Matt Doherty, famed college coach and Holy Trinity alumnus, second...

Matt Doherty, famed college coach and Holy Trinity alumnus, second from left, poses for pictures alongside athletic director Chris Hardardt, left, principal Jim Grillo, second from right, and boys basketball head coach Joseph Conefry during Doherty's jersey retirement at the school on Friday. Credit: James Escher

Holy Trinity celebrated its greatest basketball star Friday night.

In a ceremony before Holy Trinity beat visiting St. Mary’s, 44-41, the school paid homage to the career of Matt Doherty by retiring his No. 30 jersey and raising it on a banner next to the scoreboard above the court.

Doherty, who grew up in East Meadow and will turn 61 on Feb. 25, played four seasons at the school before graduating in 1980. He was a starter on three Long Island CHSAA championship teams.

“Holy Trinity was in my bloodstream from an early age when my older sisters [enrolled],” Doherty said. “I went to games and felt the intensity that came with playing for Holy Trinity, and knew I wanted to be a part of it.”

Doherty helped the Titans win Diocesan titles in 1977 and 1978 under coach Bob McKillop and the state Catholic and Federation championships in 1980 under coach Dick Zeitler.

Doherty was named a McDonald’s All-American as a senior before playing for Hall of Famer Dean Smith at North Carolina. Doherty was a starter, along with Michael Jordan, Sam Perkins and James Worthy, on North Carolina’s 1982 national championship team.

He later became a head coach with stops at Notre Dame, North Carolina, Florida Atlantic and SMU. Doherty was named the NCAA Coach of the Year in 2001 with the Tar Heels.

“This is long overdue and it is awesome,” Zeitler said. “When people talk about Matt, they often [remark] about his considerable abilities as a player. Even more than that, there was his leadership on the teams he played on — it was just tremendous.”

When he was introduced, Doherty received a standing ovation from a home crowd that also included Zeitler and former Holy Trinity teammates. The fans rose to their feet again when Doherty and Titans coach Joe Conefry unfurled the banner and again after concluding his remarks by saying “once a Titan, always a Titan!”

When he first walked back into the school, Doherty remarked about how small the students’ lockers are, but he soon said, “The memories of walking these halls started rushing back.”

He added, “The culture of Holy Trinity played such a big role in shaping all of us. It’s a place where you learned to do things right, pay attention to detail and treat others with respect. Those are things you take with you for all of your life. And then of course there was the basketball and all the lessons I learned on our court.”

Doherty, who was flanked at the ceremony by his wife, Kelly, and children Hattie and Tucker, lives in North Carolina and works as an executive coach and public speaker.

In 2021, he published a book, “Rebound: From Pain to Passion – Leadership Lessons Learned,” which is part memoir and part guidance on how to lead.

The games that Doherty remembers most fondly are the battles against rival St. Agnes of Rockville Centre. “You had to be there early if you were going to get in,” he said.

That was especially true during their title-game clashes in 1977 and 1980.

He recalled from his first season at North Carolina being asked about the feel of the rivalry with Duke and replying, “I’ve experienced that — it’s the same as Agnes-Trinity but with more people watching.”

When Holy Trinity administrators told him of the plan to retire his number, Doherty was touched.

“Sports promotes dreaming — the big game, playing at the Garden, winning a championship,” he said. “Having your number retired is definitely one of those dreams.”

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