Hubert Davis, like so many coaches before him, faced an unenviable task ahead of the 2021-22 basketball season in North Carolina: 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. Indeed, Williams made sure to place 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 showdown against Duke and Mike Krzyzewski. But Davis’ success isn’t just about Williams. Davis knows this program like few others, not only as a star under legendary trainer Dean Smith, but also as an assistant under Williams.
Indeed, those familiar with Davis’ history at UNC — and in the NBA — won’t be surprised that he has his team one game away from the 2022 NCAA Tournament Championship.
The Sporting News breaks down Davis’ career history and timeline, not only as a player at UNC and the NBA, but also his coaching career at his alma mater:
Timeline of Hubert Davis’ career
UNC playing career
Williams helped recruit Davis to UNC as an assistant under Dean Smith in 1988, but left for Kansas before Davis’ freshman year at Chapel Hill.
Davis was a four-year-old and two-year starter under Smith from 1988-1992, helping the Tar Heels to a 102-37 record and two ACC Tournament championships. He played over 30 games each season at Chapel Hill, but did not start a game in either his first or second season.
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 tournament NCAA 1982 nine years ago. He had 25 points in the loss, which went 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%) in a season that ultimately ended. ended with a Sweet 16 loss to 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%) and tied the program’s single-game record for 3 (eight) made. Here are his career stats at UNC (per game):
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After his playing career at UNC, Davis became a first-round selection in the 1992 NBA Draft, ranking 20th overall by the New York Knicks. Although his playing career was largely devoid of memorable moments, Davis did take part in 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 held an 86-85 advantage with 7.6 seconds left. On the Knicks’ last offensive possession, Davis took a pass from John Starks at the top of the key and fired a long 2-point attempt. Although Davis’ attempt was off the mark, official Hue Hollins called out Scottie Pippen for the foul (which Pippen clearly believed he did not commit). Davis — an 82.5 percent free throw shooter this season — made both shots to give the Knicks the 87-86 win and a 3-2 lead in the Eastern Conference Finals.
New York would win in seven before losing the NBA Finals in seven to Hakeem Olajuwon and the Houston Rockets. Davis eventually made two more playoff appearances, both with the Knicks, in 1995 and 1996.
After 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.
For his career, Davis totaled 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% on 3 – second in NBA history only to Steve Kerr.
MORE: Williams recalls 1982 UNC Championship
UNC Assistant Coach
After 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 longtime assistant Jerod Haase, who left the Tar Heels to become UAB head coach. In looking for a replacement, Williams knew he wanted someone with ties to the program: he eventually got his “first pick” in Davis, whom he trained to succeed him as head coach.
“I’m thrilled to be able to take this place with Hubert,” Williams said in a prepared statement at the time (via ESPN). “I helped recruit him from Carolina in 1988, coached him at the World University Games in 1991 and have always admired him on and off the court. I knew the day would eventually come when I would have to replace staff members as they progressed.
“Over the past four or five years, Hubert has always been on my mind in case a spot becomes available. I didn’t know if I could get him back, but I knew I wanted him to be the first option. is all about teaching, relationships and passion and I think Hubert is the perfect fit and our student-athletes will benefit greatly from what he adds to our staff.
Said Davis: “I am very excited, grateful and honored to join the Carolina basketball program as an assistant to Coach Williams. I loved being a part of college basketball during my time at ESPN. attending practices and games and developing relationships with players and coaches. Now I will have the opportunity to do that 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, being part of five Sweet 16 teams, three Elite Eight teams, two Final Four teams (2016-17), one National Finalist (2016) and one National Championship team (2017).
MORE: Davis leads UNC to Final Four in rocky first season
UNC Head Coach
Shortly after North Carolina lost to Wisconsin in the first round of the 2021 NCAA Tournament – a first for a team coached by Williams – Williams announced his decision to retire, citing his belief that he was no no longer “the right man” to lead the Tar Talons.
That person, he believed, was Davis. Four days after Williams announced his retirement on April 1, 2021, North Carolina officially named Davis as 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 now misses coaching, he felt that extending his career would only make it harder for Davis to take on the role. He therefore chose to resign and retire.
“The longer I delayed, the more difficult it made all these things,” Williams told The Sporting News. “I really wanted to wait and do it myself a bit later, for me personally. But if you’re talking about the next guy coming in, it wasn’t going to be that smooth if I waited any longer.”
A year later, with a place in the Final Four and a chance at the national championship game on the line, it looks like Williams has chosen the perfect time to step down and – as he would say – the right person to succeed him.