Hubert Davis‘ storybook year as the North Carolina Tar Heels’ (29-9) head basketball coach will reach its exciting conclusion on Monday night as the team faces the Kansas Jayhawks (33-6) in the NCAA Men’s Tournament Championship after beating Mike Krzyzewski’s Duke Blue Devils (32-7) on Saturday.
The Tar Heels’ last tournament finals appearance was in 2017 when they beat the Gonzaga Bulldogs to become national champions under head coach Roy Williams.
Davis, who played all four years of his basketball career at North Carolina, was drafted by the by the New York Knicks in 1992. He returned to the Tar Heels in 2012 as an assistant coach and was named the Tar Heels’ head coach in 2021 after Williams announced his retirement.
At the press conference when Davis was introduced as head coach, he spoke openly about his faith. “[My] foundation is firmly in my relationship with Jesus,” he told reporters.
Coach Davis explained how his mother used to beg him to go to church growing up but that he had no interested in Christianity. “My mom always used to always say that Jesus had a plan for me—plans for my hope and my future not to harm you. Plans to prosper you,” Davis shared, referencing Jeremiah 29:11.
Davis didn’t understand what his mother was telling him at the time, nor did he listen to her. When she passed away right before his junior year of high school, Davis said he grew “a tremendous hate toward God” that continued into his collegiate playing years. He couldn’t understand how God could take my mom away.
When Davis played at North Carolina, the legendary Dean Smith was his head coach. Davis shared that Smith required all of the freshman go to church, and it was then that Davis started to understand what his mother was talking about.
“I started to understand the sacrifice that Jesus has made for me and how much he loves me,” Davis explained. “Two days before my junior year of college, I became a Christian and instead of being upset that Jesus is taking away the most beautiful person in my life—my mom—I’m thankful every day that He gave me the best mom that I could ever have for sixteen years.”
My faith in Christ is the foundation of who I am,” Davis said.
Davis was asked how he is able to keep God at the center of the tournament’s journey when the pressure to perform is so high.
“It’s a place of thankfulness, humbleness, [and] humility to be able to be in this position to be their head coach. I’ve often said that my job is like I’m on a mission field,” Davis said. “This is service. I’m trying to help these kids and I’m just trying to give back everything that coach Smith and Guthrie gave to me. So whether it’s on the court or in the classroom or in the community—that’s my job. If I’m only coaching basketball then I’m not doing my job.”
“I know that Jesus allowed me to be in this position and He’s put me in this position and He’s put me in this position to be a light and that’s what I want to do,” Davis said.
The coach’s missionary comments have been a theme at his press conferences. After North Carolina gave Davis his first tournament win as their head coach in this year’s first round, Davis told the media during a press conference, “As I’ve said before, I look at this job as missionary work. I’ve been given an opportunity to be the head coach of this program and be a part of this program for the last 10 years—and having a chance to play here. Every day I get a front-row seat to be able to help out these kids, and it puts me in a place of humbleness and thankfulness and appreciation to be a part of their lives. I don’t feel any personal validation at all. This is 100 percent absolutely, nothing about me.”