CHAPEL HILL – Former UNC men’s basketball coach Bill Guthridge will be inducted into the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame Thursday.
Guthridge was Dean Smith’s assistant coach for 36 years. He repeatedly declined head-coaching offers from other universities—electing to stay with Smith and the Carolina basketball program.
When Smith retired in October of 1997, Guthridge became the head coach of the Tar Heels.
He led UNC to an ACC championship and two Final Four berths during his three years as head coach. In 1998, Guthridge became the sixth person to play on a Final Four team (played for Kansas State as a student athlete) and then lead Final Four team as head coach. Guthridge was named National Coach of the Year in the same season.
UNC great, running back Kelvin Bryant joins Guthridge in the 2013 inductee class.Bryant won the 1988 Super Bowl with the Washington Redskins.
Other inductees include Ron Francis, Wade Garrett, Tommy Helms, Marion Kirby, Rich McGeorge, Hugh Morton (deceased), Bob Quincy (deceased), Marty Sheets and Mildred Southern.
The 50th annual induction banquet is set for tomorrow evening at the Raleigh Convention Center.
For ticket information, contact 919-845-3455.http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/bill-guthridge-to-be-inducted-in-north-carolina-sports-hall-of-fame/
All season long Chapelboro.com’s “Hoop It Up” will be republishing select excerpts from Return To The Top on the 20th Anniversary of Dean Smith’s 2nd NCAA title season in 1993. Check back on Monday of each week for the next RTTT.
By Henrik Rodl, UNC ‘93
Monday was absolutely miserable. Few of us slept well on the eve of the biggest game of our lives, and the minutes crept by. We had a shoot around at the Superdome and a team meeting, but otherwise we tried to kill time by watching ESPN or movies in our room. You’d look at your watch and it would say “2:25”. You’d look at it after what seemed like an hour and it would say “2:24.”
We went downstairs for our pre-game meal. Coach (Bill) Guthridge passed around the gold scissors that a fan had sent. Engraved on them was, “North Carolina, 1993 NCAA Champions.” That was kind of neat. We passed around the scissors, hoping that we’d be using them later that night.
When we got on the bus a little while later, a lump welled up in my throat seeing all the parents standing around waving pom-poms and hugging everyone as they passed by. The Montrosses, the Salvadori’s, the Cherry’s, Derrick’s parents and his little brother. Everyone else – there was something about the sight that was very moving. I guess it hit me how much our team touched and affected so many people’s lives.
Finally, 8 o’clock arrived and it was time to play. The game, of course, as a classic, full of streaks by both teams, marvelous individual play, interesting strategy by the coaches. The only thing that distracted from the championship atmosphere was the size of the massive Superdome and how the crowd is so removed from the playing floor that it is a non-factor. It’s not like a lot of ACC games where our crowd or the opposing crowd on the road can be a real part of the game.
Thirty-one minutes into the game, Michigan took a 60-58 lead on a dunk by Chris Webber. Then Donald Williams went to work for us. Twenty-three footer from the left – swish. Twenty-two footer on the right – boom. Then Derrick made a layup on an assist from Brian (Reese) and, with 3:07 to play, we were up by one, 68-67.
George made a super turnaround jumper in the lane and then a wonderful pass out of a trap to Eric, who broke free for a dunk. Those baskets gave us a 72-67 lead, but Michigan cut it back to one with two baskets. Then Pat (Sullivan) was fouled and went to the line for a 1-and-1. Pat made one of them to give us a two-point lead and set up the game’s most talked-about moment.
Too much attention has been made of the Webber timeout that resulted in a technical. Too many people have blamed him for the loss. That’s ridiculous. One, Webber walked at the other end with rebound after Pat’s missed free throw, so we should have had the ball anyway. That’s not open for debate. The violation is crystal clear on tape. Two, he was surrounded by Derrick and George, who weren’t letting him go anywhere. Three, Donald still had to make the foul shots. And four, without Webber, Michigan’s not in the game anyway. At times, we couldn’t stop him.
So the spotlight was on Donald those last few seconds and he swished four free throws to give us the championship, 77-71. When the gun sounded, all I can remember was wanting to find everyone on the team and give them a big hug. We’d become such good friends. We’d worked so hard. We’d been in the spotlight for so long. It was such a relief, I can’t begin to describe it. I remember being very, very thankful there wasn’t another game to play. That there wasn’t a championship of the universe or galaxy still to win.
One of the special moments was when the team, coaches and managers returned to the locker room and we had a few minutes to ourselves – after the celebration on the court and before the press came in. We said our prayer and hugged each other, more out of love this time than the celebratory hugs out on the court. Someone – Coach Guthridge, I think – had written on the chalkboard, “Congratulations. You’re a great team. No practice tomorrow!”
We were amazed at the crowd gathered at the hotel. The lobby was wall-to-wall people. Everyone wanted to give us a big high five, but all our hands were carrying our bags. I think a few high fives landed on our heads. Some of the guys never went to sleep that night. You could see how they looked when we got on the bus to go to the airport Tuesday morning. We all needed a few hours of quiet time on the plane to get ready for the homecoming celebration in Chapel Hill.
When the bus drove into Chapel Hill, I became overwhelmed with emotion. We went down Franklin Street on the way to the Smith Center, and people were waving and laughing and yelling. You could see some splashes of blue paint from the celebration the night before.
It had been some journey – from learning about Carolina Basketball from Coach Williams so many years ago to winning a national championship in New Orleans.
It dawned on me in the season’s aftermath, as I planned my return to my native Germany, that I am indeed a rich man through the friends I’ve made and the lessons I’ve learned during my years at Carolina.
NEXT: Captain George Lynch’s Diary on winning the championship banner that will hang forever.http://chapelboro.com/return-to-the-top/truly-a-rich-man/
All season long Chapelboro.com’s “Hoop It Up” will be republishing select excerpts from Return To The Top on the 20th Anniversary of Dean Smith’s 2nd NCAA title season in 1993. Check back on Monday of each week for the next RTTT.
By Scott Cherry, UNC ‘93
It was almost 7 p.m. when we boarded the bus outside the Charlotte Coliseum after losing to Georgia Tech in the final of the ACC Tournament. Everyone was down about the game. We felt we had the better team – we’d won two earlier games by a 24-point total – but without Derrick Phelps playing, we just weren’t quite in sync. Winning the tournament had been one of our goals for the season and now it was gone.
The loss was particularly disappointing personally because, with Derrick out, it was up to the other point guards to overcome his absence. We all played hard and did some good things, but obviously not enough to win. Plus, Georgia Tech played a tremendous game. James Forest was like a house afire (27 points, 10 rebounds) and we couldn’t cool him off. They won 77-75.
The loss hammered home the fact that injuries are a part of the game; that maybe Derrick might not get back at all after getting hurt in the semifinals against Virginia. That meant everybody would have to pick up his intensity, renew his dedication toward his ultimate goal of winning the NCAA championship. We had to rebound harder, play defense tougher, work to get more open on the offensive end. Whether Derrick came back or not, we simply had to be more focused. Winning the ACC regular season title and 28 games meant nothing now. The bright spot of losing was that Georgia Tech had given us another wake-up call.
As we settled into our seats, some of us turned on our radios and little TVs, and we started to pick up on the pairings for the NCAAs. The mood lightened. We ate pizza and began to look ahead. Just as our heads would have come off a high had we won, we starting pulling them out of the dumps and directing our thoughts toward winning six more games.
We figured we’d still get the No. 1 seed in the East and open in Winston-Salem, and the rumor was we’d play East Carolina. That’s exactly what happened. We looked around to see where the other ACC teams were going. Virginia, also in the East, was the only other ACC team we could meet before the Final Four. By the time we got back to Chapel Hill, the loss was a thing of the past. Coach Guthridge told us to take Monday off and be ready to go back to work Tuesday. “This is still a special team,” he said. “Great things will still happen if we pull together and work hard.”
Coach Smith stressed that we’re not playing in a 64-team NCAA field – rather we’re playing in a four-team weekend tournament that we have to win. If we win this one, we can play another one. As we gathered for practice on Tuesday, there were only four teams left in the world as far as we were concerned: Carolina, East Carolina, Rhode Island and Purdue. Our job was to go to Winston-Salem and prevail over two of those teams.
With two good performances, we expected to win both of our games, but we never dreamed we’d have as easy a time as we did, beating East Carolina 85-65 and Rhode Island 112-67. Both teams looked good on tape, and both had to have some good wins to get where they were. East Carolina was difficult to shake. You could see how fired up there were, getting a chance to play us, and they were hot from outside in the first half. But we had too much height and fire power and we got a good win to open the tournament.
There was one moment in the East Carolina game that gave us a scare. Derrick hadn’t practice all week after suffering a badly bruised tailbone in his fall against Virginia. He was wearing a protective pad and in the second half East Carolina had a breakaway layup, and Derrick was the only man back on defense. We were kind of saying to ourselves on the bench, “Let him go, Derrick, let him go.” But he stood right in there, took a charge and went sprawling on his back side. We held our breath for a minute but Derrick got right up.
The Rhode Island game was one of the strangest I’ve ever been around. I thought it would be a tough game. But we dominated so much early that they were totally taken out of it mentally. You could see it in the eyes of their point guard. Every time he came down court he was waiting to get trapped. No one wanted the ball. They missed some open shots around the basket because they were so worried about our height advantage. Some of the guys said at halftime they were saying things on the foul line like, “You guys are good,” and “Take it easy on us.”
We loved the big lead on the bench because the starters came out early in the second half and the rest of us got some quality minutes in an NCAA Tournament game. That was a lot of fun. I wasn’t about to give the tired signal and risk coming out. You could hear the fans having a good time cheering for us.
NEXT: Cherry on a healthy Phelps and the East Regional at the Meadowlands.http://chapelboro.com/return-to-the-top/93-heels-head-for-big-dance/
If the UNC administration had been smarter during the sorry summer of 2000, Jeff Lebo very well could have been sitting on the Carolina bench Saturday instead of coaching East Carolina.
Of course, it eventually turned out fine when Roy Williams returned in 2003 after he had initially decided to stay at Kansas. Williams has won two national championships and made the Basketball Hall of Fame during his ten years back in Chapel Hill. But it did not happen until Carolina suffered through 2½ seasons born from the worst of several bad decisions made by then-Chancellor James Moeser and former athletic director Dick Baddour.
When Williams shocked Tar Heel Nation by turning down the offer to succeed Bill Guthridge and the Dean Smith era, Baddour was left without a Plan B. It would be the second (or third) time that happened to Baddour, who once boasted he had so much confidence in his coaches that he never kept a list of possible replacements in case one of them left suddenly.
Moeser had been appointed UNC’s new chancellor but had yet to move to Chapel Hill. After resigning from the same post at Nebraska, he was packing up in Lincoln when Baddour called to tell him Williams was staying at Kansas.
“What are you going to do?” Moeser asked Baddour.
“Coach Smith says that Larry Brown will come for at least five years,” Baddour responded. At the time, Brown was coaching the Philadelphia 76ers but had already banked millions in the NBA and was willing, actually excited, to help out his mentor and alma mater.
Now, when you don’t have a Plan B, and someone offers you Larry Brown, who at the time was 59 and considered the best pure basketball coach on the planet, that classifies as a no-brainer. But not to know-it-all Moeser, who knew very little about college athletics other than Nebraska had a great football program. Moeser never played sports and was a musician by trade.
From more than a thousand miles away, Moeser made what at the time was the most important decision in the history of Carolina Athletics – who would follow the Smith regime as head coach.
Moeser reminded Baddour that he had been a Provost at Kansas when Brown coached there for five years in the 1980s. Brown won the national championship with “Danny (Manning) and the Miracles” in 1988, but not before he had gone through a messy divorce and violated some minor NCAA rules that would lead to a probation for KU.
Those are not small considerations, but they pale next to the problem facing Baddour after Williams said no. Moeser obviously did not recognize the severity of the situation and vetoed Brown when he could have shared his reservations with Baddour and told him to make sure Brown toed the line. With Smith still active in the basketball program, his most famous protégé would surely have coached and recruited and done nothing to embarrass himself or his school in the job Brown had always dreamed of having.
Baddour had not been the choice of former Chancellor Michael Hooker and wanted a better relationship with the new Chancellor after Hooker died of lymphoma in 1999. So he did not fight Moeser’s foolish decision. A strong, savvy AD would have assured Moeser that Brown was the best choice and he would take full responsibility for the hire.
“Who else is there?” Moeser asked Baddour.
Baddour said the Rams Club higher-ups were favoring first-year Notre Dame Coach Matt Doherty, who had just taken his inaugural Irish team to the championship game of the NIT, losing to Wake Forest. Though green with a checkered reputation of his own, Doherty was remembered by Moeser as having served on Williams’ staff at Kansas. And Baddour knew him as a starter for Smith’s 1982 NCAA championship team.
So, it happened rather quickly. Baddour tracked down Doherty at a Wal-Mat in South Bend, invited him to Chapel Hill for what turned out to be a six-hour interview. And on July 14, 2000, Doherty was introduced as the Tar Heels’ new head coach. Smith had called several former players, who suggested that hiring the high-strung and emotional Doherty was a big risk as well as a huge change from Guthridge’s mild-mannered ways.
Smith was particularly perturbed when Doherty did not have the sense to retain at least one UNC assistant (Phil Ford, Dave Hanners or Pat Sullivan) and asked to bring his four coaches from Notre Dame, even though that staff had been together for only one year. And Baddour, who should have recognized how difficult the transition from the Smith era would be under any circumstances, did not insist Doherty keep one or two and bring only one or two.
What followed is on the record – an 18-game winning streak, a huge upset at Duke and ascension to No. 1 in the country for Doherty’s first team of Guthridge holdovers (Doherty actually won the Associated Press Coach of the Year in 2001.) But after internal problems in the program surfaced, the Tar Heels split their last eight games, Doherty’s second team went a disastrous 8-20 and he was fired following a 19-16 record in 2003.
At the regrettable press conference announcing Doherty’s “resignation,” Moeser backhanded the coach he hired on the way out. He told the media that UNC held lofty standards “not just for winning, but for the quality and character of the program and the people in it. The issue here . . . is leadership.”
If that wasn’t the pot calling the kettle black . . .
Fortunately, Williams had fallen out of love with Kansas and knew the “family business” was in trouble. He answered Smith’s call the second time, and it’s been Carolina Basketball as usual ever since.
Was it worth the Doherty mistake, when sacred streaks of NCAA Tournament appearances, top three finishes in the ACC and winning seasons were snapped, in fact, shattered? Not when you consider there was an alternative to the rush to hire Doherty.
Lebo, the former Tar Heel star guard of the 1980s, was entering his third season as head coach at Tennessee Tech. Only 33 at the time, Lebo came from a coaching family and had far more pedigree than Doherty. He had coached under Eddie Fogler at Vanderbilt and South Carolina, winning SEC championships at both schools. Doherty, on the other hand, had tried a Wall Street career and radio/TV work before beginning to coach at Davidson.
Larry Brown was the answer, but Moeser and Baddour blundered their way through that. If it had to stay in the Carolina family, a plan Smith was ready to give up, Lebo was an infinitely better choice than Doherty. With the support and guidance of Smith and Guthridge, which Doherty never received after casting out the Tar Heel assistant coaches, Lebo would have been far more successful and might have won enough to stay a long time.
After fielding winning teams at Tennessee Tech and UT-Chattanooga, Lebo made a bad choice by taking the Auburn job, where he refused to cheat in recruiting like so many SEC schools of the time. He lasted six years, then was hired by East Carolina, where he brings a 6-1 team to the Smith Center Saturday.
Stuff happens, but if smarter moves were made at a very perilous time, Lebo might well have already coached many games at the Dean Dome.http://chapelboro.com/columns/sports-notebook/jeff-lebo-then-and-now/
Of all the quality kids who have come through the Carolina Basketball program over the last half century, none was any more real than Mitch Kupchak, the Tar Heels’ star center and ACC Player of the Year in 1976.
Kupchak faked nothing. He came from a blue collar background in the middle of Long Island, where wealth abounded to the north, south and east. He admired Dean Smith and entrusted the to-be Hall of Fame coach with his future as an underdeveloped basketball player.
As a freshman in 1973, Kupchak was lost and admitted it. Things got better as a sophomore starter during a second straight season when despite winning 47 games over two years Carolina remained overshadowed by N.C. State’s national championship team. Then the worm turned for Kupchak and the Tar Heels.
In 1975, junior Kupchak, sophomore Walter Davis and freshman Phil Ford led the Tar Heels back to the ACC Championship, defeating David Thompson and State in a taut title game in Greensboro. Kupchak shed tears of joy that night and, two weeks later, tears of heartbreak when Carolina lost in the Sweet Sixteen to an inferior Syracuse team.
Kupchak faced career-threatening back surgery in the off-season and remembered lying in the operating room ready to take a massive needle in his spine when Smith walked in wearing a hospital gown and mask. Smith placed his hand on Kupchak’s shoulder until his star center fell asleep.
Recovered from the surgery, Kupchak went on to a stellar senior season, leading UNC to an 11-1 record and first place in the ACC. But after being named the league’s best player, Kupchak’s college career ended with more heartbreak in ACC and NCAA tournament upset losses to Virginia and Alabama, respectively.
Kupchak (and three other Tar Heels) did earn a Gold Medal under Smith and Bill Guthridge at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal.
His teammates, coaches and great friends Kupchak made in Chapel Hill were ecstatic when the Washington Bullets picked him 13th in the 1976 NBA draft. He signed a huge contract for those days and immediately got tagged with the nickname of “Rich Kupchak” by his buddies.
Two years later, Mitch and Wes Unseld led the Bullets to the 1978 NBA title. How could life have turned out any better for the thoughtful, hard-working kid from New York, who always seemed wise beyond his years and remained quiet and conservative even in his new-found fame and fortune?
But, in truth, life was just beginning for Mitch Kupchak.
His four solid seasons in Washington led to a (then) massive long-term offer from the Lakers, urged by Magic Johnson who told team owner Jerry Buss that Kupchak was the missing piece to an NBA championship. Twenty-six games into his first season, Kupchak blew out his knee and would not play again until 1983. By then, “Big Game” James Worthy had come from Carolina to join the Lakers’ front court.
But Kupchak had made contingency plans by including in his contract a job working in the Laker’s organization when he was done playing.
While rehabbing his mangled knee, Kupchak began apprenticing Lakers legendary General Manager Jerry West and was soon to become his protégé. He retired in 1986, a year after winning another NBA Championship, and became West’s assistant. He also finished his MBA at UCLA, helping his readiness to run a pro franchise.
While working with West, and then taking over as GM in 2000, the team has won seven more of the Lakers’ 17 NBA titles by first trading for the rights to 17-year-old Kobe Bryant (originally drafted by Charlotte, of all places) and then Shaquille O’Neal. Kupchak has also survived some tough stretches that included six seasons without a championship and Bryant’s trial for alleged rape in Colorado.
Dozens of NBA stars and journeymen moving in and out of the Lakers organization, plus the two championship tenures of Coach Phil Jackson, have kept Kupchak in the headlines more than he wanted. Having failed to win the last two NBA titles, he was looking for a major re-haul this off-season.
After signing free agent point guard Steve Nash, Kupchak pulled off what even he called a “grand slam home run” by trading for center Dwight Howard and giving away relatively little to sign Superman. With an aging Bryant, all-star forward Pau Gasol and a deep bench that includes former UNC star Antawn Jamison, Howard and Nash have created Showtime II in Los Angeles.
At 58, with wife Claire and two teenage children, Mitch Kupchak’s one-time simpler life remains full and fulfilled but far from finished. Learning from Dean Smith and Jerry West will keep you going strong for a long time.
Soccer Triumph and Tragedy
Congratulations to UNC’s Heather O’Reilly and Tobin Heath for helping the U.S. Women’s soccer team to the Gold Medal in London, avenging a loss to Japan in the World Cup two years ago. It marked the USA team’s third straight Gold Medal, the third for O’Reilly and the second for Heath.
And our deepest condolences to the family, teammates and friends of former UNC men’s soccer captain Kirk Urso, who led Carolina to its only NCAA championship in 2011. Urso died suddenly this week in Columbus, Ohio, where he was playing professional soccer.
UNC Athletics is re-launching its official website under the url of GoHeels.com, which is hardly a new name to Tar Heel Internet junkies. In the early days of the web, about 15 years ago, GoHeels was the website of choice for Carolina fans because it was the first out of the gate with news and edgy commentary about everything light blue.
GoHeels.com, the Site that Knows the Score – that was the slogan we used.
I say “we” because GoHeels was birthed by VilCom, which at the time also owned Tar Heel Sports Marketing and the Tar Heel Sports Network. Invented by a brilliant young Carolina grad named Chris Boulton, GoHeels caught on with its currently updated news and its band of columnists writing, basically, what all the fans were talking about around water coolers and on the streets.
In 1999, VilCom President Jim Heavner sold the Tar Heel Sports Marketing multi-media rights contract to Learfield Communications. Smartly, he held GoHeels out of the sale because it already had millions of page views and thousands of dollars in advertising from having been promoted non-stop on the UNC statewide radio broadcasts. . . . the Site that Knows the Score.
Many readers still regarded it as the official UNC website, because Woody Durham, Mick Mixon and Lee Pace, along with yours truly, continued writing for it. But as an independent site, GoHeels could cover recruiting and publish an occasional piece that would never have made it past the proof readers in the Sports Information Office.
For example, GoHeels criticized Dick Baddour’s hiring of career assistant Carl Torbush to succeed Mack Brown in 1997. The football Tar Heels were ranked No. 4 when Brown left for Texas. After three years under Torbush, they were ranked something like one-hundred and four.
GoHeels was all over the regrettable firing, rehiring and firing of Torbush, when Chancellor Michael Hooker had taken ill with fatal lymphoma and Baddour was left waiting at the alter by Virginia Tech’s Frank Beamer. Then came John Bunting, who loved his alma mater but had no Division I coaching experience. More debatable fodder for fans who hung on every word GoHeels had to say about it.
The ambiguity over how long Bill Guthridge would remain head basketball coach gave those rivals who had been whipped regularly by Dean Smith’s teams a chance to say the future of UNC basketball was in doubt. Which it was after Guthridge retired following two trips to the Final Four in three seasons.
The Carolina cupboard was getting bare in 2000, and Roy Williams decided to stay at Kansas. GoHeels really gave it to ol’ Roy for disappointing everyone the first time.
Then, of course, came the Matt Doherty debacle, during which Learfield and UNC finally purchased GoHeels from VilCom and transferred all the news that they thought was fit to print to the official athletic site, which became known as TarHeelBlue.com. Carolina kept ownership of the old url and is now bringing it back because, as Associate Athletic Director Steve Kirschner says, and rightfully so, it’s the phrase that all fans use when cheering on our teams. GO HEELS!
Some UNC employees retained a bad taste for GoHeels, which was merely “telling it like it was” during the most turbulent period in Carolina athletic history – before the Butch Davis controversy 10 years later. Many of the fans we heard from missed the “balanced” coverage that GoHeels provided – mostly positive but sometimes reporting and commenting on not such good news. Since then, several other “unofficial” sites have grown popular, picking up where GoHeels left off.
Although the old name returns, don’t expect the old content to come with it. The digital age has turned websites into as much audio and video portals as e-newspapers. And the columnists covering UNC are still paid to write it through Carolina blue eyes, as it should be with an official school website.
But it didn’t have to be that way with the old GoHeels – and it wasn’t. And we think most Carolina fans have missed it since going dark in 2002.
In fact, the journalists at GoHeels took pride in the disclaimer that the university insisted it carry: Never Has Been, Never Will Be, the Official Site of UNC.
Except now it is. Funny how things turn out.
My first two reactions to what is being called a home run hire of Hubert Davis joining the Carolina Basketball staff were “Wow!” and “Why?”
Huuuuubert is a near-legendary figure in Tar Heel history since the nephew of former UNC great Walter Davis came in as a lightly recruited guard out of Virginia who Dean Smith discouraged from accepting his scholarship offer because Smith doubted Davis could play in the ACC.
After Davis’ very first practice as a freshman in 1988, long-time assistant coach Bill Guthridge said, “Hubert is a lot better than we thought.”
Davis’ Tar Heel love story began at 6 when he sat on his uncle’s lap in the back seat as Walter and Phil Ford drove back from the 1976 Olympics in Montreal after Smith’s UNC- and ACC-dominated USA team had recaptured the Gold Medal.
He went on to become Carolina’s all-time 3-point marksman (so maybe some of that can rub off on Bullock-Hairston-McDonald-Strickland & Co.). His career best percentage of .435 was capped by an incredible performance as a senior in the 1992 regular-season finale at Duke when Davis drained 6 of 8 treys on his way to 35 points. The second-team All-ACC guard was the 20th pick in the NBA draft that June by the New York Knicks and went on to a 12-year pro career in which he reportedly earned more than $16 million.
Hubert was always around Chapel Hill during his pro off-seasons and his family eventually settled into a luxurious home on the eighth fairway of the Chapel Hill Country Club. Davis, 42, and his wife, Leslie, have three school-age children. For the last seven years, Davis rose steadily in the ranks of ESPN, becoming one of the World Wide Leader’s top basketball analysts and a co-host of the Game Day production on Saturdays, December-March.
Perhaps he got tired of sitting between the shtick being fired back and forth by Dick Vitale, Digger Phelps and Bob Knight, although he and Jay Bilas always executed an entertaining Carolina-Duke analysis before those games.
“I’m thrilled for Hubert,” Bilas said Thursday from Charlotte. “I did not know he was talking to Roy, but the move doesn’t surprise me. Hubert has always expressed an interest in coaching. He has an unbelievable basketball mind and he’s been so devoted to the university. I think it was a career and lifestyle decision, because as much work as he’ll be taking on he’ll be traveling less and get to spend more time with his family. As a broadcaster, every game is a road game.”
Besides traveling to campuses and arenas throughout the season, Davis made regular trips to the ESPN studios in Bristol, Connecticut, which had to get old after a while. Bristol is a suburban outpost hours from anywhere and its leading industry by a long shot is the sprawling ESPN compound.
Still, Davis appeared to be living the dream life with a wonderful family in his favorite town. He was virtually “off” from April through October and gave his time willingly to his university and favorite charities, running a basketball camp and sponsoring a golf tournament. An ESPN source estimated Davis’ annual TV salary at north of a half-million dollars.
What Hubert makes at Carolina will become public record eventually, but it may not be half of what he earned from ESPN. According to the record of state university salaries published by the News & Observer, Joe Holladay’s is $303,000, Steve Robinson earns $277,000 and C.B. McGrath makes $143,500. Jerod Haase, the coach Davis is replacing, had the same paycheck as McGrath. This does not include any outside income the coaches can make.
Davis certainly knows basketball, having played it and analyzed it all of his life. But he has never coached or formally recruited. It is not unlike 1988, when Williams left for Kansas and Smith plucked Phil Ford from a bank job to join the staff. Smith, who by then made only specialized recruiting trips, went back on the road with Ford to teach him the ropes and admitted he hadn’t “worked this hard in years.”
Williams is a relentless recruiter and has continued to handle the top prospects himself, with his staff scouting other high school stars for recommendations to the head coach. Davis’ name and face from ESPN will surely make an impact with recruits, but it is hard to imagine he could improve on Williams’ sensational closing rate.
Perhaps Carolina is making a subtle paradigm shift to begin competing more directly with Kentucky for certain high school players who are acknowledged one-and-dones. Davis could help if that were the case because of his NBA experience. Kentucky has proven that system can work and still produce talented, unselfish teams with virtually a new cast coming in each season. The Tar Heels might benefit by signing an obvious one-and-done who fits in.
Hubert Davis is a “celebrity hire” who earned a living for the last seven years talking publicly about players, coaches, teams and games. Chances are what he says this week about the move will be the last we hear from him, since there is one spokesman for Carolina Basketball, the head coach. Williams could change that up a bit, too, asking Davis to fill in for him on his weekly radio show and various alumni speaking engagements.
Clearly, the biggest reason Davis would take a large pay cut for a job that requires at least twice the man hours is that he wants to coach, and in his situation it only makes sense to start where he and his family already live, for the school he loves and at a perennial power. It ain’t exactly like working his way up from Wofford.
And while it would be a six-year apprenticeship, the timing is set up perfectly for Davis to become the next head coach of the Tar Heels if he succeeds as an assistant.
Williams, who will be 62 in August, is under contract at least through 2018. When Smith retired in 1997 at 66, Williams was the logical long-term successor although it took six years for ol’ Roy to get here. Right now, he has no logical successor.
By making this “Wow!” move, Tar Heel favorite Hubert Davis will not be able to avoid speculation that someday he could be at the top among the pool of candidates.http://chapelboro.com/columns/sports-notebook/wow-and-why/
The 2011 football Tar Heels, free from the constant presence of an NCAA investigation under a head coach who would have been besieged all season, can now play football unencumbered, improve as their schedule toughens and produce another winning record and bowl team. The players can certainly retain loyalty and respect for Davis, even play the season in his honor if they want, but the important point is they can now reunite what has been a divided fan base that, whether Butch supporters or critics, loves Carolina above all.