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North Carolina men’s basketball coach Hubert Davis is on the precipice of history.
Davis’ Tar Heels squad is about to get a third crack at longtime rival Duke on Saturday when the two teams square off in the Final Four. For Davis, some milestones come with an appearance at the Final Four.
The first-year head coach who took over for the legendary Roy Williams, who retired last season, will become the second men’s basketball head coach in NCAA history to make a Final Four as a player and coach in a Final Four with their alma mater.
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Kansas’ Dick Harp was the first to accomplish the feat. He played under Phog Allen and took over the head coaching kidneys from him in 1956. Davis was on the Tar Heels’ 1990-91 Final Four team that lost to the Jayhawks in the national semifinal.
Davis is also the ninth men’s basketball head coach to take a team to a Final Four in their first season. He’s the first coach to do so since the late Bill Guthridge did it with North Carolina in 1998. Harp also completed the milestone in his first year in 1957.
He talked about what the forthcoming milestones meant to him after North Carolina defeated Saint Peter’s on Sunday night.
“Well, it was really emotional toward the end of the game when we can finally settle in and realize that these guys are going to a Final Four. It was something that I just desperately wanted for them. This is probably the most nervous I was before a game, because I just really wanted them to go to the Final Four. And it’s something that we had talked about at the beginning of the season. And then in the huddle I told them that it’s not a hope, it’s not a dream anymore, it’s a reality,” Davis said.
“And for these guys to have this experience, to be able to go to the Final Four, brings so much joy to my heart.”
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He added that he got more satisfaction knowing the North Carolina players were able to experience the moment of going to compete in the Final Four at the Caesars Superdome in New Orleans.
“I know maybe it’s hard to believe or understand, but it really isn’t about me at all. I’ve been to a Final Four as a player and as a coach. I played at Carolina. I played in the NBA. It’s not my time; it’s their time,” Davis said. “And so the satisfaction that I have is when things work out for our kids, and that’s what brings me joy. And I don’t know how you do the job any other way but with a heart of service and appreciation for the kids.
“This has nothing to do about me. This is 100% about them. And so 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 to have that practice on Saturday and have that feeling, only four teams are practicing that day. And I can’t wait until they run out of that tunnel and it’s 80,000 watching them play.”
The other seven coaches who made a Final Four in their first season as head coach of their program were DePaul’s Ray Meyer in 1943, Indiana State’s Bill Hodges in 1979, Louisville’s Denny Crum in 1972, Michigan’s Steve Fisher in 1989, Oklahoma’s Bruce Drake in 1939 , Texas’ Bully Gilstrap in 1943 and Wichita State’s Gary Thompson in 1965.
Fisher of the 1989 Wolverines squad was the lone coach to win the national championship.
Davis is also going to be a part of a first for the storied rivalry between North Carolina and Duke. The two teams had never faced off against each other in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.
But Davis said he was just trying to savor the win for now and focus on the Blue Devils later in the week.
“I haven’t thought about it at all. The only thing on my mind is celebrating with the rest of the players on what just happened today. Next week will be next week. And we’ll deal with that next week. But right now I don’t want to think about next week and lose the moment of today,” he said.
“There’s so much joy and there’s so much happiness and thankfulness and appreciation. I want to stay there. There’s enough time to go to our game next week. I want to enjoy today.”
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The winner of North Carolina-Duke will play the winner of Kansas-Villanova for the national championship.