SMU head coach Matt Doherty yells to his players as...

SMU head coach Matt Doherty yells to his players as they take on Southern Mississippi. (Feb. 29, 2012) Credit: AP

DALLAS — SMU fired men’s basketball coach Matt Doherty on Tuesday after six seasons in which the high-profile former North Carolina coach failed to take the Mustangs to the NCAA tournament.

Doherty went 13-19 this year and 80-109 in six years with SMU. Athletic director Steve Orsini said he thought the school — which hasn’t made the NCAA tournament since 1993 — had the potential to reach the national rankings and compete for championships. SMU will move from Conference USA to the much tougher Big East in 2013.

“I appreciate Matt’s efforts and service here at SMU,” Orsini said. “He always represented the university with class and I never doubted his effort or desire to win, but it was time for a change. We wish him the best.”

Doherty, a former Tar Heels player, was the national coach of the year in 2001, his first season at North Carolina. But after two subpar seasons and complaints from alumni and players, Doherty was pressured to resign in April 2003 to make way for current coach Roy Williams.

Doherty became the coach at Florida Atlantic in 2005. One year later, Orsini offered him a five-year contract that reportedly paid $600,000 a season. A school spokesman said Doherty has one year left on his current contract and will be paid a buyout, but declined to say how much.

Doherty was a splashy hire for a program known largely as a basketball backwater. SMU built a new basketball practice facility — allowing Doherty to move practices out of a church gym — and has announced a $40 million renovation of Moody Coliseum.

But Doherty won more than four conference games only twice in six years. SMU ended this season Wednesday with a 74-56 loss to Marshall in the Conference USA tournament. SMU has not won an NCAA tournament game since 1988.

Orsini said that with facilities upgrades and the fertile talent in the Dallas area, “we believe we have the pieces for a championship-caliber program.”

He said he would conduct a national search for Doherty’s successor.

“I understand that this is a business and, at the end of the day, we simply didn’t win enough games,” Doherty said in a statement provided by the school. “However, I am grateful to the players and staff for their hard work and the way they represented the university.”