North Carolina’s decision to promote Hubert Davis to succeed Roy Williams as head men’s basketball coach didn’t come as a major surprise.
Most observers who follow the Tar Heels’ program closely assumed he was the frontrunner for the job when Williams announced his retirement on April 1. The hire makes sense on many levels, but there might be one reason for caution, particularly at a school that expects to be competing for national championships on an annual basis in the historically strong Atlantic Coast Conference.
It took the school a couple of tries, after all, to finally land Williams to fill Dean Smith’s enormous shoes. Here are five immediate thoughts on the hire.
The Carolina family always has carried a lot of importance around Chapel Hill, and Davis is certainly a member. He played for Dean Smith from 1988-92 before embarking on an NBA career. After Smith retired in 1997, North Carolina turned to 30-year assistant Bill Guthridge. He led the Tar Heels to the Final Four twice in his three seasons and was named national coach of the year in 1998. Next, former player Matt Doherty took the reins. Also a Smith disciple, Doherty, who had spent one season at Notre Dame before taking the job in Chapel Hill. His rocky three-season tenure ended with his resignation after several players threatened to transfer. That's when Williams, who was an assistant under Smith, left Kansas and started his 18-year tenure that led to three national titles.
Davis has spent the last nine years on Williams’ staff, so fans and potential recruits can expect to experience the same coaching philosophy and fast-paced style that has produced three national championships this century. While it is unclear whether Davis will make any changes to his coaching staff, history shows that could be frowned upon. When Doherty arrived from South Bend, he brought his assistants and that did not go over well with Smith & Co.
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North Carolina coach Hubert Davis talks to his team during a junior varsity game at Dean E. Smith Center. (Photo: Bob Donnan, USA TODAY Sports)
Following his 12-year playing career as a pro, Davis spent time in the Dallas Mavericks’ organization as a player development coach. Davis, a guard who still holds the record for highest three-point shooting percentage at UNC, was drafted 20th overall by the New York Knicks in 1992. He also played for the Toronto Raptors, Mavericks, Washington Wizards, Detroit Pistons and Brooklyn Nets before retiring in 2004. He joined Williams' staff eight years later.
So what did he do before returning to his alma mater? He spent time on the coverage side of the game as an ESPN analyst. So Davis understands the time commitment to media responsibilities that comes with the job.
First top job
The one caveat that might give fans some pause is that Davis has never been a head coach at any level, let alone at one of the most prestigious spots in the collegiate game. That isn’t an immediate disqualifier, of course. Things are going fairly well for the likes of Juwan Howard at Michigan and Patrick Ewing at Georgetown, who just led their respective alma maters into the NCAA Tournament. But as such, there figures to be considerable interest in Davis’ staff choices.
Follow colleges reporter Eddie Timanus on Twitter @EddieTimanus
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