Heartbreak not history for Hubert Davis

NEW ORLEANS — Hubert Davis Jr. had it all right in front of him, strand in hand on the ladder at the top of the college basketball world, basking in the sunshine of that one glowing moment he’d dreamed of all his life, all to himself and for his school.

North Carolina had a 15-point lead at halftime, meaning there was just 20 minutes between him and history as the first rookie coach to win a national championship.

Heartbreak for Hubert Davis Jr. instead.

The Kansas Jayhawks fail to bring back March Madness 2020 after being convinced they cut the nets at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.

But on this Monday night, they made the most of their golden opportunity with a Comeback For the Ages as they charged back, as dictated by the Spirit of Danny Manning and the Miracles, for a classic 72-69 win that came in the last, desperate minute was decided.

The brave Armando Bacot, playing on a butt and dominating the glass anyway, slipped and lost the ball, coming bounced up with 38.5 seconds left.

David McCormack bullied Brady Manek for a chippie indoors. Caleb Love, who played hero ball all night (5 on 24 from the field, 1 on 8 from range), missed another 3. Then Puff Johnson missed one with six seconds left, then Manek turned it over.

When the Jayhawks’ Dajuan Harris went wide, Carolina had six seconds left in their season.

Manek on a basic screen was the first option. He stumbled. Love launched an airball.

A dream realized, a dream shattered.

Hubert Davis comforts Brady Manek.
USA TODAY sports

A proud Hubert Davis Jr. comforted his howling players, saying, “I love being the head coach of North Carolina and coaching these kids.”

They loved playing for him.

Hubert Davis Jr. blew through obstacle after obstacle on his way to Dean Smith’s North Carolina, to the Knicks, to a 12-year NBA career, to ESPN, to Roy Williams’ North Carolina on his way to becoming the first black coach Michael Jordan’s alma mater.

No hurdle was greater for Hubert Davis Jr. when he lost his mother Bobbie to oral cancer at the age of 16.

This unique victory over himself would make all subsequent victories possible.

“He couldn’t understand why God would do something like that,” Hubert Davis Sr. told the Post Monday afternoon. “He just didn’t get it and was mad at God for doing that. It was difficult for him to accept that.”

A long time ago.

“I said, ‘Hubert, you need to go to church and talk to God about how you’re feeling and ask for His help.’ He started going to church, became a Christian, and man did you see the difference in him. His whole demeanor changed. He accepted it and he could talk about it a lot more.

“I said, ‘Hubert, if you keep thinking about the fact that your mother isn’t there anymore, instead of thinking about the fact that you had her for 16 years, then you’re going to start not dealing with the negative, but with that positives.’ And he started it. And it just helped him to live and accept that he doesn’t have a mother now and he was able to move on.”

Hubert Davis coached UNC to the national championship game.
Getty Images

He has never wondered how or why his driven son made it to his dream school. “We never discussed an NBA career,” Hubert Sr. said. “When Hubert was growing up, during high school, Hubert just wanted to play basketball for Carolina.”

Hubert Sr. chuckled at the memory of a phone call he would receive from Smith as Hubert Jr. redeemed his vows to show he belonged on Chapel Hill. “Show you what I know,” Smith said.

Hubert Jr. called his father to inform him that Williams was resigning. “I said, ‘Hubert, if he recommends you, and that’s something you want to do, you have to accept it. Because if you don’t, you won’t forgive yourself for the rest of your life,'” said Hubert Sr.

Bill Self and Hubert Davis
USA TODAY sports

Hubert Sr. was at the Duke game on Saturday but had to fly back to his home in Burke, Virginia on Monday because he couldn’t get a return flight on Tuesday. “We were right there,” said Hubert Davis Sr. at midnight.

Still proud as Heel.

“I’m focusing on the fact that you’re black, yes you’re the first black coach in North Carolina history,” Hubert Sr said. “But going to be one of the best coaches North Carolina has ever had.

“You focus on that and everything else will take care of itself.”

In the end, everything fell into place for father and son. You have overcome heartbreak greater than this. Heartbreak not history for Hubert Davis


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