Davis demands intensity, which Tar Heels were loudly reminded of in practice Tuesday

By R.L. Bynum

CHARLOTTE — Coach Hubert Davis will demand intensity and attention to detail in every game and practice to get Carolina back to the Final Four.

When the effort doesn’t meet his standards, the Tar Heels will hear about it.

UNC is a team with that championship mentality because its stars welcome that accountability, knowing it will make them better.

There are obvious freakin’ differences between how Davis gets his team’s attention compared to Hall of Fame coach Roy Williams. There is no profanity. But the message is the same.

“It’s definitely different for him to be that vocal and not use any profanity and have that much energy,” RJ Davis said Wednesday at The Westin Charlotte for ACC Tipoff. “It’s crazy. It kind of scares you a little bit. You want to be sure you’re not going to slip up at one point. I’m pretty fascinated with it.”

During Tuesday’s practice at the Smith Center, Davis gave his team an earful after he saw some unfocused, sloppy play that he deemed unacceptable, even in a practice.

“It’s definitely different, but different in a good way,” RJ Davis said. “We definitely needed it.”

The white team, a group of mostly starters, including Armando Bacot, RJ Davis, Caleb Love and Puff Johnson, was repeatedly getting beat on both ends by a blue team consisting of three freshmen — Seth Trimble, Will Shaver and Tyler Nickel — along with Justin McKoy and Dontrez Styles.

After seeing the more experienced group repeatedly struggle, Coach Davis wasn’t about to let that continue and stopped practice with a loud message.

“The blue team, they were kicking our butts,” said Bacot, who couldn’t remember the fifth player playing on his team. “Coach, he really just got on us and was just gassing up to blue and telling them to keep kicking our butt, and that’s really all it was.”

Love said the white team missed three wide-open layups, and when he missed the third one, it “ticked off” Coach Davis.

“He holds all of us accountable, but particularly last practice,” Love said. “It was actually great to see because he can call me out. He knows that he can call me out on anything if I mess up or I make a mistake. I’m not perfect. And he always preaches that he’s not perfect as well. So we ran; he had put us on the line because we had missed layups. Coach Davis is great at that, keeping us level-headed and focused on the task at hand.”

The players clearly heard the message.

“He kind of got on us just because our attention to detail wasn’t there,” RJ Davis said. “Our energy wasn’t really there. It’s kind of emotional just to see him show that he cares. It changed the momentum of practice, and it turned out to be a good one.”

There are differences between how the players might define a loud exchange like the one in Tuesday’s practice and how Coach Davis would describe it. They might feel like he was calling them out, but that’s not how the second-year head coach sees it.

“If I stop practice, if I pull somebody aside, it’s not negative,” Coach Davis said. “One of the things that I always tell the guys is, I have never ever, ever, ever, ever called a player out. I am always, always, always, calling them up. I’m just calling them up because I want them to be the best that they can be. So, I’m never calling out a player. I’m calling them up with encouragement.”

Like another Hall of Fame coach, Dean Smith, Coach Davis has no trouble getting his message across without cursing.

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“It’s the same. It’s just no cursing,” Love said with a huge smile, comparing Davis’ authoritative rants to the ones he heard from Williams.

Like Smith, players often say that the way Davis delivers the message might have even more of an impact.

“That’s the only way I know how to communicate — straightforward and direct — I don’t speak in tongues or interpretation,” Davis said. “There’s no vagueness about me. So, I keep it real with the players and expect them to keep it real with me. And so that’s the only way I know how to communicate.”  

While the delivery style has changed from Williams to Davis, Bacot says one dynamic is the same. He said that Williams was the hardest on him and Davis is the same way. Bacot calls Davis a fiery competitor who will point out any mistake he notices, especially when Bacot is the offender. And Bacot is fine with that.

“He yells at me more than anybody. I guess I’m an easy person to yell at. They recruited me, and they knew all the coaches I played for. Keith Stevens, he was really hard on me,” Bacot said of his AAU coach, also mentioning one of his fiery coaches at IMG. “So, I think they know you’ve got to really talk to me in a certain way to get me going versus other guys that need encouragement. I’m more the opposite. I want you to come at me.”

Coach Hubert Davis is more than happy to oblige.

Carolina schedule

DateMonth/dayTime/scoreOpponent/event
(current ranking)
LocationTV/record
October
28FridayW, 101–40Johnson C. Smith HomeExhibition
November
7MondayW, 69–56UNCWHome1–0
11FridayW, 102–86College of CharlestonHome2–0
15TuesdayW, 72–66Gardner-WebbHome3–0
20SundayW, 80–64James MadisonHome4–0
Phil Knight Invitational
24ThursdayW, 89–81First round: PortlandPortland5–0
25FridayL, 70–65Semifinals:
Iowa State
Portland5–1
27SundayL, 103–101,
4 OTs
Consolation:
No. 18 Alabama
Portland5–2
ACC/Big Ten Challenge
30Wednesday9:15 No. 11 IndianaBloomington, Ind.ESPN
December
4Sunday3 p.m.Virginia TechBlacksburg, Va.ACCN
10Saturday3:15Georgia TechHomeESPN
13Tuesday7 p.m.The CitadelHomeESPN2
CBS Sports Classic
17Saturday3 p.m.Ohio StateNew YorkCBS
Jumpman Invitational
21Wednesday7 MichiganCharlotteESPN
30 Friday TBAPittsburghPittsburghACCN
January
4Wednesday9 p.m.Wake ForestHomeACCN
7Saturday11:30 a.m.Notre DameHomeESPN2
10Tuesday9 p.m.No. 5 VirginiaCharlottesvilleESPN or ESPN2
14Saturday2 p.m.LouisvilleLouisville, Ky.ESPN
17Tuesday7 p.m.Boston CollegeHomeRSN
21Saturday5 p.m.N.C. StateHomeACCN
24Tuesday9 p.m.SyracuseSyracuse, N.Y.ESPN
February
1Wednesday7 p.m.PittsburghHomeACCN
4Saturday6:30No. 8 DukeDurhamESPN
7Tuesday7 p.m.Wake ForestWinston-SalemESPN or ESPN2
11Saturday2 p.m.ClemsonHomeESPN or ESPN2
13Monday7 p.m.MiamiHomeESPN
19Sunday1 p.m.N.C. StateRaleighESPN
22Wednesday9 p.m.Notre DameSouth Bend, Ind.ESPN or ESPN2
25Saturday6 or 8No. 5 VirginiaHomeESPN
27Monday7 p.m.Florida StateTallahassee, Fla.ESPN
March
4Saturday6 or 6:30No. 8 DukeHomeESPN
ACC Tournament
7–11Tuesday-SaturdayTBATBAGreensboroTBA
If tickets for home games are available, you can purchase them here. ACCN means the game airs on ACC Network. RSN means the game airs on regional sports networks (in many cases, Bally Sports but also MASN, NESN and Yes Network.)

Photo courtesy of the ACC

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