Coach Hubert Davis leads North Carolina men, steadied by 'my relationship with Jesus'

North Carolina head coach Hubert Davis has been at the helm of one of college basketball’s most distinguished programs for nearly three seasons now — and what an eventful three seasons they’ve been.

Davis’s first in 2021-22 saw his Tar Heels ride the NCAA Tournament bubble for much of the year before catching fire in late February. They were given a No. 8 seed and advanced all the way to the national championship game before losing to Kansas. That run shot expectations through the roof for 2022-23, with a preseason No. 1 ranking and four of five starters returning, yet inconsistency plagued the team all season. North Carolina finished 20-13 and just outside of the NCAA Tournament field.

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Davis had to re-tool his team through the transfer portal during the offseason, and the 2023-24 Tar Heels have rebounded in a big way. They are 21-6, a game ahead of rival Duke for first place in the ACC standings, and have been a mainstay in the national top 10 since December.

Carolina has now won two straight following a mid-season lull that saw the team lose three out of five, and as the calendar turns to March this Friday, fans everywhere are wondering what’s in store for Davis and his Tar Heels this time around. ESPN projects North Carolina to receive a No. 2 seed in this season’s NCAA Tournament.

Davis’ coaching performance this season has earned him a spot on the 2024 Naismith Men’s Coach of the Year watch list, which includes the 15 head coaches who will be considered for coach of the year. For Davis, however, personal accomplishments have never been why he got into coaching.

In 2014 while an assistant coach at Carolina, he said on the “UNPACKIN’ it” podcast that “the reason why I made this decision [leaving ESPN to return to North Carolina as an assistant], No. 1, is this is where I felt like Christ wanted me and my family to go. Wherever He wants us to go, I’m following Him. I’m not going any other direction. … This is not a job, it feels like a mission field, a ministry opportunity.”

He continued later, “I’m here to serve and shed light on and be an example for Christ.”

It’s a light, Davis said during his first year as head coach, that he shares with his players.

“I do this job,” he said, “because I feel like Jesus has given me this opportunity to be in these kids’ lives and to help them — to coach them — to be the best that they can be on the court, in the classroom and in the community.”

Davis often cited the Bible verse Proverbs 4:25 to help focus his team during Carolina’s unforgettable run to the title game as a No. 8 seed in 2022.

“I kept giving them Proverbs 4:25, (paraphrased) keep your eyes straight ahead; ignore all sideshow distractions,” Davis said after beating Duke in March 2022. “Every day on the practice plan, I put in Proverbs 4:25.”

Davis is one of the most outspoken followers of Christ in college basketball. Despite his team’s wild swings on the court, he remains steady because he’s built his house on the Rock.

“The foundation of who I am is my relationship with Jesus,” he said at the 2022 Final Four. “Whether it’s coaching, whether it’s my marriage, whether it’s my three kids, decision-making, everything is filtered through my faith. I can’t do anything without it.”

Davis is anchored by his faith in the never-changing God of the universe, even as college basketball experts update brackets after seemingly every game. A lot of madness is still to come in the following month, but for Davis and his team, they have their sights set straight ahead.

Three home games remain for the Tar Heels before their regular-season finale at Duke in what is likely to be another top-10 matchup. First up, Miami (15-13) visits Chapel Hill on Monday at 7 p.m. ET.

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