Heel Tough Blog: Picking Roy's Successor
Updated: Apr 4
I would just like to say “Thank You” to Roy Williams. I’m pretty young so Roy Williams is all I have really known as far as Carolina basketball goes. To me, he is Carolina Basketball. I remember going to the Smith Center after the 2005 championship to welcome the players back, being in the Smith Center watching the ‘09 championship and partying on Franklin Street as a student in ‘17. I remember Paige’s heartfelt senior speech and being at Late Night with Roy when they unveiled the ‘17 championship banner. It was heartbreaking to watch Roy’s press conference on Thursday afternoon. I was hoping to tune in and for someone to say April’s fools. When Roy said he no longer thought he was the best man for the job, I felt my heart clinch. How much love do you have to have for that program to step down because you no longer think you are the right guy? How much love do you have for a program that you resign when you still have coaching left in you but you think the program would be better if someone else was at the helm? The current business and atmosphere pushed one the greatest coaches out. The attitude of today’s players pushed a hall of fame coach out. The AAU circuit and NBA is ruining what college basketball is supposed to be about, but that is another topic for another day. You will not find someone else that loves that university more than Roy Williams. When you go to school there and walk that campus for 4 years you have a different kind of love for Carolina. It is a different relationship when you are constantly in the Smith Center, or Kenan Stadium or walking down Franklin Street or chilling on the quad. Carolina feels like home whenever you go back.
That program is truly a family and it is rooted in so much tradition. Roy said in his press conference that he spoke extensively with Bubba and the chancellor about what direction he wanted this program to go in. Bubba said that him, the chancellor and Roy would be making the decision on who the next head coach will be. Bubba has said he has reached out to former players to ask them about who they think should be next to take the reigns of one of college basketball’s greatest programs. That is family. There will be no search committee and it was stated that they want to name a new coach quickly. Bubba stated that the job is open to everyone and that head coaching experience is preferred but not required. With all that is listed above, it is hard to imagine that the choice doesn’t stay within the Carolina Basketball family. Roy loves the traditions at Carolina and I bet he would love to see those continue. Carolina as an athletic department is as rooted in family as it’s ever been. Scott Forbes took over for Mike Fox with no external search and we brought back Mack Brown to lead our football program. Several former players came with him. I would be shocked if we picked an outsider, but it is worth exploring all the possibilities.
Hubert Davis seems to be the first choice in a lot of people’s minds. He left ESPN to take an assistant position under Roy. He has been on the staff since 2012 and would probably allow for the easiest transition. It is well known that he is a player favorite and he has some name recognition. He played under Dean Smith and spent 12 years in the NBA. The younger guys probably know him from being an analyst at ESPN. He was also heavily involved in the recruitment of a lot of the players on the current roster. Davis loves North Carolina and Roy has spoken highly of him. He has no head coaching experience, but the players like him so I would be more than happy if Hubert took the reigns.
Wes Miller is right up there with Hubert Davis. Wes was on the 2005 championship team and Roy has said he was a player that most reached his potential. He has also said that Miller would be picked up by a power 5 school in the next couple of years so why not bring him home? Miller has coached at Elon, High Point and UNCG. Miller has been the coach at UNC Greensboro since 2011 and amassed a 182-134 record with two NCAA Tournament appearances. UNCG has finished in the top-three of the SoCon five years running. The Spartans have enjoyed five straight seasons with 20-plus wins. He's 38, and probably one of the five best coaches under 45 in the sport. He is smart and his players play hard for him. UNC would provide him the talent he would need to turn the corner. Him and Davis would be ideal “player coaches.” Miller would be a great option as he would be more relatable to the players. He would also be able to stay at Carolina for a while considering his age if he has success. He would provide stability. Miller is honestly my pick. I loved watching him play. He has a blue collar work ethic. I would love to see him take the reins.
Stackhouse’s name has been thrown around due to him being a former player with some head coaching experience. Stackhouse just finished up his second season at Vandy, but his record gives you room for pause.He is 20-37 overall and 6-28 in SEC play. He does have assistant coaching experience in the NBA with Toronto and Memphis which could be good for recruiting, but one and dones aren’t going to get this program back to where it needs to be. He obviously has name recognition, but that doesn’t seem to be helping him at Vandy. Would it help him at Carolina?
Robinson has been an assistant to Roy for 19 seasons. He has served in a head coaching role several times at Carolina when Roy was battling vertigo. He is steady and experienced. He is older and i’m not sure if he necessarily wants the job. Before joining Roy, Robinson spent time at Tulsa where he notched a 46-18 record and took the Golden Hurricane to the NCAA tournament in both seasons. Robinson then went to Florida State, where he spent five seasons and finished 64-86. That second record gives you room for pause as his success at Tulsa didn’t transfer to a bigger program. Again Robinson would be an option that would allow for an easy transition like Hubert Davis. The coaching staff would probably remain the same and the guys already have familiarity with him.
Rice is a former player who played for Dean Smith. He has been the coach at Monmouth since 2012 where he has amassed a 161-154 record which isn’t very impressive. Rice seems like a long shot candidate but it is someone within the Carolina family that has head coaching experience.
Haase was an assistant under Roy at Carolina from 2003-2012. He went on to take the head coaching job at UAB and took them to the NCAA in 2015, but he has yet to get Stanford into the big dance. Haase played for Roy at Kansas and was an assistant at Kansas before following Roy to Carolina. He hasn’t had the successful people were hoping for at Stanford, but has managed to get some good recruits, mostly recently zaire williams. He has head coaching experience and keeps it within the Carolina coaching fraternity, although he isnt an alumni.
Outside the Carolina Family:
Scott Drew is worth a look as him or Mark Few will most likely have a title to their name after the NCAA tournament wraps up. Drew took the Baylor program from zero to hero. Drew has been at Baylor for 18 years and has 9 tournament appearances and has the bears in the Final Four for the first time in 71 years. Drew has won in a variety of ways. He's recruited and developed high schoolers, found impact transfers, relied on the perimeter and leaned on the frontcourt. He is equipped to handle the roster turnover that the Carolina program has seen recently. Drew is in the middle of football country and may enjoy being at a school that is known for its basketball program. But will Carolina look at him and will he want to leave what he has built at Baylor?
Oats is another hot young commodity in college basketball. Like Drew he has turned a basketball program from nothing to something in the middle of football country. Oats took Alabama to the Sweet 16 and made the Crimson Tide champions of the SEC in just two seasons. He did this without extensive recruiting in the heart of southern football country. Oats’ buyout is rumored to be around $10 million which is most likely a no go for Carolina considering we can get other coaches who have been just as successful for less.
I only mention Turgeon because of his connection to Roy and Roy’s influence in the process. Turgeon was on his staff at Kansas and he thanked him in his press conference on Thursday. Turgeon is currently the coach at Maryland and has said he has no interest in the Oklahoma vacancy. He has a 221-113 record at Maryland and a 471-272 overall record. He has taken Maryland to the tournament in 5 of the last 7 seasons (one of those missed seasons had no tournament). He has only gotten to the sweet 16 twice (once with Wichita State and once with Maryland).
Outside the Carolina Family that are big names (college):
Jay Wright as the next head coach is fun to think about but probably isn’t very likely to happen. He has turned down NBA jobs and has turned Villanova into a basketball powerhouse in recent years. He has 2 national championships and has turned Villanova into a household name in college basketball. It would be hard to lure him away from Villanova but it is probably at least worth a phone call.
Mark Few is also fun to think about as the next head coach. He isn’t as unlikely to happen as Wright, but I still see him being a long shot. Like Wright, he has turned Gonzaga into a consistent top 10 program in recent years and the only thing missing from his resume is a championship. I strongly believe him or Drew will get that championship this year. Either way, Few will be coming off of a one loss Final Four season or an undefeated championship season. Both are very impressive. Few has said he likes living on the West Coast and it would be hard to lure him away from what he has built at Gonzaga. Him and Roy are good friends though which is possibly the reason Few may give the job a look. The West Coast isnt as big on college basketball as the east coast and while Gonzaga is considered a top tier program now it doesn’t have the tradition and following that UNC has. Again he is worth a phone call, and I would be happy to have him. I just don’t think it is going to happen.
Tony Bennett seems even less possible than Wright or Few. He won a championship in 2019 and Virginia has dominated the ACC in recent years. He is the winningest coach in the ACC 7 seasons running. He has turned Virginia back into a big name in college basketball. His style of play also doesn’t really fit Carolina and I personally would not want to watch Bennett ball all the time. He is a great coach and a great guy, but I don’t necessarily think he is a good fit. If our player’s didn’t like Roy’s system then they definitely wouldn’t like Bennett’s.
Outside the Carolina Family (NBA):
Billy Donovan is another intriguing name that has been thrown around. Donovan is currently in his first season with the Bulls. He has been in the NBA since 2015 and was previously with the Thunder. Before that he won back-to-back national championships at Florida. Donovan has long coveted the Carolina job and has said if the job was open before he took the Bulls job that he might have considered it. It is hard to imagine Carolina would be able to lure him back to college basketball after not even being with the Bulls for one whole season.
Brad Stevens’ name has been thrown around by a lot of people. Stevens left Butler after the 2013 seasons to take the head coaching job with the Boston Celtics. Stevens had a 166-49 record at Butler and was runner-up in back to back seasons in 2009-2010 and 2010-2011. Stevens turned down the Indiana job and has said he has no interest in going back to the college game. Stevens has been fairly successful in the NBA as the Celtics have gotten to the conference finals in 3 of the last 4 seasons. Stevens seems even less likely than Donovan to leave the NBA.
At the end of the day, the players have to buy into what the next coach will try to do, if they don’t then nothing will change. The lack of buy-in is what pushed Roy out the door after all.
Roy's Boys Podcast: