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Lucas: Experienced – University of North Carolina Athletics

By Adam Lucas

On April 1, Roy Williams announced his retirement.

This April 1, Hubert Davis will take the Tar Heels through open practice at the Superdome in New Orleans as one of four participating teams in the Final Four on Friday.

I really think these might be the most remarkable 12 months in Carolina basketball history. An era ended abruptly. A new era has begun. Players have left and players have arrived. Davis put a photo of the Superdome in the players’ locker on the first day of practice. . Fans returned after a pandemic season. Defeats. Victories. Final Four, and now players will see that spot they saw in the locker room photo in real life in a few days (also excited to see the Superdome: Hubert Daviswho hasn’t played or coached there in person, and was giddy Sunday night at the thought of going through this with his team).

The most unfortunate thing about all of this is that some people will mistakenly believe it was easy. You see, the Carolina name wins on its own! Just roll the balls and the Tar Heels will go to the Final Four. It’s so simple!

If you can’t remember anything else from the 2022 Final Four season, which incidentally isn’t over yet, remember this: it was tough. Hubert Davis had to shout and Hubert Davis should encourage and Hubert Davis had to coach Through the efforts of Davis and his coaching staff, the Tar Heels have transformed before our eyes into one of the top four college basketball teams.

It’s not always going to be like this, not all seasons will go so well in theaters.

But this one did.

I would like to stop here to remind you that a national “expert” proclaimed Davis on the 16thand best coach among the 16 head coaches in the Sweet 16. Thank goodness Davis is better at his job than some columnists are at ranking coaches.

And Davis still insists it’s not about him. He has said all along – and he will say it again this week in front of the national media – that he sees his job as a coach as missionary work, that it is about providing experiences for players (By the way, Coach Davis, you also provide experiences for people over 55. In the aftermath of Sunday’s win, Jeff Lebo– who has never been to a Final Four as a player or coach – gleefully told anyone who would listen: “Forty years of kicking for that!” as he happily freaked around the court at the Wells Fargo Center).

Hubert Davis wants players to have experience, and they have. They played Uno on the bus (Love and Bacot are particularly intense gamers, as you’d expect) and bought cowboy hats in Fort Worth and did Tik Toks and they became gamers we’ll watch every time they come back to Chapel Hill and say, “That’s him. He was on the 2022 team. Hubert’s freshman year. Made it to the Final Four. It was amazing.”

It was that kind of March, and it was absolutely fantastic. It’s Carolina Basketball, but it’s Carolina Basketball mixed with a bit of sass, fun, and pure, unbridled joy. I will look at Hubert Davis hug these Tar Heel starters one by one as they roll off the Philadelphia field in an endless loop.

It’s real. It’s actually so happy, so emotional, inside the Tar Heel basketball circle. How happy is that? Sunday’s victory celebration over Saint Peter’s wasn’t complete until one of the wives of a member of the coaching staff—I’ll leave her unnamed here, but she knows who she is and you can’t hide his talent – completed four full cartwheels, right there in the basketball office. Four, of course, representing the Final Four, where the Tar Heels are heading.

After Friday’s victory over UCLA, the Tar Heels had less than 48 hours to prepare for the regional final. Hubert Davis had told his team that he wanted them to savor those NCAA Tournament victories, and so the whole team and their families lingered long after midnight outside a meeting room on the second floor, talking and laughing and… enjoying. And then a few days later they came out and overpowered another opponent and did it all again.

I don’t think Davis knows that, but maybe he does because I think he’s more part of the real world than a lot of coaches. He is someone who took the time to go out to dinner with his family during the weekend of the regional final. All of his kids were there, and one day you could have kids that age and you’ll know that every time they’re all together is wonderful, and no matter where you are or what you’re doing, when they’re all somewhere together , this is my house. So Davis made sure the family went to dinner, the five of them. Between UCLA and Saint Peter waxing, of course.

But let’s get back to what the Tar Heel head coach may or may not know: he provides these experiences for his players, and we are grateful for that. Brady Manek now has something in common with Charlie Scott and Antawn Jamison and Marcus Paige, something they’ll talk about at the Smith Center in upcoming Tar Heel Summers.

Here’s the thing, though: Hubert Davis also gives us these experiences. I don’t know where you were or how you looked at Sunday’s 69-49 win. But I bet something happened that you will remember for a very long time, with someone who matters to you.

We live it differently now, there are as many group texts and FaceTimes as there are meetings to watch a match together, it’s always so nice.

Friday night in our family texting group after the UCLA game, we received a video of our oldest son, shirtless, waving a towel around his head and screaming. We all understood.

Sunday night, while plans were underway for New Orleans, our youngest daughter texted, “It’s a once in a lifetime thing that you do every day. about five years.” Sometimes more often. But no need to insist.

She’s from Nashville and we’ll all be together in New Orleans and for this weekend it’ll be at home, and Carolina Basketball did that. Hubert Davis did this and Brady Manek and Caleb Love and RD Davis and Armand Bacot and leaky black and every Tar Heel has done that and I’m really happy for them but I’m really grateful too. That’s why all these people stood out in the cold, to say thank you for giving us these moments, and maybe to try to give one back too.

I don’t know why these occasions are so memorable, but I’ve seen enough of them now to know immediately that these are the ones we’ve remembered for a very long time. We have a very close friend who has a son who is just the right age, and he went to Sunday’s game in person and got to experience the Tar Heels by going to the Final Four. My wife watched him go through this, and looked at me and said, “He’s going to remember this forever,” and she’s absolutely right.

We all had that Carolina team, the one that came in exactly the right year, cementing us forever as Tar Heels. This is the one for him, and he’ll be able to recite the starting lineup and all the stats 50 years from now, all because of this March. Do you have time for me to tell you about the 1987 Tar Heels? This is my team, it always will be. Now, 2022 belongs to a whole new set of future Heels.

Around 7:30 p.m. Sunday night, our eldest daughter climbed that ladder and cut a piece of the Wells Fargo Center netting. It happened because on the biggest night of his coaching life, Davis made sure to ask the managers if they had the opportunity to climb the ladder. “Come on, come on!” he shouted, as if it was the most critical part of the night. I very intentionally tried to look away because I knew how emotional this was going to be, but I made the mistake of looking at my wife from the other side of the field, and she – the toughest of us all, the one who doesn’t even cry at the end of Forrest Gump – was in sobbing mode with her head in her hands.

Carolina Basketball did. And if you’ve never seen one family member beaming with pride while another cries with joy, I recommend it.

These are the experiences these Tar Heels have provided us with so far. After all the fillets have been cut, leaky black walked to the bleachers, where his family was waiting for him.

“We shared a few tears of joy,” said her father, Chon Black. “It’s a long journey from the backyard to now. What a great day to be a Tar Heel.”

Later that night, back near Chapel Hill, Black sat on the Carolina bus, a net around his neck. The Tar Heels had landed at RDU and were heading back to Smith Center when the questions began:

“Do you think there will be anyone there?”

It was a Sunday evening around midnight and it was 38 degrees outside. It was a reasonable question. What they didn’t know was that at that exact moment the students were coming down the hill toward the Smith Center, where they were lining up on the sidewalk. which connects the arena and the Koury Natatorium.

Little did the current players know this, little did they know they would be greeted by hundreds of Tar Heel fans, even in the freezing cold of a school night after midnight.

But someone knew:

Hubert DavisHe heard their questions on the bus, and he grinned, knowing they were about to have another experience they will never forget.

Maybe not, but they learn.

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