Decisions to replace a departed assistant coach are rarely the object of publicity and debate, but at North Carolina, a school with a deep and star-studded history, the job of replacing UAB head coach Jerod Haase on Roy Williams' staff has generated significant buzz.
Foremost among the reasons for the attention is the public statement by Williams that he will hire someone associated with North Carolina. After bringing with him four assistants from Kansas nine years ago, he feels compelled to add a former Tar Heel to his staff.
Staying inside the program is an unnecessary but meaningful gesture to the North Carolina basketball family, to which Williams owes his start and in which he now stands second only to Dean Smith in coaching stature.
Carolina is famously inward-focused when making coaching decisions: Among the sport's traditional powerhouse programs—North Carolina, Kentucky, Kansas, UCLA, Indiana and Duke—only North Carolina has refrained from looking outside its own ranks for a head coach in the modern era.
For this reason, even an assistant coach position can generate unexpected attention. The Carolina community is heavily invested in the lineage of its basketball tradition, and Smith used positions on his staff to promote that lineage by hiring former players such as Phil Ford and Dave Hanners.
A position on the staff at North Carolina and membership in the Roy Williams coaching tree are also major steps toward success in the profession, as Haase showed and as current assistant C.B. McGrath likely will show again sometime soon. Williams' insistence on hiring a former Tar Heel may afford someone with scant coaching experience to skip a few steps on the road to becoming a head coach.
Speculation over Williams' eventual replacement is likely to intensify over the next few years, and pressure to stay inside the family will be even higher. Depending on his success as a head coach, Haase may be a candidate, but whomever Roy hires now will almost certainly join the list of far-off options.
Developing talented assistants is critical to preserving Carolina's policy of hiring from within; only the availability of Williams, a former assistant himself, allowed North Carolina to maintain its status without compromising its philosophy.
The possibilities are impossible to capture in one story, given how many former Tar Heels could be interested in the position and how little information has been made public.
We know this: There have been 14 former UNC players to reach out to Williams, Williams declined the interest of three former Kansas players and he hopes to begin the hiring process next week. Speculation as to his decision, or even his criteria or strategy, is merely speculation.
But here are a few potential candidates and the differing approaches they represent, with the understanding that there is distinct possibility the hire comes from outside of this list.