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North Carolina hires Hubert Davis to replace Roy Williams as coach

Hubert Davis, right, and Roy Williams at a high school basketball tournament in 2018 (Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

North Carolina announced Monday that it hired Hubert Davis to replace retiring men’s basketball coach Roy Williams. Davis, a 50-year-old assistant coach and former standout player for the Tar Heels, becomes the first Black head coach in the history of the program.

“I am honored and humbled to be given the opportunity to lead this program,” Davis said in a statement.

“I love this University,” he added. “I played here, I earned my degree here, I fell in love with my wife here, I got married here, I moved here after I retired from the NBA and I have raised my family here. I am proud to lead this team, and I can’t wait for all that comes next.”

Williams announced last week that he was stepping down after 18 seasons in which he led the Tar Heels to three national titles and two other appearances in the Final Four. He helped UNC win an NCAA championship as recently as 2017, but his teams went 14-19 last season and 18-11 this season amid the challenges of coaching during a pandemic.

“I started the season when I was 70 years old and I feel like I’m 103 now,” Williams said last week. “It has been a trying year, … 2020 and the first part of 2021. I haven’t enjoyed that much.”

Davis played in the 1991 Final Four under former North Carolina coach Dean Smith, whose team lost in the national semifinals that year to a Kansas team coached by Williams. After a 12-year NBA career, Davis worked as a basketball analyst on TV before joining Williams’s UNC staff in 2012.

He does not have previous head coaching experience, which North Carolina Athletic Director Bubba Cunningham indicated last week was his preference, but Davis reportedly received the endorsement of Williams and had an edge over outside candidates as a prominent member of the Tar Heels family.

Williams made Davis the head coach of UNC’s junior varsity team to help groom him for the top job, and the former shooting guard’s other responsibilities included recruiting, scouting and overseeing basketball clinics and charitable endeavors associated with the program.

A high school star at Lake Braddock in Burke, Va., Davis helped the Tar Heels to a pair of ACC tournament titles and earned second-team all-conference honors for a senior season in which he averaged 21.4 points. He remains the program’s all-time leader in three-point percentage (minimum 100 attempts) at .435.

The ties to the Tar Heels run deep for Davis, whose uncle, Walter Davis, played for North Carolina from 1974 to 1977 and is widely considered one of the greatest players in the program’s storied history.

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Williams walks away with 903 wins, the third most of all time at the Division I level, behind only Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski (1,170) and Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim (1,083). A former assistant to Smith at UNC before taking over at Kansas, he is the only coach to lead two Division I programs to at least 400 wins and four berths in the Final Four.

In revealing he had coached his final game with the Tar Heels, Williams lamented last week that he “just didn’t get it done” with the team this season and “just don’t feel that I’m the right man any longer.”

Calling Davis “the best leader we can possibly have” for the program, Cunningham said in a statement, “He has a tenacious, burning desire to be the best he can possibly be; we witnessed that when he was a player, a broadcaster and an assistant coach — and I have no doubt he will ensure that our student-athletes and program will be the best they can be, as well.”

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