Hubert Davis has a plan for UNC basketball that doesn’t stray far from tradition

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C.L. Brown
·4 min read
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New North Carolina head men’s basketball coach Hubert Davis isn’t planning any drastic changes while he puts his stamp on the program. There will just be more Carolina blue involved.

Davis was officially introduced as the successor to Roy Williams on Tuesday afternoon at the Dean E. Smith Center. Former UNC players Mitch Kupchak, Eddie Fogler, Phil Ford, George Lynch and Serge Zwikker stood by as Davis revealed, from his style of play to his staff, that he will keep the Tar Heels’ traditions in mind.

Davis paid homage to Smith and Williams in particular throughout the hour-long news conference held on the court named after his predecessor.

“The foundation is set here at Carolina and it’s a foundation that I believe in,” Davis said. “It’s a foundation that has been tested and tried and proven successful through coach Smith, coach (Bill) Guthridge and coach Williams. I’ve got no desire, I’ve got no plans of going away from that foundation, because I believe in it.”

How the 50-year-old Davis got Williams and athletic director Bubba Cunningham to believe in him goes back to how he ended up playing for Smith in the first place. Davis said UNC was his dream school and, despite being told it was just a dream by his high school coach, he got an in-house visit from Smith and Williams. They were largely there as a courtesy, having known the family thanks to his uncle Walter Davis, who played for the Heels from 1973-77.

Smith told Davis he should pursue other schools were he would play more. He told Davis he probably wouldn’t play much at Carolina because he didn’t have the quickness to keep up with the elite programs it tended to play. But Davis left Smith with something to think about.

“You may be right, but you won’t know for sure unless you give me a chance, an opportunity,” Davis said.

Davis averaged only seven minutes a game his first year, but as a senior, he became the eighth and final player to average 20 or more points in a season under Smith, with a 21.4 scoring average per game. He still holds the school record for career 3-point percentage at 43.5 percent.

Davis parlayed his college days into a 12-year NBA career. He’ll bring that same determination into coaching UNC.

“He’s achieved at every level, taken every challenge and beaten the odds, and has established himself as a winner every step along the way,” UNC chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz said. “And I’m confident that with this new challenge, he will continue that journey of success. I’m proud to have coach Davis is the face of Carolina basketball for years to come.”

No one may have been more proud than Williams. His eyes welled up with tears, although his face was concealed by a mask, as Davis talked about the comfort he felt from always having Williams present. It was akin to when Davis would run out of the tunnel to play in college and in the NBA, and look for his dad in the crowd.

It’s also why Davis said he insisted that Williams keep his pictures up and keep his corner office at the Smith Center. Williams did not address the media during the news conference, but recorded a video to congratulate Davis.

“Hubert, welcome to that seat as the head basketball coach at North Carolina, you will love it, I will love you sitting there,” Williams said. “I will be here cheering. I won’t ever criticize you, I will blame it on the officials. You are the finest young man I’ve ever known in my life. This is hard because I love this program, but you love this program and have the same passion that I do and you’ll be better than me. Congratulations son.”

With that endorsement, the real work begins for Davis. There will be tweaks to the foundation of which he spoke because the landscape of college basketball is ever-changing. He hinted at using the transfer portal to improve the roster, but that will start with the re-recruiting of Walker Kessler.

The 7-foot-1 center from Georgia announced he would enter the portal three days after the Tar Heels’ season ended with a loss to Wisconsin in the NCAA tournament’s first round. Davis said he texted with Kessler shortly after he accepted the job and has another phone call with the talented freshman Tuesday night.

“I want Walker here,” Davis said. “He’s a Carolina guy.”

That was a prevalent theme during his press conference.

Williams retired Thursday after 18 seasons at UNC. Davis, who played for Smith from 1988-92, was present for the past nine seasons as an assistant coach.

Davis said he’d like to have a staff that touches on the different generations of Carolina basketball, including having assistants who played for Smith, Guthridge and Williams.

“You can’t do this job unless you’re a Carolina guy,” Davis said. “It’s impossible.”