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North Carolina men’s basketball coach Hubert Davis is on the brink of history.
Davis’ Tar Heels team is set to get a third crack at longtime rival Duke on Saturday when the two teams face off in the Final Four. For Davis, some milestones come with a Final Four appearance.
The freshman head coach who succeeded 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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Dick Harp of Kansas was the first to accomplish the feat. He played under Phog Allen and took over the head coaching reins in 1956. Davis was part of the Tar Heels’ 1990-91 Final Four team that lost to the Jayhawks in the national semi-finals.
Davis is also the ninth men’s basketball head coach to take a team to a Final Four in his first season. He’s the first coach to do so since the late Bill Guthridge did it with North Carolina in 1998. Harp also hit the milestone in his freshman year in 1957.
He spoke about what the next milestones meant to him after North Carolina’s win over Saint Peter’s on Sunday night.
“Well, it was really emotional towards the end of the game when we can finally settle down and realize that these guys are going to a Final Four. It was something that I desperately wanted for them. That’s probably the most nervous that I was before a game, because I just wanted them to go to the Final Four. And that’s something that we talked about at the start of the season. And then in the huddle I told them that it’s not not a hope, it’s not a dream anymore, it’s a reality,” Davis said.
“And for those guys, having that experience, being able to go to the Final Four, brings so much joy to my heart.”
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He added that he was more satisfied knowing that North Carolina players could experience the moment of going to participate in the Final Four at Caesars Superdome in New Orleans.
“I know it might be hard to believe or understand, but it’s not about me at all. I’ve been in a Final Four as a player and as a coach. I played in 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 children, and that’s what brings me joy. And I don’t know how you do the job other than with a heart of service and appreciation for the children.
“It has nothing to do with me. It’s 100 per cent about them. And so I’m so happy right now because I can’t wait for them to come into this stadium and see how this place is big. I can’t wait for them to see the hotel with their pictures everywhere. I can’t wait to have that practice on Saturday and get that feeling, only four teams practice that day. And I can’t wait until they have no more tunnels 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 Ray Meyer of DePaul in 1943, Bill Hodges of Indiana State in 1979, Denny Crum of Louisville 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 team was the only coach to win the national championship.
Davis will also be part of a first for the storied rivalry between North Carolina and Duke. The two teams had never faced 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 that comes to mind is to celebrate with the rest of the players what just happened today. Next week will be next week. And we We’ll take care of it next week. But hey now, I don’t want to think about next week and lose the moment of today,” he said.
“There is so much joy and there is so much happiness, gratitude and appreciation. I want to stay there. There is enough time to go to our game next week. I want to enjoy today today.”
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The winner of North Carolina-Duke will face the winner of Kansas-Villanova for the national championship.