The hardest thing so far about being the 17th basketball coach in North Carolina history has not been the history.
It hasn't been being only 38, or taking over a sacred public trust, or stepping into a coaching time line that goes Frank McGuire, Dean Smith, Bill Guthridge and . . . Matt Doherty.
It hasn't been the national titles, or the impossible expectations, or seeing Coach Smith scribbling notes from the stands at your practice.
What has worn on Doherty are the same things that wear on the widget salesman who gets transferred from South Bend to Chapel Hill.
It's living out of boxes, going to the DMV, getting the electricity turned on.
As of Tuesday, the North Carolina coach was still living the domestic life of Ralph Kramden.
Since July, when Doherty accepted the job after a whirlwind courtship, the most visible man in North Carolina has been crashing on rented furniture.
"I'm in a two-bedroom apartment with a 3-year-old and a 1-year old," Doherty said this week. "My daughter wakes up at 4:30 in the morning. In an apartment, everyone's up then. That's the hardest thing, dealing with not being settled. Basketball is basketball."
We'll see. Youth is being served in North Carolina, and it's more than a coach and his wife sharing the 4 a.m. bottle feedings.
It's going to be an interesting scene Saturday when 36-year-old UCLA Coach Steve Lavin shakes hands with 38-year-old Matt Doherty at Pauley Pavilion, two babes at the wheels of powerhouse programs.
Consider that the two men had a combined one year of head coaching experience when they took over programs that have combined for 14 national championships.
Lavin, of course, had no experience when he took over for Jim Harrick.
Doherty was called to a higher place after a one-year stint at Notre Dame.
"Well, at least I had one year under my belt," Doherty joked on the phone this week.
Doherty knows Lavin only casually but understands the similarities.
And, probably not unlike Lavin in his first year, Doherty has been too consumed with day-to-day duties to consider the larger ramifications.
"When you're in it, it's not as overwhelming as when you're reading about it," Doherty said. "When you're watching UCLA vs. North Carolina on TV, you say 'Wow.' But when you're in it, it's a game. It's what you do. It could be nobody in the stands. It's different than looking from the outside.
"It's the same thing when you talk about the lineage: McGuire, Smith, Guthridge, Doherty. I don't have a whole lot of time to say 'Wow.' I'm blowing through this sucker right now.
"In the airport, people stop me for autographs, but I don't deserve to sign autographs. All I've been is appointed the head coach. I haven't won anything yet."
What Doherty has won so far is six games, but, more important, he has already lost two--including a home defeat against nemesis Kentucky.
"A guy comes up to me the other day, I don't even know him, and he says, 'What's the matter with your team?' " Doherty said. "I said, 'We're 6-2.' "
Matt Doherty, welcome to your dream job.
Actually, Doherty says it was more fantasy than dream.
Doherty may be a member of the North Carolina family, but he is not immediate. He played four years for Smith from 1980-84, a small forward on the giant 1982 championship team that included Michael Jordan, Sam Perkins and James Worthy.
But to think Doherty was maneuvering for the long-term job after Smith/Guthridge was fantasy.
Doherty was probably the fourth or fifth name down the list.
When Guthridge abruptly resigned last summer, saying he lacked the energy to go on after last season's arduous and improbable trek to the Final Four, everyone knew the drill.
Kansas Coach Roy Williams, Smith's favorite coaching disciple, would be called and would serve.
But, in emotional, gut-wrenching defiance, Williams turned down the job.
Smith, still running interference behind the scenes as coach emeritus, checked Williams off the list and moved down to Larry Brown, George Karl and Eddie Fogler.
It was only after North Carolina Chancellor James Moeser suggested that Athletic Director Dick Baddour (and Smith) look elsewhere that Doherty made the list.
It took him about five minutes to accept.
"I thought the only chance I'd have at the job was if Coach Guthridge stayed another seven years and I was doing well at Notre Dame," Doherty said. "And then it would have been too late for Coach Williams because, at 57, he wasn't going to make that change."
Doherty got the job. Now, the hard part.
He insisted on putting his own stamp on the program, even if it meant bringing his entire staff from Notre Dame and leaving Tar Heel assistants Phil Ford, Dave Hanners and Pat Sullivan without jobs.
Doherty was determined to be himself, not a morph of the meticulous Smith or the grandfatherly Guthridge.
Indeed, it was a new dawn in Chapel Hill when Doherty, unimpressed with a fall practice, drop-kicked a trash can.
"I don't do that for a reason," he said. "I do it because it's me."