Hubert Davis

The University of North Carolina’s men’s basketball head coaching job didn’t stay open for long. Less than a week after Roy Williams suddenly retired, the Tar Heels have named his replacement, long-time UNC assistant coach (and former ESPN analyst) Hubert Davis:

Davis played for the Tar Heels under famed former coach Dean Smith from 1988-1992, then was selected 20th overall by the New York Knicks in the 1992 NBA draft. He’d play for them from 1992-96, then spend a year with the Toronto Raptors, four with the Dallas Mavericks, one with the Washington Wizards, three with the Detroit Pistons, and one with the New Jersey Nets. And his career NBA three-point percentage of 44.1 percent remains third all time, behind only Steve Kerr and Steph Curry.

After retiring from the NBA, Davis went into the sports analysis world. He spent seven years as an ESPN analyst, and even starred in some notable promos, like this 2012 one on their College GameDay desk being attacked by the Oregon State mascot:

As Luke DeCock writes at the Charlotte News and Observer, Davis’ long-standing Tar Heels connections were certainly a big part of this decision:

In the end, family was sacrosanct. Hubert Davis played for Dean Smith, and that’s like shaking Frank Sinatra’s hand. It cannot be faked or replicated. You either did or didn’t.

There was more than that, obviously: Davis becomes North Carolina’s first, and long overdue, Black football or basketball coach, and he had the crucial backing of his predecessor, Roy Williams.

But the lineage that goes back to Frank McGuire, back to Smith and now back to Williams, remains uninterrupted with Davis’ promotion into the head job Monday.

Whether that should have mattered as much as it did, whether that made Davis a better candidate than UNC Greensboro’s Wes Miller or anyone else out there who has actually been a college head coach, is almost immaterial. It’s essential to what makes North Carolina basketball different from other programs. If it’s the best job in the country, as athletic director Bubba Cunningham said with some justification, that lineage and everything it represents is a big reason why.

Cunningham interviewed several coaches with ties to the UNC program and among them only Davis had not been a college head coach. But he was more closely tied to North Carolina, as a distinguished player and assistant coach, than any of them.

Yes, Davis’ lack of traditional head coaching experience is notable. But he does have a long run as a North Carolina assistant, and that also came with time coaching the junior varsity team and gaining in-game experience that way. And he’s been a prominent part of their recruiting efforts for a long while, and his hire may help keep a couple of talented UNC players who might have otherwise looked to transfer (including Garrison Brooks and Armando Bacot).

And it’s also quite possible that the Tar Heels will fill out his staff with some people with more traditional experience. We’ll see how this hire works out, but it’s certainly notable to see UNC tab their first African-American head coach in football or men’s basketball, and it’s also certainly notable to see someone with such a long connection to a prominent program get a chance to start a head coaching career there.

[The Charlotte News and Observer]

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.