but worry does.
I know that I respond best in situations where people explain to me what’s going on, what the expectations are, in a calm and deliberate way. I know how I want to be treated. So I really work hard to do that for people that I work with.