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.


“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

(current ranking)
28FridayW, 101–40Johnson C. Smith HomeExhibition
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
27SundayL, 103–101,
4 OTs
No. 1 Alabama
ACC/Big Ten Challenge
30WednesdayL, 77–65 No. 21 IndianaBloomington, Ind.5–3
4SundayL, 80–72 Virginia TechBlacksburg, Va.5–4,
0–1 ACC
10SaturdayW, 75–59Georgia TechHome6–4,
1–1 ACC
13TuesdayW, 100–67The CitadelHome7–4
CBS Sports Classic
17SaturdayW, 89–84, OTOhio StateNew York8–4
Jumpman Invitational
21WednesdayW, 80–76MichiganCharlotte9–4
30 Friday L, 76–74PittsburghPittsburgh9–5,
1–2 ACC
4WednesdayW, 88–79Wake ForestHome10–5,
2–2 ACC
7SaturdayW, 81–64Notre DameHome11–5,
3–2 ACC
10TuesdayL, 65–58No. 14 VirginiaCharlottesville11–6,
3–3 ACC
14SaturdayW, 80–59LouisvilleLouisville, Ky.12–6,
4–3 ACC
17TuesdayW, 72–64Boston CollegeHome13–6,
5–3 ACC
21SaturdayW, 80–69N.C. StateHome14–6,
6–3 ACC
24TuesdayW, 72–68SyracuseSyracuse, N.Y.15–6,
7–3 ACC
1WednesdayL, 65–64PittsburghHome15–7,
7–4 ACC
4SaturdayL, 63–57No. 12 DukeDurham15–8,
7–5 ACC
7TuesdayL, 92–85Wake ForestWinston-Salem15–9,
7–6 ACC
11SaturdayW, 91–71ClemsonHome 16–9,
8–6 ACC
13MondayL, 80–72No. 16 MiamiHome16–10,
8–7 ACC
19SundayL, 77–69N.C. StateRaleigh16–11,
8–8 ACC
22WednesdayW, 63–59Notre DameSouth Bend, Ind.17–11,
9–8 ACC
25SaturdayW, 71–63No. 14 VirginiaHome18–11,
10–8 ACC
27MondayW, 77–66Florida StateTallahassee, Fla.19–11,
11–8 ACC
4SaturdayL, 62–57No. 12 DukeHome19–12,
11–9 ACC
ACC tournament
8WednesdayW, 85–61Boston CollegeGreensboro20–12
9ThursdayL, 68–59No. 14 Virginia Greensboro20–13

Photo courtesy of the ACC


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