North Carolina Tar Heels: Bill Guthridge

Williams reflects as Smith receives honor

November, 20, 2013
Former North Carolina coach Dean Smith will receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom -- the nation’s highest civilian honor -- today along with 15 other recipients that include former President Bill Clinton.

[+] EnlargeRoy Williams, Dean Smith, Michael Jordan
AP Photo/Gerry BroomeDean Smith (center) has mentored coaches and players alike.
Smith’s wife, Linnea, told WNCN television in Raleigh last week that traveling was difficult for the 82-year-old Hall of Fame coach and that he would not be able to attend. Back in 2010, the family revealed Smith had a neurocognitive disorder that affected his memory.

UNC coach Roy Williams and former coach Bill Guthridge will accompany Smith’s wife and family members to the White House ceremony to receive the award on his behalf.

“I feel very honored to be about to go up there and see that happen, to be with his wife and some of his children,” Williams said. “That will be a neat deal for me.”

President John F. Kennedy signed the Executive Order that created the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1963. There will be a special recognition of its inaugural class today.

President Barack Obama, who selected the honorees, announced this year’s class in August. He said the award goes to individuals who have, “dedicated their own lives to enriching ours. This year’s honorees have been blessed with extraordinary talent, but what sets them apart is their gift for sharing that talent with the world.”

That’s a definition that Williams would say fits Smith perfectly.

“I’m very thrilled to have worked with coach Smith, he taught me so much more about people than he did about zone defense or man-to-man defense or anything whatsoever,” Williams said. “I think he’s truly one of the great mentors that you could possibly have and he was a mentor to me and every player. He truly cared his players.”

Smith joins former UCLA coach John Wooden and former Tennessee women’s coach Pat Summitt as the only college basketball coaches who have received the award.

“Coach Smith, you’ve heard me say this before, is the best that ever was, in my opinion, on a basketball court and he was far better off the court,” Williams said. “And the things that he did off the court meant so much more than the time that he spent on the court.”

Williams was nearly brought to tears when asked about Smith on Sunday saying he was, “just a unique man and leader for so many people.” Williams said there wasn’t a day that goes by that he doesn’t utilize some principle -- not just on the court, but in life -- that Smith used to emphasize.

“I ask myself all the time what would coach Smith do right now?” Williams said. “Would coach Smith be proud of the way I handled some things?”

Smith’s 879 wins, which were the most when he retired in 1997, has been surpassed by other coaches. And Williams has matched Smith's two national titles. But he said no number could quantify the impact Smith has had.

“I’ll never be as good as he was,” Williams said. “I don’t think anybody ever will be.”

Davis finding his comfort zone

November, 5, 2013
North Carolina assistant coach Hubert Davis is still happy with his decision to coach, even though he’s no longer viewed as the happy coach.

Davis has brought a more assertive presence to his second year on the sideline since leaving his analyst position at ESPN to join Roy Williams’ staff.

“Even though I had been a part of Carolina basketball pretty much my whole life and had experienced it as a player, this is my first time experiencing it as a coach, so everything was new to me last year,” said Davis, who played at UNC from 1988-92. “This year, everything is familiar to me and so, in terms of what one thing is different (in the second year), everything is different.”

Sophomore forward Brice Johnson said he literally hears the difference every day. Davis has become a lot more vocal in practices this season.

[+] EnlargeRoy Williams, Hubert Davis
Jamie Squire/Getty ImagesHubert Davis is trying to be more vocal and critical in his second season under Roy Williams at North Carolina.
“Last year he didn’t really say as much; he was like the happy guy in practice,” Johnson said.

When he was vocal last season, Davis’ tendency last season was to err on the side of positivity:

  • Having a bad shooting day? That’s OK, tomorrow will be better.
  • Confidence shattered because Roy Williams yelled at you? That’s OK, tomorrow will be better.
  • Trouble understanding the system? That’s OK, tomorrow will be better.

While that’s still a staple of his approach this season, Davis’ statement doesn’t end there. He’s more comfortable criticizing players now. So his brand of positive reinforcement is followed by what they need to do in order to improve.

“It was his first year, so he was getting a feel for how things were run [and] he was really positive all the time – no matter what -- he was positive,” sophomore Marcus Paige said. “Now he’s doing a good job of getting on us being more constructive rather than just encouraging. It’s good to see him get mad and get on us and work with us a little bit more now that he’s comfortable.”

Williams said Davis used the year wisely to understand how he could make an impact in recruiting and in practice. Williams added a responsibility that he believes could help Davis take an even bigger step in his growth.

Williams offered Davis a chance to be the head coach of the junior varsity teams, just as Dean Smith once did for him.

“I had two practices every day for eight years and I thought it was great for me,” Williams said. “I got to make decisions and not just suggestions. I think that will help him in is development as a young coach.”

Davis has started like many Tar Heels assistant coaches before him, taking their practice plan straight from the book of Dean Smith. He has a thought for the day, an offensive emphasis of the day and a defensive emphasis of the day.

“I’m going to teach in the way that I believe and I believe in the way Williams, (Bill) Guthridge and Smith taught the game of basketball,” Davis said. “… The other day I used one coach Smith had always given us: A mistake is good when you recognize it, admit it, learn from it and grow from it.”

Davis said the biggest area of his growth between his first and second seasons is the relationships he’s built with the players. This season he knows them well enough that he doesn’t have to be cautious.

“I know what motivates them; I know what gets their attention; I know what they need to hear; I know what not to say to a particular player,” Davis said.

Davis has become a shot doctor of sorts on the staff. When forward J.P. Tokoto sought to eliminate the glitch in his shooting form, he only considered one coach for advice.

Davis still holds the school record with a career 3-point shooting percentage of 43.5. When he graduated, he held the record for highest 3-point shooting percentage in a season at 48.9 percent. (Dante Calabria made 49.6 percent in 1994-95.)

Tokoto admitted he’d heard people tell him to tuck in his elbow before, but “hearing it from coach Davis it was a lot easier to take.”

“I know about coach Davis [as a player]. If he’s saying it, it must be something to it,” Tokoto said.

There are few things Davis enjoys more than being out on the court. But he was adamant that his experience with the junior varsity squad and being an assistant was not to essentially serve an apprenticeship to later become a head coach.

“So many people ask me -- not one second have I ever thought about wanting to be a head coach,” Davis said. “The only thing on my mind is trying to be the best assistant coach I can be for coach Williams and the University of North Carolina. That’s it.”
The Morning After: Thoughts, notes and anything else that didn’t quite make this space after North Carolina’s latest game (in this case, the No. 5/6 Tar Heels’ 97-82 victory over Appalachian State on Saturday night, during which senior forward Tyler Zeller scored 31 points).

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Everything the Tar Heels ran Saturday night, Appalachian State coach Jason Capel said, “I knew it was coming.”

After all, he was coaching in the arena – albeit on the opposing sideline – where he started at forward for North Carolina from 1998-2002. And he was coaching against a program that he once helped to a Final Four.

“It was good to be home,’’ he said.

Capel, a former two-time All-ACC player, said he was proud of the way his Mountaineers responded against his No. 5/6-ranked alma mater at the Smith Center. Appalachian State trailed by as many as 29 points in the second half, yet lost 97-82.

“We didn’t just play hard, we competed,’’ Capel said. “We didn’t take a step back when they clocked us in the mouth, we just kept coming forward. We got down [29] … we stayed together. That's part of the process.”

Capel -- who, at 31, is the third-youngest Division I men's head basketball coach in the nation -- admitted he was a bit nervous before the game. Although he returned to watch his former teammates play in 2005, and came back for the 100-year celebration of Carolina basketball a couple seasons ago, he hadn’t been around the program as much as some alums.

So, “it was good to come to back, it was good to share that [pre-game] moment with Coach [Roy] Williams, it was good to see … a lot of familiar faces, people I know. It meant a lot to me.”

The highlight: when Bill Guthridge, his head coach for his first two seasons at UNC, attended the Mountaineers' shootaround. “And no one understands how much that meant to me,’’ Capel said.

But it does make it easy to understand why each team’s plays were so familiar to the other; Carolina coaching ties, and strategies, run deep.

“They call it ‘B1’, I call it ‘Detroit’. They call it ‘B2’, I call it ‘Detroit Double’,’’ he said. “… I tried to stay away from the stuff we run alike, because I know they know it. [But] I called ‘Detroit’ one time, and Kendall [Marshall, UNC’s point guard] said ‘B1.’ It’s the same stuff, you try to give it two names. He put the two fists up one time, and I told my guys, ‘They’re trapping the first pass.’ The signals are the same.

“Obviously, they have a different athlete to be able to execute some different things, but we got them in some things they do themselves, and that makes you feel good a little bit. Because we were able to execute it knowing they knew what was coming.”

Follow Robbi Pickeral on Twitter at @bylinerp.