UNC Basketball: When Roy Williams Leaves, Who Will Coach the Tar Heels ?

Doug Brodess@DougbrodessCorrespondent IJuly 10, 2014

North Carolina head coach Roy Williams, center, argues a call during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Pittsburgh in the quarterfinal round of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament in Greensboro, N.C., Friday, March 14, 2014.(AP Photo/Bob Leverone)
Bob Leverone/Associated Press

North Carolina's Roy Williams will not always be the Tar Heels' head basketball coach.

With former UNC star Rashard McCants' recent academic fraud allegations being weighed by school and NCAA officials, some might think he could be (or should be) leaving Chapel Hill sooner rather than later. It is not clear whether he will be forced out with the most recent investigation or head into retirement on his own terms.

What we do know is that, someday, someone will have some big shoes to fill when Williams leaves Tobacco Road for the last time. According to his official Carolina bio, he "reached 700 wins in fewer seasons than any coach in NCAA history." He has the "highest winning percentage (79.2; 724-190) of any active coach in the nation (20 years or more as a head coach)." And he is the "only coach to win an NCAA Tournament game in 20 consecutive years."

Who are the most likely candidates to replace Roy on the sidelines at the Smith Center? Who will be Carolina's 19th head coach?

Whoever comes in next should be a proven winner in both the regular season and in March Madness. He should be a top-level recruiter and someone who can effectively handle the challenges and opportunities that come from running an elite program like North Carolina.

Also, Roy's replacement should be young enough to be able to invest 10 to 15 years into the next chapter of the program.

Not too many people will be able to live up to such high standards.

Let's see who among the current staff, former players and coaches or other possible round-ball leaders might be possible contenders.

Promotion Possibilities?

It is no surprise that Williams has assembled an outstanding staff at UNC. Most coaches would jump at the chance to work alongside the seven-time National Coach of the Year.

Veteran assistant Steve Robinson has served on Williams' staff (at KU and UNC) for 20 years. He also served as head coach at Tulsa (46-18 in 1996 to 1998) and at Florida State (64-86 in 1998 to 2002).

Another of Roy's long-term assistants is C.B. McGrath. His Carolina bio states that he:

"Is in his 12th year at North Carolina and his 16th season as a member of Roy Williams' staff. McGrath was a team captain in 1997-98 at Kansas and lettered in four seasons as a point guard under Williams."

McGrath's only head coaching experience is serving as the UNC junior varsity head coach for five seasons.

Williams' third assistant coach is former Tar Heel star, Hubert Davis. After a 12-year NBA career and four years as an ESPN college basketball analyst, Davis joined the coaching ranks in 2012. Along with his assistant coaching duties, he has served as the Tar Heels' JV coach in his first two seasons back in Chapel Hill.

Hubert Davis enjoying success as a player
Hubert Davis enjoying success as a playerBill Kostroun/Associated Press/Associated Press

Even though Robinson had brief success at Tulsa, he would be over his head at UNC. All three of Williams' assistants are quality coaches and quality men, but not one is qualified to move down the bench and take the "first chair."

Alumni Applicants?

There is no shortage of former UNC players who are prowling the sidelines somewhere in the country.

Hall of Famer Larry Brown has stepped back onto the sidelines at SMU. He is getting ready to coach his 40th year, 30 in the NBA and ABA, 10 in college. George Lynch is Brown's director of player development.

Former NBA coach George Karl posted a 1,887-1,131 record over 25 professional seasons.

Michael Jordan's college roommate, Buzz Peterson, has been a head coach at five different D-1 schools over 16 years. Jeff Lebo has stacked up four different D-I coaching stops of his own.

Former Carolina big man Joe Wolf is currently an assistant coach for the Milwaukee Bucks. He previously was a head coach in the CBA for the Idaho Stampede and the NBA D-League's Colorado 14ers.

Point guard King Rice is slugging it out at Monmouth. Appalachian State sent Jason Capel packing after four years.

Mike O'Koren served as an NBA assistant coach for 11 years after a lengthy playing career. He is now on Eddie Jordan's staff at Rutgers.

GAIL BURTON/Associated Press

Tony Shaver (left) was a walk-on in the mid-'70s. He had a successful run at D-III Hampden-Sydney (358-121) before taking over at William and Mary, where he has posted a 136-201 record in 11 seasons.

Wooden Award winner Phil Ford served as an assistant coach under Dean Smith and Bill Guthridge. He also was an NBA assistant, once working for Larry Brown in Charlotte.

Many former Tar Heel players who have had outstanding professional playing careers could grab a whistle and do a fine job coaching somewhere.

Brown and Karl have skins on the wall, but neither one is at the stage of their lives to step into this position after Williams moves on.

Realistically, no one who has played or coached at UNC in the past is currently ready for the monstrous responsibility that is coaching the Heels.

Outsiders Needed

It has been a long time since someone outside the Carolina family was the head coach in Chapel Hill.

Legendary Coach Smith was an assistant coach at UNC from 1958 to 1961 before being promoted to the head coaching role. 

Guthridge was one of Smith's longtime assistants before taking over when the Hall of Famer retired. Matt Doherty played on Smith's 1982 championship team.

And Williams played on the UNC freshman team and then was a student volunteer for Smith before coming back to serve on his staff as an assistant for 10 years (1978 to 1988).

Hall of Famer Frank McGuire was the last UNC head coach (hired in 1952) who had not previously been a Tar Heel player or a UNC assistant coach.

Having already run through all of the current staff or previous players or coaches without finding a likely successor, we will need to look beyond the Tar Heels nation.

What other coaches have the credentials that could bring them to Carolina to follow Williams? Here are three of the best candidates:

Jae C. Hong/Associated Press
  1. Sean Miller: He has had success at both Xavier and, now, Arizona. Between the two schools, he has posted a 249-95 record in 10 years. His teams have made it to the NCAA tournament eight times, advancing to the Elite Eight three times and the Sweet 16 two other times. Miller is one of the top recruiters in the country, pulling in players from both coasts. Because Miller followed Lute Olson at Arizona, he knows what it's like to follow a seasoned sensation. At 45 years old, the Pennsylvania native could coach for another 20-plus years.
  2. Gregg Marshall: Marshall has built mid-major successes at both of his head coaching stops: Winthrop and Wichita State. His 368-154 record and 10 NCAA tournament appearances (including the 2013 Final Four) demonstrate his ability to get things done without being in power conference schools. Marshall was named the 2014 Naismith National Coach of the Year. At 51 years old, Marshall still has plenty of laps to go in the race.
  3. Fred Hoiberg: Though he has only been head coach at Iowa State for four years, Hoiberg, 41, has quickly earned the respect of fellow coaches and media alike. The Cyclones have posted a 90-47 mark on his watch, going to the NCAA tournament three times, reaching the Sweet 16 this past season. Hoiberg has found his niche in recruiting through reeling in a wealth of transfer players. Before returning to his alma mater as the head coach, Hoiberg played 10 seasons in the NBA and served four years in the Minnesota Timberwolves front office. 

No one knows how long it will be before North Carolina will be scouring the nation to come up with its next head basketball coach. 

It is safe to say that whoever is brought in will be an excellent leader who has a great chance to compete for conference and national championships.


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