Hubert Davis at least got to coach in 22 games in Division I basketball before a segment of fans in the building where he’d built an All-America career, where he’d worked on the coaching staff for an NCAA champion and another team that missed by a single shot, began to chant of their desire to see him gone.
Who knows how many people it was on that night when the North Carolina Tar Heels were embarrassed at the DeanDome by rival Duke? It’s never clear whether it was a few or few hundred, but it was loud enough for those in attendance to notice. One might have dismissed it as the isolated frustration of a single evening were it not for the message board thread that began even before that game.
Sunday afternoon, after still another game of basketball, the 14th since the night the call to “Fire Hubert” became audible, Davis was reduced to tears. It wasn’t because people were saying more mean stuff about him. It was because he was about to join Frank McGuire, Dean Smith, Bill Guthridge and Roy Williams as coaches to lead North Carolina to the Final Four.
“It’s not just this game. It’s been a wild 11½ months,” Davis told reporters following the Tar Heels’ breezy 69-49 victory over Saint Peter’s in the NCAA Tournament East Region final. “And I’ve said a number of times, it’s so busy the last 11½ months I didn’t really have time to think. It was the first time that I could remember in the last 11½ months that I could take a deep breath. And it just came out.
“It’s not just this year. It’s everything: what this job has meant to me, how it’s impacted my wife and my kids, the players, their parents, recruiting … It’s just been a lot.”
Davis became North Carolina’s head coach last April, following Williams’ retirement. Davis had left a promising career as an analyst at ESPN to become an assistant coach nine years earlier with that as the unstated goal, but the Tar Heels program of which he took command was not in pristine condition. They’d gone 14-19 in 2019-20, and they were among the few elite programs that was unaffected by the cancellation of the 2020 NCAA Tournament. A year later, they earned a No. 8 NCAA seed and bowed out meekly in the first round.
Now, center Armando Bacot and forward Leaky Black, who endured those empty years, those UnCarolina years, are headed to the same venue, the Superdome in New Orleans, where Michael Jordan, James Worthy, Eric Montross and George Lynch all became NCAA champions. Davis becomes the first coach since Guthridge in 1998 to reach the Final Four in his “rookie” year as a head coach.
MORE: Betting trends to know ahead of Duke-UNC
“It’s something that I just desperately wanted for them. This was probably the most nervous that I was before the game, because I just really wanted them to go to the Final Four,” Davis said. “It’s something we had talked about at the beginning of the season. And in the huddle, I told them it’s not a hope, it Alabama vs. Auburn Rivalry Jerseys ’s not a dream anymore. It’s reality. For these guys to have this experience, to go to the Final Four, brings so much joy to my heart.”
It has not been a conventional journey. The Heels began this season with two one-sided losses in their first five games. They were embarrassed on network TV by Kentucky in a game just before Christmas. They began their ACC season at 4-3. They were humiliated at home by Duke in a 20-point defeat.
And then it got worse!
At home in mid-February against Pitt, which finished 13th in the ACC, the Heels were h Central State Marauders clothes andled by nine points. Pitt never won another game. Black said the team was being “laughed at” on social media. Who’s laughing now, though?
“It means everything, because since I’ve been here, my first two years, was just so tough,” Bacot said. “And people kind of pushed North Carolina to the side and saying how we were done and all this and that. And I'm just so glad to make it to the Final Four, finally, and kind of cement myself – we're not done yet, just so you know – cement myself and us as a team, me and Leaky, specifically, to be able to say we won.”
North Carolina was having none of this Cinderel Texas vs. Oklahoma Rivalry Jerseys la stuff that infected and impacted Kentucky, Murray State and Purdue in the tournament’s first three rounds. The Heels did not allow Saint Peter’s ever to consider the Final Four as a legitimate possibility. The Peacocks were 40 minutes away when the game began, Furman Paladins clothes same as Carolina, but in the first four minutes that dream had been erased.
TSN's M Chapman Panthers clothes ARCH MADNESS HQ
Live NCAA bracket | TV schedule | Predictor tool
At 17:33, Bacot converted a layup that made it 7-0. That was the largest deficit Saint Peter’s had faced in this tournament. That distinction would not stand for long. Peacocks coach Shaheen Holloway said he didn’t recognize his team in those first few minutes, that North Carolina was far more intense. Purdue had made the mistake of approaching the early stages of their Sweet 16 game gingerly, and it was obvious the Heels would not repeat it.
“I felt like over the last couple years we lost – I don’t know if it was the respect from other programs, from other teams,” Davis said. “It’s just really important for me, for those guys … I didn’t want them to have the experiences they’ve had the last couple years. That’s not typical North Carolina. And I want them to be respected. I want this program to be respected. And I feel like this year, we have moved in the right direction with that.
“It really isn’t about me at all. I’ve WVU vs. Pitt Rivalry Gear been to a Final Four as a player and a coach. I played at Carolina. I played Central Arkansas Bears shirt in the NBA. It’s not my time. It NCAA Spirit shirt ’s their time. The satisfaction that I have is when things work out for our kids. That’s what brings me joy. I don’t know how you do the job any other way.
“I am so happy right now. Because I can’t wait for them to walk into that stadium and see how big that place is. I can’t wait for them to see the hotel with their pictures all over the place … I can’t wait until they run out Texas vs. Oklahoma Rivalry shirt of that tunnel and it’s 80,000 watching them play. Like, I know what they’re going to see and experience. I think we’re scheduled to leave on Wednesday. I’d like to leave tonight.”