Former TCU basketball coach Dougherty dies

Posted Friday, Jul. 08, 2011  comments  Print Reprints
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North Texas director of basketball operations Jeff Luster, like many in the area basketball community, could only wonder why.

Luster received a phone call early Friday morning informing him that former TCU men's basketball coach Neil Dougherty had died. Dougherty had turned 50 in April.

"I was just stunned," said Luster, who was an assistant under Dougherty at TCU. "Just disbelief. He really was in great shape."

Dougherty, who coached the Frogs from 2002 until 2008, died while running in Indianapolis on Tuesday night. Dougherty had been working as the director of athlete and coach programs for iHoops, a partnership between the NBA and NCAA. He was in Indianapolis for a recruiting event.

Dougherty had gone missing after leaving for a jog. He was found in a neighborhood and transported to an emergency room, where the Marion County coroner pronounced him dead around 9:30 p.m. The cause of death is pending, a spokeswoman said. His identity was unknown until Friday morning.

Dougherty loved basketball, both coaching and playing. While at TCU, Luster said Dougherty played many games of pickup basketball. After taking the position with iHoops, Dougherty switched to jogging.

"He picked up jogging at night and did it religiously," Luster said. "He was a good person. The only thing he ever did that was bad was eat dessert before the main meal. It's crazy. He was a good-looking guy who did everything right. I just don't get it."

The iHoops' mission is to coach and educate young basketball players, a goal that fit in perfectly with Dougherty's passions.

"He could get down to the kids' level and bring them in and make them understand," Luster said. "He loved kids and helping them learn the game."

Dougherty grew up in Leavenworth, Kan., and worked as an assistant coach at Kansas under Roy Williams from 1995-2002. He was also an assistant at Cameron, Drake, Vanderbilt and South Carolina. He played two years for Mike Krzyzewski at Army before finishing his playing career with two years at Cameron.

"Wherever he went, and whoever he touched, the sentiment was the same -- he was well-liked, and he returned that to everyone," Luster said. "He treated everyone well, even if he had just met them. What a loss this is for humanity, and that's not an exaggeration."

While Dougherty's record at TCU was 75-108, and he was fired in March 2008 after only one winning season, Luster said Dougherty is the best coach he has ever been around.

"He was incredible, not just with X's and O's, but with communication with young people," Luster said. "Our win-loss record wasn't that great, but he and I both felt like we just needed one more year and we would win. But it wasn't about that for him. It was about the young people. It was about giving those kids an opportunity and something in their lives that wasn't just basketball."

Tommy Brakel coached Dougherty's sons, Neil and Ryan, at North Crowley High School. Two of Brakel's players, brothers Keith and Kevin Langford, played for Dougherty in college, Keith at Kansas and Kevin at TCU.

"One word that comes to mind is integrity," Brakel said. "He always did things the right way. Everything about him was classy, well-spoken, sincere, genuine. He was a great guy and a great basketball coach."

Keith Langford said Daugherty won his trust by talking to him about how he could improve his game, whether he went to Kansas or not.

"He never talked bad about another school," he said. "That was refreshing."

Scott Gray, a former Fort Worth Southwest coach, sent two players to play for Dougherty at TCU.

"He was real honest and straightforward and just a good family man," Gray said. "His wife always sat behind the bench four or five rows up. I'd see his family at their games. He was a good coach. Things didn't work out at TCU, but he was a good coach and more than that, he was a good person."

Dougherty was primarily a recruiter while at Kansas, when the Jayhawks averaged 29 wins per season. He landed eight McDonald's All-Americans at KU.

"TCU is saddened to learn of the passing of former head basketball coach Neil Dougherty," the TCU athletic department said in a statement. "Our thoughts and prayers are with his family at this time."

In a statement, TCU coach Jim Christian, who replaced Dougherty, said: "Our basketball program is deeply saddened by the loss of Coach Dougherty, whose class and integrity were inspirational to all of us."

Dougherty's wife, Patti, still lives in Fort Worth, and his daughter Megan lives in Keller. His son Neil lives in South Carolina; Ryan is a student at Southwest Baptist in Bolivar, Mo.

Staff writer Carlos Mendez contributed to this report.

Brent Shirley, 817-390-7760

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