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North Carolina Road Show

Duke vs. UNC: Ten great games

Wednesday, November 19, 2003
Classic catches up with Walter Davis
By Phillip Lee
Special to ESPN Classic

Walter Davis
Walter Davis averaged 15.7 points per game playing for the Tar Heels.
Walter Davis played for the University of North Carolina from 1973-1977. A native of North Carolina, Davis got a chance to play with his beloved Tar Heels. He led Carolina to ACC championship in 1975 and 1977. Davis scored 1,863 points, averaging 15.7 points for the Tar Heels. He was one four Tar Heels to play on the gold medal winning U.S. Olympic squad coached by Dean Smith in 1976. Davis' silky smooth playing style earned him nicknames such as "Sweet D" and "The Greyhound."

He was a first-round selection by the Phoenix Suns in the 1977 NBA draft. He made an immediate impact, making the All-Star team and earning Rookie of the Year honors. After 15 years of basketball with the Suns, Portland Trail Blazers and Denver Nuggets, Davis retired in 1992 to pursue a broadcasting career. Last year, Davis joined the staff of the Washington Wizards as a scout. Phillip Lee recently talked to Davis to find out what he's doing.

Phillip Lee: What are you doing right now?
Walter Davis:
I'm doing some advance scouting for the Washington Wizards. I scout upcoming opponents in the pros and I scout the college guys as well.

PL: How long have you been working with the Wizards?
Since September.

PL: What were you doing before that?
Before that I was doing some broadcasting for the University of Denver.

PL: Are you still doing any broadcasting?
No. I do just the scouting. It's full-time.

PL: What are your fondest memories of North Carolina and being a Tar Heel?
Being associated with North Carolina, (former North Carolina coach) Dean Smith and my teammates. We have a bond there that can never be broken.

PL: Is that bond just with your teammates or does it extend to the whole North Carolina tradition?
I think it goes to everyone because Coach Smith tried to make it like a family. I got to know players that came before me and came after me.

PL: Talk about the rivalry between North Carolina and Duke.
When I was in school, Duke wasn't the powerhouse it is now. N.C. state and Maryland were probably the best teams then. But it was an ACC game and Duke being only eight miles away, we got up for them.

PL: During the 1973-74 season -- your freshman year -- you were involved in one of the greatest comebacks in college history. Tell us about that game against Duke.
It was Senior Day. Bobby Jones was one of the seniors and we wanted to make sure that they won their last game. We're down by eight points with 17 seconds left and Coach Smith calls a timeout and says, "We can win this game. Bobby is going to make these free throws, we're going to put a trap on them and get a steal and score quickly."

And that's what happened. We called timeout again and we got another steal and scored. We're down by two. They get the ball in and we foul right away. (Duke's Pete Kramer) missed the front end of a one-and-one. We get the rebound and call a timeout. Coach Smith designed a play. It was like a down-and-out football pattern. I started on the right side and just came right across the half-court line and Mitch Kupchak hit me with a perfect pass. I took two or three dribbles and I shot it. I wasn't trying to bank, but it banked in and tied it up. We went on and won in overtime.

PL: Is that your most memorable moment at North Carolina?
That was pretty big, coming back from eight points with 17 seconds left. There was a game in my sophomore year where we were down to Wake Forest, but nothing like the Duke win.

PL: Are you surprised by the tradition at North Carolina?
No. I'm not surprised. It's such a great school. You have Coach Smith and then Coach Guthridge and now Matt Doherty. You get the best coaching you can get. You're on TV so the scouts can see you. At the school, you get a great education. That's a good combination.

PL: Growing up was that the school you wanted to go to?
I was a Carolina fan growing up. I love the color -- Carolina Blue. When I first saw them play, they had the state painted right on the middle of the ball. The guys seemed to hustle and play well together. It was a style of play that I liked. I thought Coach Smith was a great coach. I just fell in love with all of that.

PL: Talk about Dean Smith and how it was playing under him.
It was great. He really helped me develop my total game. In high school, I was a pretty good scorer, but (Coach Smith) told me you've got to be able to do everything. You've got to be able to play defense. You've gotta rebound. You've gotta be able to pass. You've gotta have a total game. I worked on that. It made me a complete player and that's how I was able to take it to the next level. Being taught the way the game was supposed to be played by Dean Smith, playing in 1976 Olympics and playing in the ACC. I think all of that helped me make it to the NBA.

PL: You were known as "Sweet D" and "The Greyhound." Which one did you prefer?
Brent Musburger started "The Greyhound" and my teammates at North Carolina started "Sweet D" so I've gone by "Sweet D" longer.

PL: Talk about your NBA career.
I played for 15 years. I went to the Phoenix Suns (as a first-round pick). They played exactly the same way that we did at North Carolina -- fast-breaking, team basketball. I got out there at small forward and ran. We had two great guards in Paul Westphal and Don Buse.

PL: Was it hard to leave basketball?
For a long I didn't know what I was going to do after basketball was over. When I retired from the Denver Nuggets in 1992, Dan Issel was asked to be head coach and he had the broadcasting job at the time. Bernie Bickerstaff asked me if I would like to take over. Once I started doing it. I really liked it. I get to travel, but I don't have to play. I get the best seat in the house and talk about something that was a big part of my life. After the first year, I knew if I wanted to get better I would have to go to broadcasting school. Bob Miller, who is the voice of the L.A. Kings, runs a broadcasting camp in Irvine, Calif., so I attended that for three straight summers. So I did broadcasting my first eight years out with the Denver Nuggets and the University of Denver.

PL: So why did you leave broadcasting?
The opportunity for the Wizards came up. The scouting is more intense. I'm back in the NBA. I like calling the college games but I love scouting them, too. I think I've got the best boss in Michael Jordan.

PL: What is in your future?
Right now, scouting and getting it down is the only thing on my mind. This could lead to an office position or coaching, but I'm not sure. Would I like to go back into broadcasting? I won't say no, but right now I'm really happy with what I'm doing.

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