North Carolina coach Roy Williams received interest from at least 14 former Tar Heels players about his assistant coaching vacancy.
But in order to get the guy he wanted -- former UNC guard and ESPN college basketball analyst Hubert Davis -- Williams called him.
“Coach Williams asked me to come into his office; he wanted to ask me a favor,’’ Davis told ESPN.com Thursday evening. “I thought he was calling me in to change the dates of my camp [a Christian basketball camp he runs each year at UNC]. … But when I went into the office, he said, ‘I have a really big favor.’ I said, ‘OK, what is it, Coach?’ He said, ‘I want you to be an assistant coach on my staff.’
"I said, ‘What?’ It was a total surprise.”
But a welcome one. It took only a matter of days for Davis -- who spent a dozen years in the NBA, and the previous seven at ESPN -- to be named the successor to Jerod Haase, who left UNC to become head coach at UAB. Davis' contract details have not yet been released by the school, but he joins a veteran staff that came to Chapel Hill with Williams from Kansas nine seasons ago.
“I’ve always wanted to coach,’’ Davis said. “And I think any player at Carolina would want to come back to Carolina. I didn’t think anybody from the staff would ever leave, and I didn’t think if anybody would leave, that the first person Coach Williams would call would be me. And so I never entertained that thought process, but when he asked me, then and there, it was something I wanted to do.”
Davis, who was still trying to get used to being called “Coach” just 25 hours after he was hired, addressed an array of other topics during the telephone interview:
When was the meeting with Coach Williams?
Hubert Davis: Maybe three days ago, four days ago. It really has happened fast. This was the last year on my contract with ESPN, and myself and my agent at that point had not started re-negotiating for another contract. But I had said if ESPN wanted me back, that was the place that I intended to go back and work. I’ve enjoyed the last seven years, but I just didn’t want to pass up this opportunity. This was something I thought I should do, I felt great about it, and it gives me more time at home which I need and love, with my kids being 5, 8 and 10.
When did the coaching bug hit you?
HD: I’ve always wanted to coach, and the reason why is I love basketball, I love teaching basketball, I love kids, I love relationships. That’s what I’ve wanted to do. But it had to fit my family; that’s first. Would I have taken the same job at Kentucky? No. Would I have taken the same job at Texas or Kansas? No. I took this job because I wanted to do this, I felt like … this worked for my family. I live here, my kids don’t have to change schools, everything just worked.
Do you know what your specific duties will be, yet? Will you coach the junior varsity team?
HD: I won’t coach JV this year, but that’s something in the future I’d like to do. I think that would be really neat, and right now, I want to just be a sponge and just soak up everything. I’ve never been a coach before, so I want to learn. I want to learn everything. So my responsibilities will be from A to Z, and I’m excited about that.
In the future, if there’s an opportunity to coach the JV team, I think that’s going to be awesome, as well, in terms of growing and learning how to be a coach. Because I think there’s a huge difference: As an assistant coach, you make suggestions. As a head coach, you get to run practice and make decisions.
Is the ultimate goal for you to be a head coach someday?
HD: There is no ultimate goal. The goal is to be the best assistant coach to Roy Williams that I can be. I’ve never set goals like that. When I came to Carolina, I never said I wanted to be an All-American, or average a certain amount of points. Never in the NBA, did I say, ‘I want to do this, I want to do that.’ At ESPN, I never said, ‘I want to get the 'GameDay' show.’ I never did that. All I always said was, ‘Whatever I’m doing, I just want to prepare every day.’ And that’s what I want to do in coaching. I want to prepare; I want to work hard. And I want to learn. And where ever that takes me, I’m fine. I just want to enjoy the ride.
How will your broadcast experience help you in coaching?
HD: I think it could be great, because I’ve been to so many different practices, so many different shoot-arounds, been around so many different coaches and players. Just seeing how different programs run. A lot of things that I’ve heard from coaches -- coaches that have gone to television, and then have gone back to coaching -- [is that] they feel like they’re a better coach because they felt like they had an opportunity to go to different programs, and see how different coaches relate to players.
So I think the experience of going all around the country, and seeing all these different personalities and what it takes to be successful, I think that will really help me in terms of scouting. Because our job every "GameDay" was to know every Division I team, to know their strengths and their weaknesses. And that’s something I’m going to have to deal with on a daily basis -- but geared toward North Carolina.
How do you think you can help this particular North Carolina team right off the bat?
HD: That’s my goal, is to just help. Yes, I’m ‘Coach Davis,’ I am a coach, but I don’t look at myself as a coach. I look at myself as helping these kids. And that’s something I’m going to tell each one of the players when I have a chance to meet with them: My job is to help them, and my job is to help them become the best basketball player they can become, and my job when they’re ready to leave North Carolina, is to help them be ready to go out in the world. And whatever I say, and everything I do, I promise it’s for your benefit.
The four years that I was there [at UNC] -- I always dreamed of going to Carolina. And my experience far exceeded what I dreamed it would be, not just as a basketball player, but as a student, as well. And I want those guys to have that same experience. I want James Michael McAdoo and Leslie McDonald and Dexter Strickland, I want those guys wanting in the offseason to come back to Chapel Hill because it's the place that they have loved, and the place where coaches have always wanted to help them. And I want that for every player, for the time I’m there.
When do you officially start, and what’s next?
HD: I’ll start sometime next week; I don’t know the specific date, but it will be soon. And then I’ve got to get acclimated. This is the first time I’ve ever had an office, so I guess I have to go decorate my office and go figure that out. Then probably the next step is take the NCAA Compliance Test, pass that so I can go out and recruit. And then graduation comes up soon, and the kids come back for the first session of summer school, and that will be an opportunity to really get to know them -- so by the time August comes around, I’ll be ready to go.
It's been a whirlwind, but I am excited.
Follow Robbi Pickeral on Twitter at @bylinerp.