Florida Man: UNC made right hire, but will it work out?
Each week, Rivals national basketball analyst and very own Florida Man, Rob Cassidy, takes readers around the hoops recruiting world, touching on news, notes and developments that relate to prospects and teams from coast to coast.
2023 Rankings: Top 30
THOUGHT OF THE WEEK: Hubert Davis was the right hire, but will it be a successful one?
In 2017, everyone that covers college basketball lined up to proclaim Archie Miller a slam-dunk hire at Indiana and squeal about the bright future in Bloomington. It’s hard to blame them. The fit made sense. The Hoosiers were back on the road to Big Ten dominance and the national stage - right up until they weren't. In the end, Miller went 33-45 in conference play, never made the NCAA Tournament and was unceremoniously fired earlier this year.
Point is, nobody really knows how coaching hires will shake out long term, so the best endorsement I can give North Carolina’s decision to promote assistant Hubert Davis to replace Roy Williams is to say it’s the exact move I would have made if I were making the decisions.
Whether or not it’s smart will be revealed in time, but there was no need to get crazy with this hire.
The last thing the Tar Heels program needed after a pandemic-plagued 18-11 season that most saw as mediocre - along with the sudden transfer of star freshman Walker Kessler - was another upheaval of any sort. This hire needed to be about stability. It needed to be about continuity. It needed to be about keeping the roster together. This was, in every imaginable way, a don’t-screw-up-a-good-thing decision.
So enter Davis, who has served as a Williams assistant for nine seasons and won’t be tempted to tinker with much by implementing change for the sake of change. Instead, the low-risk hire flies in the face of a chaotic college basketball storefront that currently features endless coaching turnover, FBI wiretaps, NCAA investigations and thousands of transfers hanging from the light fixtures overhead.
The 50-year-old Davis is a sturdy table in a quiet corner of an otherwise chaotic house. Davis is zen. He’s the right hire to keep North Carolina’s current roster out of the transfer portal and the right guy to provide continuity in the recruiting trail, something a program like UNC, which recruits almost exclusively against other bluebloods, desperately needs. Instability is everywhere in 2021 … except in Chapel Hill, where -- even after the departure of a hall-of-fame coach -- it’s business as usual. Will Davis succeed as the 19th head coach in North Carolina history? Who knows? I’m no longer dumb enough to venture guesses on such things, but the logic of the hire checks out.
RANKINGS QUESTION OF THE WEEK: Is Jalen Duren No. 1?
It’s becoming increasingly obvious that we here at Rivals are headed for a Jalen Duren-vs.-Emoni Bates debate at the top of the 2022 class, as Duren continues to make a case for the No. 1 spot. Last week, the 6-foot-10 center led his team to a national title at the Geico Nationals event in Fort Myers, Fla, and the more you see Duren thrive against top-flight competition the easier it is to imagine him as the top prospect in the class.
Duren’s nine-point, nine-rebound performance against Sunrise Christian in the final doesn't pop off the box score, but the five-star big has been a double-double machine all season and impacts games in more ways than any other player in the country. Duren has spent 2021 thriving against almost exclusively Division-I bound competition and becoming a more complete defender with better touch around the rim.
I’ve seen the future pro in person on four occasions this year and came away from each game a little more convinced that he has a rightful claim to the top spot. Nothing is set in stone on the rankings front until they’re released, obviously, but there’s a discussion to be had here. The Duren chorus seems to be getting louder by the day.
GET READY FOR ANOTHER ROUND OF GONZAGA-MANIA
The answer to the question “Can mighty Gonzaga finish off a perfect 2020-21 season and win the national title?” was a resounding “No.” The Zags were power-bombed by juggernaut Baylor on Monday night and went home with the memory of a 16-point loss and the title of national runners-up.
But that doesn’t mean we have to stop talking about the Zags' quest for perfection. Instead, we can look ahead. Mark Few’s program is on the verge of another influx of talent that includes five-star point guard Hunter Sallis and four-star big Kaden Perry, along with top prospect and the possible top pick in the 2022 NBA Draft, Chet Holmgen, who is thought to be heavily favoring the Bulldogs. Oh, there’s also the fact that North Carolina transfer Walker Kessler is seriously considering Spokane as a landing spot. For that reason, Monday night’s loss didn’t feel like the end as much as it did a brief stopping point.
The can-they-run-the-table discussion isn’t dead. It’s simply on hold for a couple months. Few’s best recruiting haul of all time will add to a roster with some nice leftover pieces in place despite Jalen Suggs, Corey Kispert and Joel Ayayi likely departing for the NBA. Standouts Drew Timme and Andrew Nembhard could very well end up back in Spokane in 2022. If that happens, we can neatly pick up the Gonzaga narrative right where it left off Monday.