What does history say about Hubert Davis’ future as a head coach? And notes after 2021 Final Four with a Big South Conference flavor
By Richard Walker
Hubert Davis may well go on to become a great college basketball coach.
University of North Carolina fans certainly hope so.
But what does history tell us about Davis’ future prospects?
Introduced officially on Tuesday as the Tar Heels’ new 20th head coach in school history after serving nine seasons as an assistant to Roy Williams, Davis becomes the 15th former ACC player to serve as head coach at an ACC school.
Like Davis is about to do, 10 of those coaches served at their alma maters.
The successes and failures of those previous coaches ranges from national championship good to three coaches would didn’t last longer than four years in the position; Davis will become the second current former ACC player to coach in the league as Pittsburgh’s Jeff Capel isn’t included in the successes or failures of the others since he just completed his second season.
The first ACC player to become head coach predates the league as multi-sport Clemson star Banks McFadden, who led the Tigers to their lone conference championship in 1939, led Clemson’s program for 10 seasons that include the first three years of the ACC.
Following McFadden have been Bones McKinney at Wake Forest (1957), Billy McCann at Virginia (1957), Vic Bubas at Duke (1959), Jack Murdock at Wake Forest (1965), Norm Sloan at N.C. State (1966), Bucky Waters at Duke (1969), Bobby Cremins at Georgia Tech (1981), Gary Williams at Maryland (1989), Jeff Jones at Virginia (1990), Les Robinson at N.C. State (1990), Matt Doherty at North Carolina (2001), Sidney Lowe at N.C. State (2006), Capel (2019) and now Davis. McKinney (N.C. State and North Carolina), Bubas (N.C. State), Waters (N.C. State), Cremins (South Carolina) and Capel (Duke) played for league rival schools before becoming head coaches.
Sloan and Williams guided their alma maters to NCAA titles in 1974 and 2002, respectively. Bubas is credited by the legendary Dean Smith with modernizing recruiting in the 1960s in addition to taking Duke to its first three Final Fours (1963, 1964 and 1966). And McKinney and Cramins also guided their teams to first-ever Final Four appearances.
Three former ACC players that became eventual ACC head coaches have career paths that follow most closest to that of Davis – McKinney, Murdock and Jones.
McKinney and Murdock each served five seasons as Wake Forest assistant coaches before becoming Deacons’ head coaches after replacing Murray Greason and McKinney, respectively.
Jones was Terry Holland’s assistant coach for eight seasons before replacing Holland as head coach after Holland guided Virginia to a 326-173 record with two Final Four appearances, one NIT championship and one ACC tournament title.
Compared that Davis’ nine seasons as Roy Williams’ assistant coach and his replacement of Williams after Williams led North Carolina to a 485-163 record with three NCAA titles, five Final Four appearances and three ACC tournament titles, Jones’ career most closely matches Davis’ path.
Jones would lead Virginia to a 146-104 record in eight seasons as head coach with five NCAA tournament appearances and one NIT championship before he was fired. Jones later coached at American University and just finished his eighth season as Old Dominion coach. Jones all-time head coaching record is 524-379 with eight NCAA tournament appearances with six regular season conference titles and three conference tournament championships.
The biggest downside for Davis is that only four of the previous 14 ACC players to coach in the ACC had 20-win seasons in their first year.
And as North Carolina fans know all too well, after Doherty went 26-7 in his 2001-02 debut season, it was followed by the infamous 8-20 record the following year that led to his firing a year later. Of the other three, Robinson (20-11), Lowe (20-16) and Jones (21-12), none lasted more than eight years at their alma maters.
Final Four notes and observations from the just completed 2020-21 college basketball season:
… Baylor’s national championship roster was certainly an unconventional one as four of the team’s top six scorers were transfers from other schools, including a pair of recent Big South Conference freshman of the year. MaCio Teague, who won 2017 Big South freshman of the year honors in the first of his two seasons at UNC-Asheville, was the Bears’ second-leading scorer at 15.8 points per game. Adam Flagler, who won 2019 Big South freshman of the year honors in his only season at Presbyterian, was Baylor’s fourth-leading scorer at 9.0 points per game. Third-leading scorer Davion Mitchell (Auburn) and sixth-leading scorer Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua (UNLV) also were transfers. (Flagler also is the younger brother of former Gardner-Webb standout wide receiver Duvaghn Flagler, who was a three-time All-Big South football selection from 2004 to 2007 with 188 catches for 2,552 yards and 31 touchdowns in his career.)
… Baylor became the third team in NCAA tournament history to knock off a previously-unbeaten team in the national title game when it beat Gonzaga 86-70 on Monday night; Cincinnati and Michigan State were the first two to accomplish the feat by defeating Ohio State and Indiana State in 1961 and 1979, respectively.
… Since 1985 when most conferences staged postseason tournaments and the tournament field was expanded to 64 teams, Baylor became the seventh NCAA champion that lost in its conference tournament title game; Baylor lost the 2021 Big XII championship game to Oklahoma State. Fifteen champions since 1985 won their league tournament titles, eight lost in conference tournament semifinals and four others advanced without playing in a league tournament.
… CBS Sports.com and SI.com released their early 2021-22 seasonal rankings on Tuesday and they expect Duke to return to glory as the Blue Devils are picked fourth in the CBSSports.com poll and third in the SI.com poll. UCLA is CBSSports.com’s preseason favorite, with Gonzaga favored by SI.com. Other ACC teams earning top 25 recognition were Florida State (No. 7), North Carolina (No. 15) and Virginia (No. 23) in CBSSports.com and Florida State (No. 10) in SI.com.
… I personally picked the championship game matchup accurately the day pairings came out. But I had the wrong winner. I picked Gonzaga to beat Baylor for the title and also had Houston and Alabama in the Final Four. Houston did make the Final Four, losing to Baylor in the semifinals. And Alabama was eliminated by UCLA in overtime in a Sweet 16 matchup.