A little over a year ago, The Daily Tar Heel published an article speculating on who might replace UNC men’s basketball head coach Roy Williams once he retired.
At the time, Williams was pushing 70 and had already crafted a Hall of Fame career, but nobody thought he would actually retire then. He was just three years removed from a national championship, for crying out loud.
But then, a year later and after a second consecutive underperforming season, Williams announced his retirement on Thursday. After 33 seasons of Division I head coaching, he’d be stepping away from the game. So now, the Tar Heel faithful are faced with the question they've never wanted to ask themselves:
Who could replace Roy?
Since the time of Dean Smith, the Carolina Way has been to keep the head coaching job in the Tar Heel family. If that remains true for Williams and UNC Athletic Director Bubba Cunningham, then nobody fits the bill better than current assistant coach Hubert Davis.
Davis is a Tar Heel, through and through. He played four years under Smith, from 1988-1992, helping UNC to win the 1989 and 1991 ACC Tournament Championships. He then had a 12-year NBA career, which came to an end in 2004.
In 2012, Davis rejoined the Tar Heels as an assistant under Williams and has been with the team for nearly a decade, contributing to the Tar Heels’ 2017 National Championship win. Davis has the playing experience, the coaching experience and the Carolina pedigree. If UNC chooses to follow the template of the past, Davis would be a solid choice for the job.
There is one thing Davis lacks, though: head coaching experience of his own. If Cunningham and co. are looking for an option with proven success at the helm of their own team, they need not look further than Wes Miller, current head coach of UNC-Greensboro.
Miller has the UNC connection — he won the 2005 National Championship while playing under Williams from 2004-2007, and his brother is transferring UNC big Walker Miller. Despite being just 38 years old, he also has the experience, serving as the UNC-G Spartans’ head coach for the last 10 years.
And, maybe most importantly, he has the success. His 185 wins make him UNC-G’s winningest head coach of all time. During Miller’s tenure, the Spartans have won the Southern Conference regular season championship three times and the tournament championship twice. His Spartans have qualified for the NCAA Tournament twice, losing in the first round in both 2018 and 2021.
If experience, success and the UNC family are all priorities during the selection process, then Miller might be just the kind of coach they’re looking for.
But, who knows? Maybe, after a long sequence of head coaches with ties to the team, the powers that be will decide to hire a coach from outside of the family. If that ends up being the case, then the name UNC fans should be salivating over is Loyola Chicago Ramblers' head coach Porter Moser.
Moser and the Ramblers have been the Cinderella-style belles of the ball at March Madness twice over the last few years. In 2018, Moser and charismatic team chaplain Sister Jean led the Ramblers on a miraculous run to the Final Four of the NCAA Tournament. Moser proved that such a strong showing wasn’t a fluke this past March, guiding his eight-seed squad to the Sweet 16, including a thunderous 71-58 win over one-seed Illinois in the round of 32.
For all of Moser’s success, though, the fact remains that his only head coaching jobs have been in the Sun Belt or Missouri Valley Conferences. A down-on-its-luck blue blood team like UNC, paired with a head coach who has defeated powerhouses with a mid-major program, might just be a match made in heaven.