The last time the University of North Carolina job opened, the Tar Heels hired the coach from a blue-blood school who had won 418 games in a major conference and coached in the national title game that year.
Now that Roy Williams is departing from North Carolina after 18 seasons, it’s unlikely that the Tar Heels are going to be able to lure a coach with that much success. The obvious names like Gonzaga’s Mark Few, Villanova’s Jay Wright and former Butler coach Brad Stevens likely aren’t going anywhere.
Who will UNC turn to? AD Bubba Cunningham offered some clues on Thursday, saying that he’s not going to limit his list to the so-called Carolina family. UNC is famously myopic, but it’s important to remember that Williams’ stagnant staff put together the roster that had UNC bumbling in 2019-20 (14-19, 6-14 in the ACC) and posting a pedestrian season in 2020-21 (18-11, 10-6).
Is more of the same the answer for one of the best jobs in the sport? (At worst, it’s a consensus top-three job.) So who could UNC turn to?
Here’s a quick list of candidates:
Tony Bennett, Virginia
It’s unlikely Tony Bennett is going to depart UVA, which he’s led to unprecedented success and has shown nothing but intense fidelity toward. But it’s worth a call. Virginia has won or shared three of the last four regular season ACC crowns, and the best way to get UNC back atop the ACC is to hire the coach who has been the best recently. Again, this is a Hail Mary.
Chris Holtmann, Ohio State
He’s one of the best movable coaches in the sport, and his low-key personality would fit well with the Carolina ethos. He’s 6-for-6 in reaching NCAA men's tournaments in his years at Butler and Ohio State. (He’d have been 7-for-7 if there’d been a tournament in 2020.) Experience as head coach at Gardner-Webb gives him in-state familiarity.
Porter Moser, Loyola Chicago
He’s been judicious about jobs, but this is one that he couldn’t say no to. Moser has emerged as one of the country’s top tactical coaches, evaluators and developers of talent. His image would appeal to the Carolina brand. His Final Four run in 2018 and Sweet 16 run this year have elevated him into the top tier of the sport’s elite.
Hubert Davis, UNC assistant
When calling around and handicapping candidates, Davis is the presumptive industry favorite. He’s a popular former player, a known commodity from his NBA career and a familiar face from ESPN. He’s been a Carolina assistant for nine years and would be a preferred “Carolina family” candidate. He was an assistant on the 2017 title winning staff, but has also been a staff member for the recent downtick. UNC also hasn’t gotten past the Sweet 16 since that title, including three blowout tournament losses. Would his elevation require a staff shakeup?
Wes Miller, UNC Greensboro
He’s the other popular “family” choice, as he’s spent 10 years at UNC-Greensboro and won more than 20 games each of the last five years. He’s reached two NCAA men's tournaments, including this season. Miller played at UNC from 2004-07, including on the 2005 title team, and would be the UNC family candidate with the most head coaching experience.
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