There was a time, Anson Dorrance will tell you, when he knew
nothing about women. Sure, he had been exposed to them: At age
seven he came home a schoolboy boxing champion, and his younger
sister, Maggie, promptly pulled on the gloves and drove one of
his teeth down his throat. Around that time, too, he saw that
his mother was the best athlete of all the adults he knew,
defeating everyone in tennis and, he says, regularly "beating
the s--- out of my dad in golf." But that kind of power only
broadened the mystery, and attending an all-boys boarding school
didn't help--though Dorrance did notice that when he donned
makeup and dresses to play women in school plays, the boys
became more attentive. Always a Juliet, never a Romeo: His first
year as a student at North Carolina, Dorrance asked just one
woman for a date. She turned him down. "The last time I ever
asked a woman out in my life," he says.
Even in his late 20s he was "intimidated by women and girls,"
Dorrance says, and the early days of marriage left him as
perplexed as ever. "He didn't know how to trust women; he didn't
know how to communicate," says his wife of 24 years, M'Liss.
"He'd say, 'You women are strange creatures.' He didn't like the
way we reacted to things: He thought we got too fazed."
But now Dorrance is sure he knows women as well as any man
alive. His monumental achievement in founding and building North
Carolina's women's soccer program--which will be gunning for its
16th national championship in its 20 years of existence at this
weekend's Final Four in Greensboro, N.C.--has done more than
elevate him to the level of former UCLA basketball coach John
Wooden and former Iowa wrestling coach Dan Gable as one of the
greatest Division I coaches in history. It has also made him an
expert. Having amassed a 441-16-11 record coaching women and
having coached the Carolina men and women simultaneously from
1979 to '88, the 47-year-old Dorrance is seen as an authority in
the minefield of gender differences. He gives more than a dozen
speeches a year to corporations on managing the sexes. Many
players believe he has an understanding of women that goes
beyond coaching. "He knows how women work, the way we think,"
says Tar Heels midfielder Tiffany Roberts.
"He taps into the core of your being," says national team
assistant coach and former Carolina player Lauren Gregg.
December 7, 1998
Just ask him. "Women are more sensitive and more demanding of
each other, and that combination is horrible," Dorrance says.
"Men are not sensitive and not demanding of each other, and
that's a wonderful combination for building team chemistry. We
can play with guys who are absolute jackasses. We have no
standards for their behavior as long as they can play: Just get
me the ball. But if a girl's a jerk, even though she gets me the
ball, there's going to be a huge chemistry issue: I don't want
to play with her. But she serves you the best ball on the team!
I would much rather play with So-and-so. But you're terrible
together! I would rather play with her. Why? The other girl's a
He shrugs. "It's unfathomable to me," he says, "but for them this
Such talk makes feminists cringe, but Dorrance never backs off.
In 1994 The Citadel deposed him as an expert witness during its
attempt to keep Shannon Faulkner from enrolling as the military
school's first female cadet. The judge, declaring that his
ruling wouldn't be based on gender differences, never let
Dorrance testify. Big mistake, Dorrance says.
"I was going to tell him, 'If you bring women in here, you're
either going to destroy the women or you're going to destroy The
Citadel,'" Dorrance says. "You can't bring women into that
environment and develop them the way you can men. Sure enough,
they brought Faulkner in, and all the things I predicted in the
deposition happened to Shannon. Women don't respond to that
What they do respond to, Dorrance believes, is the climate he
has established in Chapel Hill--and for almost two decades it
has been impossible to disagree. Since he became the women's
soccer coach in 1979, North Carolina's success has been so
spectacular that even the big boys have paid heed. "This is a
women's soccer school," Dean Smith said last year before he
retired as the men's basketball coach. "We're just trying to
keep up with them."
Led by a parade of Tar Heels alumnae who have marched onto the
national team and into the college coaching ranks, women's
soccer has boomed in the U.S., and the country has become the
preeminent power in the game. In 1991 Dorrance pulled off an
astonishing double when, six days after North Carolina claimed
its sixth NCAA championship in a row, he led the U.S. to the
title in the inaugural FIFA Women's World Cup, in China. No one
has done more to shape U.S. women's soccer than Dorrance, and
nothing has shaped his approach more than his belief that female
athletes view competition differently from men and need a
personal bond with teammates and coaches to succeed.
Dorrance insists that players call him Anson. Before the last
home game of the season, he presents each senior with a red
rose. On the wall in his office is this sign: PEOPLE DON'T CARE
HOW MUCH YOU KNOW UNTIL THEY KNOW HOW MUCH YOU CARE. "That is
the critical element in coaching women," Dorrance says. "You
can't get me to do anything unless you care about me first.
Soccer is not that important to them. Connection is."
But this year Dorrance's ability to read, connect with and coach
women has been called into question. On Aug. 25, two of his
former players--forward Debbie Keller, one of only six Tar Heels
to have had her number retired, and goalkeeper Melissa
Jennings--sued Dorrance and the university for $12 million,
alleging that he sexually harassed them and caused them
emotional distress while they were on the team. Dorrance denies
the charges. So far there's been no talk of settlement: The
university is standing by its coach, while the plaintiffs want
"Humiliating," Dorrance calls the suit. "This sort of thing
undermines everything. It shatters your family."
The case has fallen into the usual rut of rumor, demonization
and legal maneuvering, and only one thing is clear: Somewhere,
Dorrance made a mistake. Either he was wrong when he decided he
knew his accusers, or he was wrong when he decided he knew what
LETTER TO THE PLAINTIFF
Jan. 1, 1994
Just a quick note to confirm all the things about you that I
knew the day we started recruiting you to come to Chapel Hill:
You are an incredible soccer player, and your freshman year was
remarkable. You are a wonderfully positive person and even
though there must be times when you are down we never see it
because you have class and strength to deal with everything. You
are a riveting beacon for UNC women's soccer....
On a more personal level, I want to thank you for taking the
time to write out the words to that poster that reflect you so
beautifully, I want to thank you for your card (M'Liss
appreciated the things you shared). I also want you to know I
appreciate all the time you took to recruit for us. And just in
case you couldn't tell, I have great affection for you because
of the kind way you treat everyone and the matchless way you
conduct yourself. See you soon.
Nothing seemed to change. News of the lawsuit broke, but the
team kept winning. Led by Cindy Parlow, the 1997 national Player
of the Year, the Tar Heels shrugged off the loss of four key
seniors to go 18-0 during the '98 regular season and carry the
No. 1 ranking into the NCAA tournament. It was the usual North
Carolina story: The Tar Heels were more talented, more
aggressive, hungrier than everyone they played. They have
outscored their opponents 97-6. They haven't been beaten in 69
games. "Watch them!" Virginia coach April Heinrichs, a former
Tar Heels star, told her team during the 13th-ranked Cavaliers'
5-1 loss to Carolina in late October. "They run because they
want to, not because they have to."
They've wanted to even more this year. The one blessing of the
suit, Dorrance and his players say, is that it has knit the team
together more tightly. "It makes us practice harder," says
midfielder Laurie Schwoy. "We think, Let's support Anson. We're
going to show him how much we care about him by how hard we
In the end, of course, that won't have any bearing on the suit.
The charges made by the 19-year-old Jennings, who was on
Dorrance's '97 team but never played significant minutes, center
on the coach's alleged sexual banter with team members and on
other supposed abuses of authority, including his knowledge of
alcohol use by underage players and his pressuring Jennings to
make a $400 bank withdrawal and lend him the money to pay for
team refreshments. (Dorrance repaid the loan and, in response to
complaints from Jennings's father, Craig, subsequently
apologized.) The 23-year-old Keller, a two-time Player of the
Year who started for Carolina from 1993 to '96, alleges that
Dorrance twice made an "uninvited sexual advance" toward her;
that on other occasions he made "inappropriate and uninvited
physical contact" by placing "his hands and arms on her body";
and that he would "constantly interrogate" members of his team
about their personal lives and sexual activities. (While
Dorrance denies these charges, he signed a letter from Carolina
athletic director Richard Baddour to Craig Jennings
acknowledging that he "participated in group discussions of a
jesting or teasing nature" that were "inappropriate.")
The case has prompted plenty of debate about the hazards of men
coaching young women in any sport, but the shock has been felt
most in the soccer world. Next Jan. 4, players who have received
invitations will gather at the U.S. national team's residency
camp in Orlando to begin preparation for the 1999 Women's World
Cup. Though Dorrance retired as national coach in 1994, the
team's coaching staff is stocked with his former assistants and
players, and the roster is expected to be dominated by current
and past Carolina stars loyal to him. Tracy Ducar, a former UNC
goalie and assistant coach who will be trying to win the
goalkeeping job, is named as a defendant in the suit (as are her
husband, Tar Heels assistant Chris Ducar; his fellow assistant
Bill Palladino; and members of the university administration).
Of the 23 women who have been invited to the camp so far, 10
play or played for Carolina. Keller, who spent all of 1998 as a
member of the national team--including a chilly but
incident-free three-game tour two weeks after she filed the
suit--isn't among them.
"It was hard for me to go in there," Keller says of that tour.
"I know there are people who think [Anson is] like a father. I
gave this little speech and told them that anyone who looks at
this can see that I have everything to lose. I am putting the
career I love on the line because I believe I have to do what's
right. I still want to play. But I don't regret anything I've
After the suit became public, more than 100 current and former
Tar Heels players signed a letter supporting Dorrance and
stating, in part, "We are confident that the recent allegations
are unfounded.... We have no reservations about our own
daughters someday playing soccer under the remarkable leadership
of Anson Dorrance." Current players refer to the suit as "a
betrayal" and "an attack on the program," and they wonder why
Keller spent the spring of '98 training with Dorrance and the
team and, just three months before filing suit, voluntarily
appeared in a video extolling Dorrance's coaching methods.
"I was pretty close to her, but I'm still bitter," says Roberts,
a former roommate of Keller's, who has been invited to the
residency camp. "On the national team we might play together, so
I'll have to put those feelings aside. But off the field it's
In Chapel Hill there's little doubt who is regarded as the
villain. Chancellor Michael Hooker, who is a defendant in the
suit along with AD Baddour, still shows up at most soccer games
with his wife, Carmen. On Nov. 14, after Parlow scored a goal
early in the second half of the Tar Heels' 6-0 home win over UNC
Charlotte, sports information codirector Dave Lohse announced to
the crowd that Parlow had passed Keller on the Tar Heels'
alltime scoring list. "The place went nuts," Lohse says. "It was
deafening compared to when we scored--the biggest cheer of the
Though most of the resentment on campus focuses on Keller, it is
Jennings, still a student at Chapel Hill, who has borne the
direct hostility. She has received numerous harassing phone
calls that, she says, her caller I.D. revealed to be coming from
university offices. Last month she reported to campus police
that when she ran into former Tar Heels player Aubrey Falk
outside Kenan Field House, Falk swore at her and threatened her.
Falk says she only snapped at Jennings and told her to "beat it."
Mia Hamm, the biggest star in the women's game, worked this fall
as Dorrance's volunteer assistant. During Hamm's freshman year at
Chapel Hill, in 1989, Dorrance was her legal guardian because her
parents were living overseas. She calls him a man of "integrity"
and says she believes he is innocent of the plaintiffs' charges.
But, say Keller and Jennings, how could Hamm know what happened
between Dorrance and Keller while they were alone?
"I don't know the truth," says Jerry Smith, coach of No. 2-ranked
Santa Clara. "But the thing I come back to is, Why would Debbie
Keller go through this if it's not true? If it is true, maybe it
can't be proven. She has everything to lose and nothing to gain."
So far, Dorrance's program seems unscathed. As usual, the Tar
Heels have received oral commitments from the cream of the
nation's high school talent, including top prospect Susan Bush
of Houston. Players still hug Dorrance. He still jokes about
unshaved legs and the fact that his players are dating "dirtbag"
lacrosse players. But the lawsuit has taken a personal toll.
Dorrance's mother, Peggy, has developed an ulcer from worry. His
19-year-old daughter, Michelle, has received harassing and even
threatening phone calls, and his other children, Natalie, 16,
and Donovan, 7, have felt the tension at home. "The greatest
crisis of my life," Anson says.
He's curious to see how he handles it. Dorrance's life has been
a comfortable one; born in Bombay, raised in former colonial
capitals--Addis Ababa, Calcutta, Nairobi, Singapore--and
educated in Switzerland, he developed an expatriate's
adaptability and used sports to fit in. But he has been nagged
by the knowledge that he has never been tested. "My generation
fought the Vietnam War," he says. "I didn't go, so how do I know
what I'm made of? How do you and I know if we have any courage?
I lead an incredibly gilded life."
It's a late afternoon in October, two days after the Virginia
win. So far, Dorrance says, "I'm doing well. I can't say it's
been a good experience, but it's confirmed what I've always
believed about loyalty."
He begins speaking about the morning when news of the lawsuit
broke. His family was at home. Michelle put on a Ben Harper CD
and kept replaying the song I'll Rise, with lyrics by Maya
Angelou. "We had it cranking all day," Anson says. "It got so we
could sing most of it. That's when I was sure Michelle was going
to be O.K. My youngest daughter, Natalie, typed the words out for
me. I'm going to put them on the wall with If."
If, Rudyard Kipling's ode to stiff-upper-lip manhood, is
Dorrance's favorite poem. "Kipling was the poet laureate of the
British Empire, and I was born and raised in the British
Empire," Dorrance says. "He is my poet laureate." This is not
hard to believe. In his ramrod posture, his clipped diction and
his speeches about honor, Dorrance carries more than a hint of
imperial rectitude. He would look right at home in a pith helmet
and jodhpurs. If, he says, "is about reconstructing things that
have been destroyed. It says that even if people are going to
destroy you, don't have any rancor. It's about being a positive
life force. It's everything I believe in. It's everything I
LETTER TO THE PLAINTIFF
Oct. 22, 1994
Just a quick note to let you know how much you mean to me. When
I saw you for the first time in my [youth] camp four summers
ago, I liked what I saw. I knew back then that very shortly my
program was going to get its greatest challenge. When Kristine
Lilly and Mia Hamm graduated, when the ten seniors graduated we
were going to need an extraordinary group to carry on an
impossible tradition. I never dreamed I would end up with
someone like you. You are perfect...amazing player, brilliant
recruiter, eternal optimist that positively helps team chemistry
just by being here.
These are trying times...the tie to Notre Dame, the loss to
Duke, everyone questioning themselves.... That is why winning in
these years will mean the most. You are my rock.... I know that
you will always be there as a beacon of strength in these storms
of doubt. I don't know how I won your loyalty or trust but I
cherish it. Just like I cherish you. My respect for you runs
deep, and, like your sweet note showed, it goes beyond your
soccer prowess into the core of who you are. I am trying hard
not to lace these thoughts with affection but as you can tell I
care for you Debbie, and all that you do.
He was eight when he first saw a man die. The rebels came
charging past his family's compound in Addis Ababa, rushing
after fleeing soldiers loyal to Emperor Haile Selassie. One
soldier tried to surrender and began praying for his life. A
rebel pulled out a pistol and fired a bullet into the base of
his skull. His corpse was left where it fell, helmet askew. At
times, bullets whistled in the air, one even pinging into the
chair Anson's father had just vacated. None of this touched
Anson. Not in the way you'd expect. He thought it was all
"absolutely hilarious," he says, like a good war movie. He
wouldn't have minded getting that helmet.
Only once did it dawn on him that being the son of an American
oil executive in war-torn Ethiopia might be sticky. His mother
was driving him and his three younger siblings to the U.S.
Embassy while bullets flew around them. "My mother kept
screaming at us to put our heads down," Dorrance says, "and I
kept peeking up because for me this was exciting! I'm not going
to miss this movie, Mom! Then she yelled at me, and the panic in
her voice was the one thing that panicked me the whole war."
Addis Ababa gave him something else. There, Anson met M'Liss
Gary, daughter of an Air Force attache. Their families were
friends and would go camping together up by Lake Awasa. One
night, all the kids were playing hide-and-seek, and Anson was
it. M'Liss stayed close and watched him counting in the dark.
When he was finished, he went and sat next to her. "How'd you
find me?" she asked.
"Your hair was shining in the moonlight," Anson said.
"I carried that with me for a decade," M'Liss says.
The Dorrances moved a lot: Asia, Africa, Europe. Anson played
all kinds of sports, never had a scarring experience. When he
was 15, his father, Pete, grew angry at him and uttered what
Dorrance calls "my favorite quote: 'Anson, you're the most
confident person without any talent I've ever met.' I looked at
him and said, 'Dad, I'm taking that as a compliment.' Of course
that pissed him off even more. All these different environments
constructed a great confidence without any skills. It's amazing."
But it wasn't the environments that formed him. It was his
father. Pete Dorrance was a combustible, razor-witted man
universally described as intimidating. He loved nothing more
than dissecting flawed reasoning. Ask anyone what makes Anson so
infuriating as an opponent and exceptional as a coach, and
you'll hear of his verbal agility. "He stereotypes men and
women, and he does it with flair," says former Yale coach Felice
"A lot of guys are as competitive as Anson, but no one is as
verbally combative," says Tar Heels assistant Palladino.
Or, as one of his former players, Mark Devey, puts it, "Conflict
isn't an issue with Anson. It's a desire."
That comes from Pete. His cocktail-hour demolitions enthralled
Anson as a boy, and when Pete finally turned his attention to
his oldest son, a joyous battle was joined. The two argued over
everything--history, politics, culture, the time of day. "I
loved him with a passion, and I loved his strength," Anson says.
"Though he wasn't athletic, he was significant in forming my
athletic character. He wouldn't allow me to back down from any
"Once, when I was a freshman in college, I was arguing with him,
and he was starting to become heated. My mother was there, and I
was pretending to read a newspaper, holding it up to my face,
flipping comments over the top of the paper, and he was getting
angrier and angrier. My mother told me to put the paper down and
look at my father, and I refused. It was my declaration of
intellectual independence from him: I can fence with you."
Anson graduated from the Villa St. Jean school in Fribourg,
Switzerland, in 1969. He stood 5'10" and weighed 135 pounds. He
spent the next fall term at a small college in San Antonio,
getting "beat up every weekend" when he and his rugby teammates
brawled with locals in pool halls. Bored academically, he
transferred to North Carolina, and within a week the intramural
sports organizer for his dorm had approached him. "If you want
to win," Dorrance told him, "put me on every team." He excelled
at softball, wrestling and badminton, and was voted the campus's
outstanding intramural athlete. After redshirting with the
soccer team during his sophomore year, he started as a junior,
and as a fifth-year senior he was elected team captain. "He'd
come off the field, and if he wasn't bleeding from both knees,
he wasn't happy," says former teammate Kip Ward.
During Christmas break of 1972 Anson became engaged to M'Liss,
now a professional dancer, with whom he had been reunited at
various family gatherings. They were married in a Roman Catholic
ceremony a few months after Anson graduated in 1974. Around that
time Ward lured Dorrance into coaching a team in his youth
recreational soccer league. It was supposed to be relatively
low-key, but, says Dorrance, "I was never into recreational
anything. So I went over to Ridgefield, which was a black
neighborhood, and recruited the best athletes and paid their
league fees. I put them right down the middle--one at center
back, one at center half and two at my inside forward
positions--and we rocked. I trained them to win. These other
coaches and parents would say, 'You're taking it too seriously,'
and I said, 'If winning doesn't matter to you, fine. But we've
discovered our morale's a lot better when we win.' They didn't
like that we just tromped everyone."
His father, naturally, thought Anson would make a fine lawyer.
He began law school, but his coaching schedule interfered. In
1977, after a year as an assistant with the North Carolina men's
soccer team, he was named head coach. Meanwhile, in 1976, Anson
and M'Liss had joined the Mormon church and had a second wedding
ceremony. "It was a temple marriage, which is an eternal
marriage--not broken by death," M'Liss says. "It puts things in
M'Liss is standing at her kitchen counter cutting up red peppers
for dinner. It's a Wednesday night, three days after the
Virginia game. The university was informed of the lawsuit 16
days before the suit was formally filed last August, and M'Liss
says she became a wreck waiting for the news to become public.
She'd lie awake anticipating the 4 a.m. delivery of the
newspaper, hear it land, then walk outside in the dark to see if
the nightmare had begun. "I want to protect my own, including
Anson," she says. "I have total faith in everything that's good
and right about him." The lawsuit mentions a rumor--later denied
by U.S. Soccer Federation officials--that Dorrance was forced to
resign from the national team in 1994 because he had been having
an affair with a player. M'Liss has never asked him about that
or any of the charges in the lawsuit. "Anson and I know each
other very, very well," she says. "I don't have any doubts."
Yes, she says, the suit is "shocking" and "terrifying" to her.
"But we're dealing with it. It's certainly not a tragedy."
M'Liss calmly explains that three days after she and Anson
became Mormons, her parents and sister were killed in a
late-night fire at their house near Washington, D.C. They didn't
die in their sleep. Their bodies were found far from their beds.
"I've experienced tragedy," M'Liss says.
LETTER TO THE PLAINTIFF
Feb. 18, 1995
I felt terrible when I missed you the last day you were in town.
I wanted to give you all kinds of wonderful advice on how to do
well in [national team] camp....
If you ever need to hear how good you are please call me, I am
your greatest fan. I tried to call you Friday night when I got
your message...I kept getting a busy signal. I will try again.
I have enclosed the competitive practice matrix from our Fall
1994 season to show you how good you are for those "bad
practice" days. Look and find these names on the list--Venturini
and Wilson. They are phenomenal players and both are going to
[the Women's World Cup in] Sweden. Find your name--you are above
On a more personal level I want you to know that I have felt so
much closer to you the past several months and I treasure it. I
genuinely enjoy your company even when you were about to throw
up on the track on those cold mornings. I can feel a real
friendship developing. As Sarah will attest, I had mixed
emotions when you were picked to go into the permanent
camp--proud as I could be and dismally sad that you were leaving.
I miss you still.
The Tar Heels are unlike any other NCAA women's soccer team. The
explanation goes beyond talent: "It's that aggressiveness," says
Santa Clara coach Smith. "When you watch them play, you can see
the edge they have. I'll go beyond aggressiveness: It's
meanness. Anson has found a way to bring that out of his
players. They don't care how many fouls they have, they don't
care how they're perceived. They're going to be nasty."
Smith isn't criticizing. His Broncos have never beaten North
Carolina, and though Smith has built one of the nation's
powers--Santa Clara surrendered just three goals while going
19-0-1 this past regular season--he marvels at Dorrance's
ability to create such an attitude. "The rest of us struggle
with it," Smith says. "I ask my team to outfoul opponents, and
they won't do it. I don't know why. I can't get my players--and
no one else can get theirs--to be more aggressive. When we try
it, we have chemistry problems, because some players think it's
wrong. How does he do it?"
Today, Tar Heels players buy into Dorrance's insistence that
they "take pieces of flesh" or "destroy" each other in practice
because this has resulted in 15 national championships and sent
more than 30 Carolina alums to the national team. But when
Dorrance took on the brand-new Tar Heels women's team in 1979,
he had no idea how to talk to his players, much less motivate
them. "Total nightmare," he says. He called players by their
last names, kept a lofty distance, tried coaching the women just
like his men. He was so standoffish--"robotic," according to his
first recruit, Janet Rayfield--that when he began loosening up
the following spring, the players were taken aback. After he
approached a struggling Rayfield during one drill and asked
whether anything off the field was bothering her, she snapped,
"Anson, don't patronize me!"
Rayfield didn't know: Dorrance was beginning to get in touch
with his feminine side. The balancing act of coaching both the
men's and women's teams had revealed his ignorance of women in
galling fashion. In doubleheaders he'd bounce from one team to
the other without shifting gears, and once when he barked orders
at the girls on the field, one player turned to him and said,
"Anson, sit down. This is the women's team." He sat down. He
read Ms., Cosmopolitan, every piece of feminist literature he
could find. A friend of M'Liss's gave him a copy of Carol
Gilligan's book In a Different Voice, and it confirmed what he'd
begun to suspect: Men and women think differently. He had to
coach them differently. "Men respond to your strength," he says.
"Women respond to your humanity."
It didn't hurt that North Carolina, which had the first varsity
women's soccer program in the South, soon began to land much of
the nation's top soccer talent. Within three years the Tar Heels
had won their first national title. As Heinrichs puts it, "Anson
got a 50-yard head start in a 100-yard dash." But Dorrance
watched his players and decided that just gathering talent
"Here's an example," he says. "I had this guy warm up my team in
the early '80s. He was studying exercise physiology at UNC, and
it was unbelievable what he did: The women were in a lather,
doing agility stuff--just an incredible warmup. They were so
ready to play, and I was thinking, A gift has been given to me.
But a month and a half into the season, our morale was shot. I
couldn't put my finger on it. Finally we went back to our old
warmup: The girls come to the field, put on their shoes for five
or 10 minutes, and in groups of twos and threes they catch up on
their lives. Then they jog around the field and end up in a
place out of my earshot, stretching. But they're not really
stretching. They're socializing. Our morale returned in two weeks.
"It was a wonderful lesson, a reminder of what's important. Men
put their shoes on, they stretch, they play. But our team
socializes at every opportunity, and that's as much a reason for
our success as the fitness training we do. That 15 minutes it
takes for them to put their shoes on and jog around and stretch
is a total waste of time, but it's critical for team-building."
What's also critical, M'Liss believes, is how her husband works
at connecting with his players. "One by one, by letting each one
know he cares about her, he lets each one know she's valuable to
the team," she says. Team parties are held at the Dorrance
house. No one is left out. He writes his players letters or
notes, some several times a year. "I would appreciate that:
Everybody treating me like I was important," M'Liss says.
By Rayfield's senior year, 1982, Dorrance had also begun
encouraging his players to contest every ball in practice, every
drill, every one-on-one showdown. Taking a cue from Dean Smith,
he kept a detailed record of every player's performance in
practice and posted the results. Intensity kicked up a notch,
and younger players refused to genuflect to their elders. "We
wanted him to step in and make the freshmen be nicer," Rayfield
says, "but he just ignored us."
The next fall, Heinrichs joined the team, and Dorrance got his
first experience in handling what he calls "witch hunts"--the
tendency of female teammates to tear down a superior player.
"When I was recruiting April, she kept asking, 'How does your
team get along?'" Dorrance says. "And I kept thinking, Who
cares? As a player I hadn't cared if I got along with anyone as
long as he got me the ball. I didn't know.
"But the first two weeks of April's career it dawned on me why
she'd asked. She annihilated everyone--carved up all the
freshmen, sliced up all the sophomores, humiliated all the
juniors and pasted all the seniors--and guess what? None of her
teammates supported her. They came into my office: What are you
going to do about April? And I was thinking, Clone her? I
thought she was fabulous. Here was this resentment against her
excellence. And though she wanted to be liked, she wouldn't
lower her level of performance to be like everyone else:
wonderfully mediocre. We built our tradition on her back."
Suddenly, aggressive, competitive women had a place to play. "I
grew up always good at sports, but being a girl, I was never
allowed to feel as good about it as the guys were," Hamm says.
"My toughness wasn't celebrated. But then I came here, and it was
O.K. to want to be the best. I loved that I didn't have to
apologize for the fact that I got upset for missing a goal."
Says Parlow, "Girls don't like to compete. We want to be
friends. It's hard to create that atmosphere where conflict and
competition are O.K. That's what Anson has created for us."
That Dorrance has also created passionate disciples distresses
critics such as Duffy, who believe that his generalizations are
just window-dressing. North Carolina doesn't win "because Anson,
as he said after one national championship, knows 'how women
tick,'" says Duffy. "It's because he has the best athletes. He
could attribute his success to eating cream cheese for lunch,
and all these parents and coaches would go out and buy cream
But not all of Dorrance's supporters follow him blindly.
Heinrichs, who believes Dorrance "respects" and "empowers" his
players, says, "Anson cultivates an environment where the
players become dependent on him. I was the epitome of that when
I was at Carolina. I got convinced that he was the only one who
could coach me. It's a drug that you're on. Anson is a very
powerful man, and charismatic--and you're under his spell. You
fall out of that spell when maturity sets in, when you get out
in the world, where the answers aren't spoon-fed to you."
Keller and Jennings fell out sooner. Jennings says she became
bothered when, in the fall of 1996, Dorrance pressured her to
lend him that $400. She complained to her father when the loan
wasn't repaid immediately, and he in turn pressured Dorrance to
return the money. Craig Jennings believes Dorrance never forgave
Melissa for the incident--and then cut her from the team in
retaliation last May.
As for Keller, the suit alleges that in 1994 Dorrance began
placing "unwanted and uninvited telephone calls to [her] for the
purpose of monitoring her personal activities." In October 1996,
Keller alleges, Dorrance "coerced" her into meeting him in "a
secluded area" and "made an uninvited sexual advance."
Falk, Parlow, Roberts and Lorrie Fair, all teammates of Keller's
at the end of her Carolina career, say they never heard her
complain of such behavior. "That's what puzzles me most," says
Fair. "If someone was sexually harassing me, I wouldn't be
around him. I wouldn't come around during alumni weekends, I
wouldn't participate in things he does, and I would tell
Keller also accuses Dorrance of abusing his authority in an
unrelated incident involving an injury to her left heel. The
suit claims he denied her repeated requests for custom soccer
shoes "in an effort to obtain leverage in his ongoing contract
negotiations with Nike for sponsorship of the women's soccer
program at UNC." Keller says she took so long to recover from
the injury that she couldn't play in the '96 Olympics, thus
losing out on a gold medal.
Keller's shoe-related charge prompts those close to Dorrance to
wonder whether the suit has less to do with sexual harassment
than with disappointment. Her lawyer, Louis Varchetto, replies
that the shoe matter "addresses the creation of an uncomfortable
environment." In other words, the women aren't only accusing
Dorrance of sexual impropriety. They are also accusing him of
creating a climate in which women feel not strong and connected
but rather offended and controlled.
And they want to see it end. Asked how determined she is to see
this lawsuit through, to see Dorrance resign and never coach
again, Keller laughs and says, "Five hundred percent. Is that
LETTER TO THE PLAINTIFF
March 3, 1995
Thank you for your wonderful letter. The things you shared were
so personal and sweet you made me feel very special. It's funny,
you told me once how difficult it was for you to share your
feelings and yet this letter is filled with intimate detail and
so very warm. You are so thoughtful and nice to me.
I called your mom and thanked her for the calendar. She is very
considerate and looking through the pictures made me miss you
even more. Our team is not the same without you and seeing you in
those group shots was nostalgic...I found myself trying to find
you in each picture....
I know what you mean about simple pleasures. In the past my life
has been a whirlwind of complication and there were so many
things I always felt pressured to do...clinics, speeches,
national team...it always seemed so important to do everything
and I never turned anything down. I lived in an airplane and I
gave so many speeches to so many people I didn't even know I
felt distanced from everyone and even the people like you that I
genuinely liked and wanted to get close to I never had time
Well, I have learned many things. I learned that kind of slavery
was not making me happy. Do you know that I was not even happy
after we won the World Championship? I see tapes of the
celebration after we won and everyone is going nuts but me. I
know how I felt...incredible relief that it was over and that I
had not let anyone down. I tried to resign immediately but they
would not let me...in fact, I resigned the August before the
world championship to coincide with my final game in the World
Cup because I had seen how previous national coaches had been
treated and I never wanted to give anyone the satisfaction of
firing me. Charles de Gaulle once said, "Graveyards are filled
with irreplaceable men" and it's a wonderful reminder to humble
I want you to know I loved last fall: Seeing us deal with
adversity, climb new heights after each setback and play so
brilliantly in the national final. I compare my feeling that day
with the World Cup and they are total contrasts. And the best
part of that amazing day was when we were walking off the field
and I put my arm around your shoulders and pulled you close so I
could whisper in your ear. I told you that you were wonderful
and that I wanted to talk to you about building a new team from
the graduation ashes of our ten seniors and I wanted to build it
around your sweet spirit, your big heart and your indomitable
I care for you.
He had never considered coaching to be an honorable profession.
His father believed that a man should put on a coat and tie
every day and go to an office to work, and Anson grew up
thinking that was about right. Coaching was his lark, his
part-time gig. But then he dropped out of law school to coach
the Carolina men's soccer team and then the women too, and after
the '88 season he stopped coaching the men. The women were better.
"And they were much more enjoyable to coach," Dorrance says.
"They appreciate what you do for them, and they're not afraid to
manifest it: birthday cards, Christmas cards, notes, phone
calls. If they're in town, they make it a point to come by."
Men? "That's not our nature. Eventually we do it, but not for 10
or 15 years. Then it dawns on us: Hey, he was O.K. We write a
note and say, 'Next time I'm in town, let's have a few beers.'
But that's as deep as the affection goes. We're not as equipped
or inclined to share that sort of feeling as women are. Way down
deep, we all like it. But men don't know how to deal with it at
He is sitting in his car, parked outside of old Carmichael
Auditorium, where Dean Smith made his career and Michael Jordan
made his name. Dorrance tells his favorite story about Jordan,
how he once stormed out of a Chicago Bulls practice in a dispute
over the score of a scrimmage. "I heard that, and I thought,
Yes," Dorrance says. "I want that quality to be in every kid I
train--competing in a meaningless game like it's a world
championship. That's the whole point: It's not meaningless. It
matters all the time whether you win or lose. Is it important?
No. But does it matter? Yes. Yes."
Dorrance hops out of his car, stops by an office in Carmichael
to sign some letters to recruits, then walks to a balcony out
back to survey his latest creation: The university's new $2.1
million Soccer Center, built for a program that didn't exist 20
years ago. Men scramble through the dust, hammering roof beams.
"Unbelievable," Dorrance says. "My old office was in a small
building right there, and now this is six times the size. It's
Smith is retired. The coaches Dorrance broke in with are gone.
He is the biggest name in North Carolina sports now, and Chapel
Hill is like any town: It has its monuments and, just up the
street, it has a place for all the irreplaceable men.
"SOCCER IS NOT THAT IMPORTANT TO THEM," DORRANCE SAYS OF HIS TAR
HEELS. "CONNECTION IS"
AS USUAL, THE TAR HEELS ARE MORE TALENTED, MORE AGGRESSIVE,
HUNGRIER THAN EVERYONE ELSE
"SOCIALIZING IS A TOTAL WASTE OF TIME," DORRANCE SAYS, "BUT IT'S
CRITICAL FOR TEAM-BUILDING"