On Monday, I was literally in the midst of writing an article entitled “The Case for Hubert Davis” when the news came down that Hubert Davis would, in fact, be the new coach of the North Carolina men’s basketball team. So that piece of writing had to go on the cutting room floor.
Or did it?
Given the benefit of a couple days, it turns out there actually is value in turning “The Case of Hubert Davis” into “Why North Carolina Hired Hubert Davis.” What are some of the factors that contributed to Hubert Ira Davis, Jr. being named the next head men’s basketball coach at the University of North Carolina?
UNC JV Head Coach
True, Hubert Davis has no Division I head coaching experience. But he doesn’t have no head coaching experience. Davis served as the head coach of the JV team during his tenure as an assistant coach.
Do you know who else had no Division I head coaching experience before they took their first high major job? That’s right. Roy Williams. And do you recall what college head coaching experience he did have? He was the head coach of the JV team.
There are no guarantees that Hubert Davis will be successful as the head man of the Tar Heels. However, things worked out pretty well for Coach Williams in Lawrence, KS. Let’s see if the same will come true for Coach Davis.
Coach Davis becomes the second current prominent head coach at UNC to have been an analyst at ESPN. Coach Mack Brown also came (back) to Carolina from “The Worldwide Leader”.
Davis’ years at ESPN will provide him a leg-up in multiple regards.
First, he had the opportunity to be on the other side of the microphone, to be the one asking questions, to learn what it’s like to be in the shoes of the journalist looking for content from athletes and coaches. We’ve all seen the level of media savvy that Mack Brown has; you can expect the same from Coach Davis.
Second, working as part of a national organization, Davis had the opportunity to see and experience various practices, different offenses and defenses, and other trends around the country.
Third, many of the young men who will be coming to college in the next several years might not have seen Hubert Davis play in the NBA, but they did see him on ESPN. And now they have the chance to play for him at North Carolina. Having your face plastered all over ESPN for years in the past should pay dividends now.
Although the current high school recruits did not see Coach Davis play in the NBA (he finished his career in 2004), they are certainly aware of that reality and have most likely seen highlights.
Many programs around the country with head coaching vacancies have turned to alums who played in the NBA. Things are going well for Juwan Howard at Michigan. Things did not go so well for Chris Mullin at St. John’s. Other examples include Penny Hardaway at Memphis and Patrick Ewing at Georgetown.
Having a successful NBA player at the helm (particularly one who excelled at the most popular shot in the game) will be a draw for recruits.
Integrity / Character
Hubert Davis exudes the idea of being “above reproach”. Following in the footsteps of other Tar Heel head coaches, expect Coach Davis to guide the ship from a standpoint of integrity and character.
He will not take shortcuts for the sake of on-court success.
These qualities are always important, but particularly at a school less than a decade removed from an NCAA scandal. North Carolina can ill-afford another potential NCAA mess. With Hubert Davis in charge, they will never have to worry.
Hubert Davis has never put his Christian faith on the back-burner. It is always front and center in the things he says and in the way he lives his life. During his introductory press conference as the head coach, he put it plainly:
“My faith in Christ is the foundation of who I am.”
Coach has said multiple times that he came to know Jesus during his time as a student at Carolina.
Many players have followed that example under his leadership. Kenny Williams is a prime example. Williams was baptized during his time in Chapel Hill.
While faith isn’t the only factor in the college decision-making process, you have to imagine that many parents will feel more comfortable sending their son to play for a man of faith.
Yes, hiring Wes Miller would have given Carolina the opportunity to nail down their head coaching position for the next three or so decades if everything goes according to plan. Miller is just 38.
However, Hubert Davis is not that much older. Davis will turn 51 in May. If he coaches until 70 as Coach Williams did, he will coach the Tar Heels for 19 years, or one year longer than Coach Williams.
Davis is the perfect blend of someone who has lots of life and basketball experience, but is also young enough to coach for two more decades if he is successful and desires to coach that long.
First Black Coach at North Carolina
Hubert Davis is the first black head men’s basketball coach in UNC history. It’s certainly not the only thing that matters, but is a thing that matters. Representation is a big deal.
For young black men to see another black man as the head coach at the University of North Carolina? That carries a lot of weight. It gives permission to a young man to dream about the type of position he might one day hold.
Coach Dean Smith, as many people know, cared deeply about civil rights. He would be smiling from ear to ear knowing that one of his former players is taking over the program following Coach Williams’ retirement.
Love for North Carolina
If you didn’t already know that Hubert Davis loves North Carolina, you couldn’t have missed it given his glowing remarks about his alma mater over the course of the past week.
Is “love” even a strong enough word in this context, to describe the depth of Coach Davis’ passion for the University of North Carolina? Probably not.
Listening to his introductory press conference, there’s no mistaking what this place means to him and all the monumental things it’s been part of in his life.
It’s therefore painfully obvious why Coach Davis and Coach Williams are such kindred spirits: they have an unquenchable thirst to give back to the place that turned them into the men that they are.
Given these factors, is it a guarantee that Coach Hubert Davis and the Tar Heels will be successful in his tenure?
There is no such thing as a sure thing in this profession.
However, given the context, given the resources available, given the wisdom he will surround himself with, given the man that Hubert Davis is, it would be shocking if he did not find success.
Why did AD Bubba Cunningham hire Hubert Davis?
When Coach Williams said that he was no longer the right man for the job, in the next breath he said that Hubert Davis is the right man for the job.
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