UNC Basketball: Did North Carolina make the right hire with Hubert Davis?

CHAPEL HILL, NC - NOVEMBER 08: Assistant coach Hubert Davis of the North Carolina Tar Heels against the Oakland Golden Grizzlies during play at the Dean Smith Center on November 8, 2013 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. North Carolina won 84-61. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
CHAPEL HILL, NC - NOVEMBER 08: Assistant coach Hubert Davis of the North Carolina Tar Heels against the Oakland Golden Grizzlies during play at the Dean Smith Center on November 8, 2013 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. North Carolina won 84-61. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images) /

With Monday’s announcement of Hubert Davis as the next head coach of the UNC basketball program comes the question: Did UNC Athletic Director Bubba Cunningham make the right call?

It appears as though Roy Williams gave a persuasive endorsement of Hubert Davis as the man for the job. Clearly this spoke volumes to the hiring committee of one. For Bubba Cunningham, keeping the men’s basketball head coaching job ‘in the family’ was an important factor.

Let me start by saying that Davis was one of my all-time favorite four-year players at UNC. I loved his game, and was pleased to see him be successful in the NBA.

Things I like about this hire:

Davis has a history of proving the naysayers wrong. He was often overlooked as a player at almost every level, and generally outperformed expectations. In my humble opinion, this resilience is an asset that is essential for the head coaching position.

Davis played four years for Dean Smith, and has served as an assistant to Williams for the past nine seasons. For folks that were nervous about the coaching hire, what could be a better bridge from Williams’ tenure to the future of Carolina basketball than the previous sentence?

Related Story. UNC target makes change to list of top schools. light

Davis is a natural fit as the next torchbearer of the Carolina family. As nephew to former UNC basketball standout Walter Davis( 1973-77), a young Hubert Davis got his introduction to Coach Smith and the Carolina way serving as a ball boy for the Carolina program.

Hubert Davis is the first Black head coach in North Carolina men’s basketball history. Let’s make no mistake, the first African American head coach in a major revenue sport at North Carolina is  historic and personally has me beaming with hope.

This was the best hire for the roster and player retention for the short term. With the hire of Davis, 2021 commits Dontrez Styles and D’Marco Dunn remain committed to UNC. A little more than a week ago, roster turmoil had fans sweating with anticipation of the next departure. The relationship that Davis has with the current team and incoming players is significant, and perhaps played a major role in Cunningham’s decision.

Hubert Davis is an exemplary man. If there is one trait Carolina fans love to see in their head coaches — alongside winning games — it’s the development of young athletes on and off the court. Coach Smith had a desire to make progressive changes through his actions, and considered getting into politics. Ultimately, he was able to have a greater influence as the head coach of UNC. This is a leadership position of many facets, and Hubert Davis appears to have all of the intangibles he needs.

The other side of the coin and what-ifs:

UNC basketball
LOUISVILLE, KY – FEBRUARY 02: Head coach Roy Williams of the North Carolina Tar Heels sits with assistants Steve Robinson, Hubert Davis and Brad Frederick during the game against the Louisville Cardinals at KFC YUM! Center on February 2, 2019 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) /

The largest knock against Coach Davis is that he has no head coaching experience at the Division I level. During his time at UNC, he has served as the head coach of the JV basketball team, just like Roy Williams did during his tenure under Dean Smith before taking the head coaching position at Kansas.

Did UNC miss an opportunity for a hire of one of college basketball’s elite coaches? You could argue that Carolina had its pick of many successful college head coaches who would be eager to lead one of the nation’s premier programs. Should UNC have selected a coach who has lead their respective program to the promised land?

Potential candidates Mark Few and Brad Stevens have lead multiple teams to the national title game. Villanova has two national championships under Jay Wright. You could make a strong case for each of them as having a better resume than Davis due to head coaching experience.

Did we miss out on Mark Few? Coach Few particularly seemed like a ‘home run’ hire, having built the Gonzaga program since the 1999-00 season and leading the Bulldogs to two National Championship game appearances. A buzz about his potential as the next head coach had some enticing appeal, and I believe he has what it takes to navigate leading a program like UNC back to the promised land.

UNC alums Wes Miller, Jerry Stackhouse, and Kenny Smith had potential to be a good fit, too. Wes Miller in particular had the backing of many Tar Heels thanks to his solid resume.

Can Coach Davis recruit? This remains to be seen. He has name recognition as a player, an ESPN analyst, and as an assistant coach under Williams. He’s been on the recruiting trail and in player’s homes making the pitch to come to Carolina before, but not to the level he will need to be moving forward. The hands-on approach that Coach Williams took to recruiting could possibly hinder Davis’ initiation to the head coaching role in that arena.

Related Story. Justin Jackson in search of a new home. light

Timing is everything. With the introduction of the one-time transfer rule, the landscape of college basketball has changed dramatically. The roster management aspect of coaching is at a new level of importance at every school across the country. Given UNC/Roy’s approach to transfers over the years, the Tar Heels may be at a disadvantage when you contrast to how a coach like Mark Few or even Mike Young at Virginia Tech has become accustomed to recruiting out of the transfer portal.

I believe that the announcement of Roy Williams’ retirement was overall well-timed for a head coaching search. Even still, with the college basketball season now complete, and the NBA season in full-swing, there simply wasn’t time to explore every option available. The tenure of the transfer situation simply didn’t allow for a longer search that may have been possible.

With all of that said, let’s cut to the chase and answer the question…Did UNC hire the right man for the job?

The answer for me is a resounding yes. I couldn’t be more pleased to have an African American head coach with ties to both Dean Smith and Roy Williams. As an assistant to Coach Williams, he has been on the Tar Heel sideline for 137 games. He has been to Final Fours both as a player, and as a coach.

No other candidate could exceed all that Coach Davis brings to the position. He understands the Carolina basketball tradition, and all that comes with excellence, winning games, the Xs and Os of UNC’s system, and developing young men. Players from any era of North Carolina basketball can understand this hire, even if they had another preference.

He is a humble man, poised to be a true leader of young men (and not by self-pronounced title). He is resilient and energetic. At age 50, we can expect Coach Davis to serve the program and carry it forward for many years to come.

Next. Larry Drew II: the gift that keeps on giving. dark

Check back with Keeping It Heel for all the latest on the UNC basketball program.