UNC announced Monday that longtime assistant coach Hubert Davis would be promoted to replace Roy Williams as the Tar Heels' new head basketball coach.
The selection is significant for several reasons. Davis continues the tradition of the UNC basketball head coach coming from the Carolina family, a deep network that consists of UNC basketball alumni. Davis was also Williams' apparent choice to succeed him on the sideline.
Davis’ hiring also sets another major milestone for UNC. He now becomes the first Black head coach at UNC in a major revenue sport, and just the fourth Black head coach ever in any UNC sport.
In Davis’s words, this milestone is “significant.”
It becomes even more important when you consider the racial breakdown of college basketball as a whole. It is currently a sport overwhelmingly made up of young Black players, but led by white coaches.
Within the Power 5 conferences — Big Ten, ACC, Big 12, SEC and Pac-12 — only 26 percent of players are white, yet 83 percent of head coaches are white.
Out of the 77 coaches to have led a college basketball team this previous season at the Power Six level (Power 5 plus Big East), just 13 are Black. One reason there are so few college basketball coaches of color is a lack of diversity in the hiring process.
One of the 13 Black coaches, Georgetown’s Patrick Ewing, pointed to a lack of representation among athletic directors in a 2020 interview.
“People hire people that look like them,” Ewing said. “It’s not necessarily racist. Most of the time you hire a person you can relate to.”
At Division I schools, just 15.6 percent of athletic directors are Black — a number that drops to 10 percent once historically Black colleges and universities are factored out. In the seven major conferences, only 11 of the 87 universities have a Black AD. Just one of those 87 universities has a Black president.
Davis’ hiring also comes at a time when racial injustice continues to be at the forefront of national conversation. At a time when former Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin is on trial for the murder of George Floyd, we cannot underestimate the impact race has on our nation.
Especially when you have a group of primarily young Black men now learning from a Black coach who can also act as a mentor and role model.
With Davis coming from the Carolina Family, he will continue the legacy established by Dean Smith. One of Coach Smith's goals, when hired as basketball coach, was to recruit African American players for UNC.
In fact, Hubert Davis’ uncle, Walter Davis, was among the first African American basketball players for UNC, starring for Coach Smith from 1974 to 1977.
It will now be up to Coach Davis to carry the legacy of being UNC’s first Black head coach, following the path paved before him by Dean Smith and Walter Davis.
The pressure will be on — but if anyone can live up to the lofty expectations, it’s Hubert Davis.
As Roy Williams said in a video posted to Twitter yesterday and directed toward Davis, “You are the finest young man I’ve ever known in my life... you'll be better than me."
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