By R.L. Bynum
Either of the most likely candidates to replace legendary Hall of Fame coach Roy Williams at North Carolina — Wes Miller or Hubert Davis — would be terrific choices because neither would ever leave their alma mater for another job.
Anybody who thinks that UNC athletics director Bubba Cunningham will hire somebody from outside the “Carolina basketball family” is probably wrong.
There is another UNC alum who might be in the conversation in Vanderbilt coach Jerry Stackhouse, along with current assistant coach Steve Robinson and Stanford coach Jerod Haase, a former Williams assistant at UNC who played for him at Kansas.
But the best choice for the program would be Miller, 38, the UNCG coach who played for Williams from 2004–07 and built a Southern Conference power since taking over the Spartans program in 2011. UNCG has earned two league titles and five postseason berths under Miller, including as a No. 13 seed in this year’s NCAA tournament.
Davis, who played at UNC from 1988–92 and holds the record for career 3-point-shooting percentage, has been on Williams’ staff since 2012.
Davis would be a solid choice as well. But, at 50, he’s 12 years older than Miller. If he’s successful, he could still have a long career as UNC’s head coach. But given Miller’s age, he could coach in Chapel Hill for 30 or more years and build quite a legacy.
That legacy could never compare to Dean Smith or Roy Williams but, for reference, Smith was 30 when he became UNC’s head coach in 1961. Miller could build his legacy.
Miller and Davis both know Williams’ system inside and out and would make the basketball side of the transition smooth. Miller has also shown the ability to adjust that system to the talent he had available at UNCG.
Would Miller be more willing to let a player such as Walker Kessler become more of a stretch-four big man who is allowed to take perimeter shots? Without this flexibility, that may have been one reason that Kessler entered the transfer portal.
Miller changes defenses frequently and loves for his teams to press.
Interestingly enough, Miller’s brother Walker just entered the transfer portal.
Davis’ advantage over Wes Miller is his experience on the recruiting trail for UNC. Miller couldn’t recruit the same level of players for UNCG. In addition, in a world where players increasingly are more focused on a pro career, Davis’ 14 seasons in the NBA would likely be relatable to the highest-level recruits.
Robinson has been at Williams’ side since 2003 and was on Williams’ Kansas staff for seven seasons. His difficult tenure as the Florida State coach (64–86 in five seasons) and the fact that he isn’t a UNC alum probably hurts his chances.
If Miller or Davis gets the job, they’d be smart to keep Robinson on the staff but, at age 63, Robinson might decide it’s time for him to retire as well.
Some might say that Miller isn’t ready. Was Williams ready when Kansas hired him with no varsity college head coaching experience? Williams, like Miller is now, was 38.
This will be the most important hire of Cunningham’s tenure in Chapel Hill. He made a home-run hire when he brought back Mack Brown to coach the football team.
This time, the home-run hire would be Miller.