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Originally published July 8, 2011 at 10:58a.m., updated July 9, 2011 at 12:32a.m.

Former KU coach Roy Williams: Neil Dougherty was ‘true gentleman’

Former Jayhawks assistant dies at age 50

Neil Dougerty, right, is shown alongside former KU coach Roy Williams in this 2002 file photo. CBSSports.com is reporting that Dougherty has died at the age of 50.

Neil Dougerty, right, is shown alongside former KU coach Roy Williams in this 2002 file photo. CBSSports.com is reporting that Dougherty has died at the age of 50.

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Men's basketball coach Neil Dougherty, a former Kansas University assistant, pictured during the 2004-05 basketball season. Dougherty died suddenly while exercising.

Native Kansan Neil Dougherty, who worked as head basketball coach at Texas Christian University from 2002-08 after seven seasons on Roy Williams’ staff at Kansas University, died Tuesday while jogging in Indianapolis.

He was 50.

“I’m deeply shocked and saddened. He was a great person, a great coach, a great family man, great father, great husband, a true gentleman who loved basketball and working with kids,” current North Carolina coach Williams said Friday night from Akron, Ohio, where he was attending the LeBron James Skills Academy.

“This is something that is so sad. It’s a loss for everybody,” Williams added. “Neil Dougherty was a great asset to Kansas basketball, the university and whole community. Fifty is way too early to have something like this happen. It shows everybody that life is so fleeting. All the things we think are so important are not when facing things like this. I feel so overwhelmed for Patti and the kids.”

Survivors include wife Patti, who lives in Fort Worth, Texas; son Neil, Jr., who lives in South Carolina; daughter, Megan, who lives in Keller, Texas; and son Ryan, a basketball player at Southwest Baptist in Bolivar, Mo.

“He was a great coach and one of the finest men I’ve known,” said former KU forward Wayne Simien, who, like Dougherty is a former Leavenworth High basketball standout.

“Coach Dougherty was a man of character and integrity, great husband and father. He did things the right way in every area of life. He was an example for me growing up in Leavenworth. He impacted tons of players.”

Simien, who works in the ministry, spent time with members of Dougherty’s family Friday. Simien fondly recalled the man he played for just one season at KU, but has known most of his life. One of Dougherty’s brothers was married to Simien’s aunt.

“I’ll remember his smile, his laugh,” said Simien, who last saw Dougherty at Simien’s jersey retirement ceremony Jan. 29 in Allen Fieldhouse. “He would not let me settle for less than the best. He’d challenge me to go harder, to give more. It’s how he lived. You could see that in him every day.”

One source close to the family said Dougherty died Tuesday night, after collapsing during a run. Emergency attempts to revive him failed. He was jogging with no identification, so it was impossible for police to identify him until a missing-person report was made Thursday by colleagues at iHoops — a company in Indianapolis where Dougherty worked the last few years. Colleagues identified Neil’s body Thursday night. iHoops is a joint venture between the NBA and NCAA that promotes youth basketball.

“You don’t know what to say, how to explain this. You feel numb,” said SMU coach Matt Doherty, who worked with Dougherty on Williams’ staff at KU. “He was always in great shape. He loved playing basketball at lunchtime. He was such a a good father and husband.

“I’ll remember our late-night conversations, his sense of humor and personality. Neil was quiet initially, but after you got to know him a very funny guy,” Doherty added from the adidas camp in Indianapolis. “He was responsible for a lot of young men coming to Lawrence, Kan., and helped a lot of guys get prepared for careers in the NBA behind the scenes, working with them before pre-draft camps.”

The KU nation was shocked and saddened upon hearing the news.

“He was like a second father to me. He was the reason I was at KU,” said former KU guard Nick Bradford, speaking from Indy, where he was helping coach the KC Pump and Run AAU team.

“Coach Dougherty and his family treated me like family. They made it comfortable for me when I first got to school at 17, 18 years old,” added Bradford, a native of Fayetteville, Ark. “He was a great motivator. There’s not one guy I played with in my career who didn’t like playing for coach D and wouldn’t want to play for coach D.”

Former center Eric Chenowith, an assistant coach at Villa Park (Calif.) High, said: “He was an amazing guy, a family man. I always said this about him: He had one of the great wealths of knowledge of the game of basketball I’ve ever been around. Playing for coach K (Mike Krzyzewski at Army), coaching under coach (Roy) Williams and at Vanderbilt and South Carolina …

“He was a big Chiefs fan and I'm a big Raiders fan. I’d go to his house and watch the games when the Raiders played the Chiefs. We’d talk and just hang out. My heart goes out to his wife and kids.”

Missouri Southern State assistant coach Jeff Boschee became “numb” when he received a text from Bradford on Friday informing him of the news.

“Coach Dougherty was an easy-going guy, always smiling. He made you laugh,” Boschee said. “I remember coach Dougherty was the first one to call me when I was at the Nike camp in Indianapolis (as a prospect out of Valley City, N.D). The biggest thing I remember is he was joking around and made me laugh. He was a great coach. He was so knowledgeable about things the guards could do in the offense.”

North Carolina assistant coach C.B. McGrath, who was sitting next to SMU coach Doherty upon receiving the news at the adidas camp, said: “It’s a tough day for everybody who knew coach Dougherty. He always had a smile on his face and always could put a smile on your face.

“I’ve heard from Nick (Collison), Kirk (Hinrich), Jeff Boschee, Ryan (Robertson), Raef (LaFrentz), Nick (Bradford), Eric (Chenowith), Billy Thomas. We’re all so upset.

“I’d see him two or three times a year on the road recruiting with his job. We’d always like to reminisce. He is a Kansan who loved every second he spent at KU. It was a dream-come-true job-wise.”

Former KU guard Billy Thomas, head coach at Barstow High in Kansas City, said he felt, “complete shock, sadness.

“I was just sitting and thinking about when I first met him. He came to watch me play in the Olympic Festival. We hit it off right away. He was somebody we like to call a players’ coach. He was so laid-back and cool. He’s the one who taught me to slow down playing the game. Watching me at the Festival, he thought there was a bit of rush to what I was doing. He taught me to relax out there.”

Former KU guard Aaron Miles remembers Dougherty and his family making him feel at home. He hails from Portland, Ore.

“My family really appreciated him because my first year here, I would go over to his house many times and eat. I just remember his family was really welcoming of all us freshman on the team,” Miles said. “He may be gone physically from this earth, but he is never forgotten. He is loved and appreciated.”

Former KU guard Ryan Robertson, who works as regional director of investment management for Goldman-Sachs in St. Louis, actually met Dougherty when he was in grade school.

“He started coaching in Lawton, Okla., where I was born and raised. My first basketball camp was led by Neil Dougherty at Cameron University,” Robertson said. “I remember winning ‘Pizza Hut player of the Day’ and him giving me the award.

“Here’s a guy who was absolutely full of life and energetic and lit up a room. It’s tragic and sad, and my thoughts and prayers are with his family now. He was a terrific guy, and I will always have terrific memories of coach Dougherty.”

Funeral services are pending.

Comments

holtzymal 3 years, 3 months ago

RIP, Coach. He was on the staff for my entire four years of undergrad at KU. What a smile! Always remember him coming out to shoot three hours before games with his young son, who now much be in his mid-20s.

Always tough to lose a member of the Jayhawk family.

forgetful 3 years, 3 months ago

Neil was one of the finest people I ever had the pleasure of meeting. I'm shocked at the news, and extend my sympathy to his family. Neil, rest in peace. You touched a great many lives, and had a great impact on many people, especially young people. You will be greatly missed!

ku_foaf 3 years, 3 months ago

I knew him for many years. A truly good man. My prayers to the Dougherty family and the KU and Leavenworth communities.

BKRJMG 3 years, 3 months ago

Sad day... RIP Neil!! I hope your family can find comfort in knowing you were an amazing person.

Andrew Ledell 3 years, 3 months ago

I always remember there was a group of students who called themselves "Neil's Atomic Fireballs" because of his love of that kind of candy and the fact that he was known to eat them on the sidelines. That was my freshman year at KU, and led me to an instant understanding of the fanaticism for KU hoops others had and I would soon inherit. Never before had I heard of fan clubs dedicated entirely to an assistant coach.

RIP coach and sincerest sympathies to his entire family.

Eride 3 years, 3 months ago

That camping group is still going after all that time.

RIP Coach.

ahpersecoachingexperience 3 years, 3 months ago

going to the store right now to get some atomic fireballs in his honor.

KUtattKat 3 years, 3 months ago

So sad! I remember watching him coach with Roy, and his interactions with the players...they just loved him so much!!! The fans loved him & his energy on the sideline...and he loved all the fans just as much.

My prayers go out to his family on this tragic loss. My prayers also go out to all of the KU family who is impacted by this loss.

God Bless!

nuleafjhawk 3 years, 3 months ago

Wow. So sorry to hear this bad news. My prayers go out to his family and friends.

Tony Bandle 3 years, 3 months ago

Damn, this is NOT the kind of basketball posting I was asking for earlier. 50 is so young....it's a small consolation but he didn't suffer.. Unfortunately, there will be much sadness with his family, friends and fans.

My heartfelt sympathies and prayers to his family. Matt you will always be a Jayhawk.

Tony Bandle 3 years, 3 months ago

Thanks BKRJMG..I have forever mixed them up. I'm an idiot sometimes.

ku_foaf 3 years, 3 months ago

Plus Matt was on the NC team with Brad Daugherty! Easy enough to do.

lionhawkward 3 years, 3 months ago

Heartfelt post, but it was Neil and I believe he had ties to Leavenworth , also a sister that was a Jayhawk ?

ku_foaf 3 years, 3 months ago

The family are Leavenworth natives. His sister Lisa played basketball at KU between 82 and 86, I believe. I think she set some records, maybe even Big 8 Records. Her twin brother Larry played at Valparaiso. They were once in Sports Illustrated.

Many people noticed that there was ALWAYS a Dougherty on the Leavenworth basketball team for many years, thanks to Neil, his older and younger brothers, and I think their children as well.

lionhawkward 3 years, 3 months ago

Leavenworth had some decent years in B-Ball back then. I remember getting on the bus after a loss a few times. His sister was a heck of a player, they were in the "faces in the crowd" section of SI I believe. Oakville, "idiot" is a little harsh on a sincere post brother. Wayne came from Leavenworth as well, and I believe Neil was somewhat of a mentor. Some good people as well as ball players ran through Leavenworth. RIP Neil, tough loss for the family, community, Jayhawk nation and Big Dub.

ku_foaf 3 years, 3 months ago

Big Wayne was a few years older, but I remember Neil mentioning he used to BB with Wayne's dad in the local gym.

Dyrk Dugan 3 years, 3 months ago

wow.....so young. prayers for his family and friends.....he was a great recruiter, and an outstanding representative of KU hoops when he was here, and since. He will be missed for sure.

jayhawkinATL 3 years, 3 months ago

Yes, VERY sad news! Thoughts and prayers to the Dougherty family.

dylans 3 years, 3 months ago

One more reason to not exercise.

rest in peace Neil.

LaJHawk666 3 years, 3 months ago

Thanks for the laugh. Even in tragic times, it's good to make others smile.

Thank you Neil for all your contributions.
RCJH

Ben Kane 3 years, 3 months ago

Definitely a sad day for KU fans. I have nothing but fond memories of coach. RIP

actorman 3 years, 3 months ago

So sad, so young. A loss to the Jayhawk community.

KU_alum_2001 3 years, 3 months ago

Terrible news! Rest in peace, Coach Dougherty. Rock Chalk always! You'll be missed by many, including a nation of KU fans.

nativeballer 3 years, 3 months ago

So very sad. I use to play NBL Basketball at Noon with him. When I got into coaching, he provided some great info on how to be a good assistant coach.

Ken Sedgwick 3 years, 3 months ago

Very sad news. I truly wish life was fair.

kerbyd 3 years, 3 months ago

Armen Gilliam (former UNLV b-ball player) also died at 47. Pretty scary.

Kenny Terry 3 years, 3 months ago

Sad day for coaches family and Jayhawk nation. Prayers go out to your family and friends whose lifes you touched

Michael Auchard 3 years, 3 months ago

Awful. I used to go to Roy's basketball camps as a kid. We kids always thought of Neil as "the good Daugherty" as opposed to Matt Doherty, who ruled those camps with a tyrannical iron thumb.

I wish Neil's family the best: once a Jayhawk, always a Jayhawk.

Jeeveshawk 3 years, 3 months ago

That is sad. He sounded like a kind person. He also had potential to go on in his carreer.

gchawk 3 years, 3 months ago

I had the privilege of meeting Neil a few times and he truly was a class act. My heartfelt sympathy to his family. Rest in peace my friend.

jhox 3 years, 3 months ago

I was fortunate enough to have been introduced to him a couple of times, and watched much of an AAU game with him on one occassion. I can only echo what everyone else has said about him. He was an impressive guy, and as nice as anyone you would ever want to meet. He was much too young to have ths happen. RIP, Coach.

LAJayhawk 3 years, 3 months ago

I'm so shocked by this that I can't find the right words to express it.

Rest in peace coach. You will be missed by many.

Mike Kendall 3 years, 3 months ago

I heard of Neil's passing on the local news in Wichita. So, I had to check out the KU website. So sad he was only 50. So sad he leaves behind three children. Kind of shocking that it happened. Like someone mentioned above---you never know when your number is up. Treat each day like it is your last. RIP, coach Dougherty.

BTW, Oakville----don't be hard on yourself----everybody makes mistakes. I knew who you met when you put Matt instead of Neil. You're one of my favorite posters, so, keep your head up and keep posting. Rock Chalk Jayhawk forever!

Hawkmaniac82 3 years, 3 months ago

I have a very fond memory of Coach Dougherty.

I was at the championship game at the 2008 Final Four in San Antonio with my grandpa. We were sitting in a NABC seating area, as my grandpa is a retired HS coach. Sitting front of me was this guy whose face I recognized, but could not figure out how I knew him. About halfway through the 2nd half, I mustered up the courage up to tap him on the shoulder and ask him who he was. He said, "I'm Neil Dougherty. I was an assistant under Coach Williams." We proceeded to talk throughout the rest of that epic game. When Mario hit the shot to send it into OT, Coach Dougherty turned around in jubilation and gave me a high five. He was all class. It was a neat memory that I'll never forget. Tragic to see him pass like this.

jelwezy_11 3 years, 3 months ago

Really Enjoyed that memory, that is a keeper. Wow. Thanks for sharing-

Mike Bratisax 3 years, 3 months ago

I hate this..I was at Leavenworth High (a senior) and he was a sophomore. I didn't know him but he was such a good athlete, everybody knew who he was and knew that one day, he would do something with his life. He was a great Pioneer and will be missed.

kufankam 3 years, 3 months ago

i met coach one time at a thunder game... he was there to watch nick and gooden play each other. we talked for a bit and he really is so down to earth. it reminds me of the times i have bumped into Self. you feel bad for even approaching them (as to not waste their time) and then they are the ones that end up talking to you like they're your best friend. i remember he just went on and on recalling games and sharing stories. he was so easy to talk to which made me realize why he was such a good recruiter for us.

he was an awesome coach, and from the looks of it, an even better human. this sucks! life is so unfortunately unfair... the world will miss coach dougherty...

Martin Rosenblum 3 years, 3 months ago

I can see it now.... A door opens and Neil walks in to find a room with a chalkboard and sees a bunch of guys from behind standing around it making X's and O's, arrows, etc. He asks if he can watch for a while. At first they are intense in their concentration but finally one turns around and says "Sure son, maybe you can join our discussion". Neil walks closer and the closer he gets, he realizes that he has walked in on Newell, Haskins, Wooden, Allen, Valvano and others. His first reaction is to turn around and leave this formidable collection of teachers. They make him feel welcome and encourage him to share his knowledge and experiences. This fraternitiy has just been enhanced with Neil becoming a new member. There's always room for more members, but we sure hate to see them join at such a young age.

jaydeamin 3 years, 3 months ago

+1 R.I.P. Coach D. The lessons he shared with so many will be passed on and multiply to help make a better existence for the rest of us! Thank you, we should all strive to make similar reverberations.

jaybate 3 years, 3 months ago

"For Neil"

Look...up there!

Through the glass.

Beyond the square...up!

Leaves a good one.

Heaven bound.

Life has no overtimes.

Maybe death?

Maybe not?

His living stops.

But the life he lived continues.

See how many he helped.

See how many they help now.

See how his death cleanses them

Of petty distractions?

As is each one of us,

He is a pyramid rising to a point

Never to be reached.

But forever redeemed by an

Ever enlarging base.

Goodness is its own reward here

and time is unreal.

Its arrow may point only one way

But even time cannot

Transcend space.

In time all ends.

Each death forces us back...

into space

yet again.

In space the truth remains

For there nothing perishes but time.

See...look!

Neil still leads many into space.

The quaternity of the wood

Hints at this each time

If we will only see.

The space of the human heart

The space of eternity

Symbolized as quaternity...

As a child's game.

The going never ceases.

And Neil...

we will follow you there too someday.

But here...

In Lawrence, Kansas...

Now and always...

You will always...stay...

Ours--

For as long as there is place.

jaybate 3 years, 3 months ago

Comment: Roy Williams proved his greatness as a leader in these quotes about Neil in the story above.

jaybark 3 years, 3 months ago

A great man and a true Jayhawk. You'll be missed, Coach.

Woody Cragg 3 years, 3 months ago

The truth shines through again.

Every single person should be completely & totally thankful & productive each day, no matter your wealth, your life situation, or even your health. Those of us that are a tad older now realize what so many young & old people seemingly never do or cannot, that old age is such a privilege whom countless young souls are denied. True, there's alot of pain with the gain, but life is still such a precious gift. This man gave his to everyone else. My sincerest thanks Neil.

I would also like to add that the Lawrence community is tremendously fortunate to have Wayne Simien back in our corner as well.

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