Well, that didn’t take long.
Just four days after Roy Williams' retirement, North Carolina found the next leader of its men’s basketball program, hiring Hubert Davis as Williams’ successor Monday afternoon. Davis had been an assistant in Chapel Hill for the last nine seasons and played guard for the Tar Heels from 1988-1992.
The reactions to the hire among those in the college basketball orbit have been generally positive, as Davis carved out a superb reputation as an analyst at ESPN from 2008-2012 and as a recruiter and developer of talent during his time on the coaching staff at North Carolina.
Hiring Davis is also perfect for the future of the Tobacco Road rivalry.
The 50-year-old is certainly immersed in the hyper intense framework of the greatest showdown in college basketball, having been involved in countless grudge matches between Duke and North Carolina over the years, as a player and as one of Williams’ lieutenants. The North Carolina native has also been part of the rivalry on the recruiting trail, with the two schools engaging in multiple high-profile battles for the likes of Brandon Ingram and Vernon Carey Jr. during Davis' time as an assistant coach. Clearly, he knows the ins and outs of Duke-North Carolina, and you can be sure that the Tar Heels will have as much energy for the storied matchup as they have had since the early 1960s.
Jay Wright, who the Tar Heels reportedly approached for the job, is a phenomenal coach whose Villanova teams play with remarkable poise and chemistry. But firstly, Wright was never going to leave Villanova, where he has earned folk hero status and likely has a group that will contend for a national title next season. Secondly, at a place like North Carolina, where tradition and family is crucial, fit is of the utmost importance. Based on his background, Davis fits right into the Tar Heel brand tracing back to Dean Smith, and a massive facet of that North Carolina brand is the biannual date with Duke.
Just envision the Blue Devils and the Tar Heels squaring off: Duke’s pesky guards hounding North Carolina’s backcourt, forcing steals and converting them into transition slams; The Tar Heels whipping the ball up the court through their secondary break, laying it in before you even get a chance to glance at your phone; Late-game chess matches that have fans debating their faces off for the rest of eternity. That’s what we have seen for over 40 years, and with Davis now at the helm in Chapel Hill, more of the same is on the horizon. Right out of the gate, Davis confirmed in an interview with the College Gameday crew Monday that under his watch, the foundation of North Carolina basketball would not differ.
At the end of the day, Duke-North Carolina is all about people and moments. Players, coaches, shots, decisions—you name it. Both programs rely so heavily on their guys, whether it’s trusting experienced role players late in games or in terms of filling assistant coaching vacancies. Think about it: How beneficial has it been for Coach K to have someone such as Jon Scheyer or Jeff Capel at his side in recent seasons? Surrounding yourself with people you trust, a constant objective for Krzyzewski and Williams during their respective times at Duke and North Carolina, is the only way to build something even remotely sustainable.
Family truly means everything for these two programs, and with Davis entering the fray, the fierce rivalry between the two schools will just keep on rolling.
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