It's not an April Fool's Joke, Tar Heels fans: North Carolina Hall of Fame basketball coach Roy Williams announced that he would retire Thursday in a stunning development. At Kansas and then his alma mater UNC, Williams compiled a 903-264 record in 33 seasons, reached nine Final Fours and won three national championships – all three titles with the Tar Heels and last in 2017. Williams is the only coach in NCAA history to post 400 wins at two different schools. SportsLine offers early odds on Williams' potential replacement in Chapel Hill, and Hubert Davis and Wes Miller stand apart.
Williams, whose 903 wins are third-most all-time, entered the 2021 NCAA Tournament with an impossible 29-0 record in first-round games, but his eighth-seeded Tar Heels were blown out by No. 9 Wisconsin on March 19 in South Region action – the region eventually won by top-seeded Baylor, which routed the Badgers in the Round of 32. The Heels were disappointing 18-11 overall this season.
The easiest move that North Carolina could make to preserve continuity is to promote assistant coach Davis to replace Williams. Davis was a star player for the Tar Heels from 1988-92 under Dean Smith, had a very solid NBA playing career and has been an assistant to Williams for nine seasons.
The 50-year-old Davis (51 in May) is considered a top-notch recruiter. He does not have head coaching experience, but putting a former star alum with NBA cache into the top spot without any head coaching experience worked out just fine for Michigan with Juwan Howard. For what it's worth, Davis has served as the head coach of the UNC junior varsity team.
If not promoting Davis, how about fellow assistant Steve Robinson? He is the second-longest-tenured assistant in UNC history behind only Bill Guthridge (30 years). Robinson, also a terrific recruiter, served two stints as an assistant at Kansas under Williams (1988-1995 and 2002-2003) and was a head coach at Tulsa and Florida State, finishing with a 110-104 record and three NCAA Tournament berths. However, Robinson will be 64 in October, which hugely works against him.
Vanderbilt coach Jerry Stackhouse also was a star with the Heels and has even more NBA cache than Davis does as Stack was a two-time All-Star, served as an assistant coach in the league for a few years and was the NBA D-league Coach of the Year in 2017 for Raptors 905. Vandy is just 20-37 in his two seasons, though.
UNC Greensboro is located about 50 miles from Chapel Hill, and the Spartans' head coach Miller certainly will get a long look if the job isn't handed to Davis. Miller played three seasons at North Carolina under Williams (2004-07) and helped lead the Heels to the national championship in 2005. He was team captain as a senior in 2006-07.
Miller has turned UNC Greensboro into the pre-eminent program in the Southern Conference as the Spartans have won at least 20 games five straight seasons, were regular-season champions three times in that span and reached the NCAA Tournament twice – including this year, when UNC Greensboro was a No. 13 seed and lost 64-54 in the first round to No. 4 Florida State.
North Carolina is a Top 5 job in the country, maybe the best, so school officials surely will at least ask the likes of the Boston Celtics' Brad Stevens, Villanova's Jay Wright, Virginia's Tony Bennett, Gonzaga's Mark Few, Baylor's Scott Drew, Alabama's Nate Oats and Maryland's Mark Turgeon.
Kansas' Bill Self was originally a longer-shot on this odds list, but he has been removed after agreeing to a lifetime -- yes, lifetime -- contract with the school on Friday. His current deal, set to expire next March, is being replaced with a new five-year rolling agreement that automatically adds one year at the conclusion of each season. Interesting considering that Self's program is facing serious NCAA violations.
Chris Beard would have been on this list, but he left Texas Tech for his alma mater Texas on Thursday. Stevens, Wright, Bennett, Few and Drew have given no indication they would leave their current positions – Drew had also been mentioned for the Texas opening.
Via SportsLine oddsmakers: Who will be the next North Carolina basketball coach?
- Hubert Davis Even
- Wes Miller +200
- Jerry Stackhouse +700
- Tony Bennett +900
- Jay Wright +1200
- Nate Oats +1400
- Scott Drew +1500
- Steve Robinson +1800
- Mark Turgeon +2000
- Mark Few +2500
- Rick Pitino +3000
- Brad Stevens +3500
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