Hubert Davis, like so many coaches before him, faced an unenviable task ahead of North Carolina’s 2021-22 basketball season: succeeding a legend and beloved college son.
Roy Williams’ decision to retire after the 2020-21 season was unexpected. But Williams’ decision didn’t put Davis in a tough spot. In fact, Williams made sure to put Davis, an assistant since the 2012-13 season, in the most advantageous position possible.
Davis now leads the Tar Heels, a team he helped recruit and develop, in a massive Final Four matchup against Duke and Mike Krzyzewski. But Davis’s success isn’t just Williams’ doing. Davis knows this program like few others, not only as a standout for legendary trainer Dean Smith, but also as an assistant to Williams.
In fact, those who know Davis’ history at UNC — and in the NBA — won’t be surprised that his team is one game away from playing for the 2022 NCAA Tournament championship.
The Sporting News breaks down the history and timeline of Davis’ career, not only as a player at UNC and in the NBA, but also as a coach at his alma mater:
Hubert Davis career timeline
UNC playing career
Williams helped recruit Davis to UNC as an assistant to Dean Smith in 1988, but left for Kansas before Davis’ first year at Chapel Hill.
Davis was a four-year player and two-year starter under Smith from 1988 to 1992, helping the Tar Heels to a 102-37 record and two ACC Tournament championships. He played more than 30 games each season at Chapel Hill, but didn’t start a game in either his freshman or sophomore years.
Davis recorded his first career start as a junior in 1990-91, a season in which he scored 13.3 points per game and helped lead the Tar Heels to their first Final Four since winning the 1982 NCAA Tournament. nine years before. He scored 25 points in the loss, which came to Williams’ Jayhawks team.
The following year, Davis led the team in points per game (21.3), 3 points per game (2.6), and 3-point percentage (42.9 percent) in a season that ultimately ended in a loss at the Sweet 16 against Ohio State.
He finished his career with 1,615 points, 248 rebounds, and 179 assists. He also became the school’s highest-percentage 3-point shooter (43.5 percent) and tied the 3-point program single-game record (eight). Below are his career stats at UNC (per game):
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Following his playing career at UNC, Davis became a first-round pick in the 1992 NBA Draft, and was taken 20th by the New York Knicks. Although his playing career was largely devoid of of memorable moments, Davis was part of a controversial play in the 1994 Eastern Conference finals — the first of two seasons that Michael Jordan did not play for the Chicago Bulls.
The Bulls had an 86-85 lead with 7.6 seconds left. On the Knicks’ final offensive possession, Davis caught a pass from John Starks at the top of the key and fired a long two-point attempt. Although Davis’s attempt was off the mark, official Hue Hollins called Scottie Pippen for the foul (which Pippen clearly believed he did not commit). Davis, an 82.5 percent free throw shooter that season, sank both shots to give the Knicks an 87-86 win and a 3-2 lead in the Eastern Conference finals.
New York would go on to win in seven before losing the NBA Finals in seven to Hakeem Olajuwon and the Houston Rockets. Davis ultimately played in two more postseasons, both with the Knicks, in 1995 and ’96.
Following his four-year stint in New York, the Knicks traded him to the Toronto Raptors before the 1996-97 season. He also spent time with the Dallas Mavericks, Washington Wizards, Detroit Pistons and New Jersey Nets. His last game was in 2004, as a member of the Nets.
In his career, Davis had 5,583 points (8.2 per game), 1,045 rebounds (1.5 per game), and 1,172 assists (1.7 per game). He also finished his career shooting 44.1 percent from 3, second in NBA history behind only Steve Kerr.
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UNC assistant coach
Following his NBA playing career, Davis was hired as a studio analyst for ESPN, a role he held for several years before returning to his alma mater as a coach.
Williams needed to find a replacement for veteran assistant Jerod Haase, who left the Tar Heels to become head coach at UAB. Looking for a replacement, Williams knew he wanted someone with ties to the program: He finally got his “first choice” in Davis, whom he groomed to succeed him as head coach.
“I’m elated to be able to take this spot with Hubert,” Williams said in a prepared statement at the time (via ESPN). “I helped recruit him to Carolina in 1988, coached him at the World University Games in 1991, and have always looked up to him on and off the court. I knew the day would eventually come when he would need to replace staff members as they progressed. .
“For the last four or five years, Hubert has always been on my mind in case a place opened up. I didn’t know if I could get him to come back, but I knew I wanted him to be the first choice.” it’s about teaching, relationships and passion, and I think Hubert is the perfect choice. Our student-athletes will benefit greatly from what you add to our staff.”
Said Davis, “I am very excited, grateful and honored to rejoin the Carolina basketball program as an assistant to coach Williams. I loved being a part of college basketball during my time at ESPN by attending practices and games and developing relationships with the players.” . and coaches. Now I will have the opportunity to do this on a more personal level at a university and with a basketball program that I have loved all my life.”
Davis held that position from 2012-21, becoming part of five Sweet 16 teams, three Elite Eight teams, two Final Four teams (2016-17), one national runner-up (2016), and one national champion team (2017).
MORE: Davis leads UNC to Final Four in up-and-down debut season
UNC head coach
Shortly after North Carolina’s loss to Wisconsin in the first round of the 2021 NCAA Tournament, the first for a Williams-coached team, Williams announced his decision to retire, citing his belief that he was “no longer the right man.” ” to lead the Tar Heels.
That person, he believed, was Davis. Four days after Williams announced his retirement on April 1, 2021, North Carolina officially named Davis his successor and the first black head coach in UNC men’s basketball history.
— Carolina Basketball (@UNC_Basketball) April 5, 2021
Although Williams admitted to Mike DeCourcy of The Sporting News that he misses coaching now, he felt that lengthening his career would only make it harder for Davis to take on that role. So he decided to quit and retire.
“The more I delayed it, it made all those things more difficult,” Williams told The Sporting News. “I really wanted to wait and do it a bit later, for me personally. But if you’re talking about the next guy coming, it wasn’t going to be that easy if he waited longer.”
A year later, with a Final Four berth and a chance to play for the national championship, it seems Williams chose the perfect time to step down and, as he would say, the right man to succeed him.