It’s that time of year again UNC fans. It’s time to discuss a future heir apparent to ‘Good Ole Roy’ for the UNC men’s basketball team. I hope Roy has a successful run and keeps on going as long as he is in good health. I’d like to see him around another five years at least. It will be interesting to see if UNC stays within the “Carolina family” for the successor in Chapel Hill when that time presents itself. Let’s take a look at a few potential candidates.
Hubert Davis, a Carolina alum, has been with the team as an assistant since 2012. He has a finite amount of coaching experience at the moment, but when your first job is an assistant at UNC under Roy Williams, you have a great opportunity to learn. The limited experience isn’t always a factor in coaching success. We can look at Kevin Ollie at the University of Connecticut as a fair comparison to Davis as far as experience. Ollie had only been an assistant for two years before taking over the Huskies.
Williams’ longtime assistant, Steve Robinson, is another candidate to give a look to. He’s been with Roy for his entire run in Chapel Hill (11 years) as well as seven years while at Kansas. His age (57 in October) might be a factor in his chances to become the coach. I’d like to think that the UNC athletic department will go after a younger coach when the time comes. Depending on how long Roy keeps on coaching, Williams may in his early-to-mid 60’s by the time he’d have his opportunity.Robinson would be the Bill Guthridge to Roy Williams’ Dean Smith. I don’t see him as a long-term solution, however. If a situation such as that with Dean Smith arises, he’d be solid choice to step in for the interim.
Another member of the Carolina coaching tree, with much more formal experience than a guy like Davis is Jeff Lebo. He has been coaching in college since 1990 starting as an assistant where he had three stops (East Tennessee State, Vanderbilt, and South Carolina) before getting his first head coaching job at Tennessee Tech. He is currently the head coach at East Carolina. The coaching resume that stands out to a program at the level of UNC isn’t currently there, though. Lebo is going to need to have a lot of success in a short amount of time to prove to the people in Chapel Hill he’s got what it takes.
Jerod Haase isn’t technically a member of the Carolina family, but he played for Williams in Kansas and served as an assistant to Williams from 1999-2012. He currently has taken the position of head men’s basketball coach at the University of Alabama-Birmingham. To gain enough momentum to be a UNC men’s coach he’ll need to really turn things around and have some success. The problem with the coaches listed is they aren’t as big of a draw as Williams was in 2003. Roy had been in a battle with Jim Boeheim for “best coach to never win a national title” until they met in the title game in 2003, a game Roy ultimately lost.
This is just my opinion on this matter, but unless someone within the UNC family, coaching tree, or whatever you want to call it really steps up and has major success, they might need an outside hire. There are a lot of great young coaches out there these days and the allure of coaching at UNC is a big enough reason for someone to leave a great program at a smaller school.
Some potential names outside of the coaching tree at North Carolina could be: Shaka Smart (VCU), Josh Pastner (Memphis), or even a guy like Brad Stevens (Boston Celtics). Even though coaching the Celtics is basically thee destination job, it’s not out of the question to see Stevens go back to college. We’ve seen coaches bounce between college and pro before (Rick Pitino) and Stevens is young enough to want to get back into college basketball if he finds the NBA isn’t his calling. He is a long-shot but with his age there is still a chance of him coaching in college again. He’s got the leverage now that if he does go back to college he’ll only be going to big time programs.
Gregg Marshall of Wichita State has to be mentioned in this discussion as well if we’re looking at top candidates outside the Carolina family. He’s had great success at small schools Winthrop (7 of 9 years qualified for the NCAA tournament) and most recently the Shockers of Wichita State (3 NCAA tourney appearances, 1 final four). Personally, if they’e going to take someone outside “the family” I would expect them to look at someone with a proven track record like Marshall has had.
A pipe dream for a guy like me would be a man by the name of Tim Miles. Most of you know him as the guy who got tossed in the NCAA tournament during the Nebraska-Baylor game. The bigger story in that game should have been that the Huskers were playing in the NCAA tournament for the first time in 16 years, two years after Miles took over. He got his coaching start at my alma mater, Mayville State University, so there is my bias for him. If you want to read up on his credentials and his ability to build a program into a powerhouse, click here.
As far as the future coach at UNC goes, I really don’t want to think about Roy’s successor at all right now. I like the style of play his teams have and enjoy seeing players play for him for more than six months before they leave. As I said at the beginning of this article, I hope he sticks around at least another five years.
As always I’d love you to all weigh in with your opinions, agreements, disagreements or anything else you’d like to say. Do you think it’s time to look outside the magical box of the UNC family for a coach or do they stick with what’s been working and keep it in house?