PHOTO: Hubert Davis
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By TOM SHANAHAN
The Name, Image and Likeness one-year anniversary is upon us. It was July 1 last year when the NCAA threw in the towel on holding back against public sentiment, state legislatures and looming court rulings permitting college athletes to cash in.
NIL’s impact continues to evolve rapidly entering year two, but looking back, North Carolina basketball coach Hubert Davis may have been best positioned to handle the wild, wild, West among coaches entering the 2021-22 basketball season.
Not because he was his alma mater’s a new coach, promoted from assistant to head coach on April 5, 2021, following the surprise retirement announcement four days earlier by Roy Williams. After all, Davis was already 50 years old (he turned 52 on May 17). Plenty of coaches are closer in age to the younger generation of athletes entering college. Davis played for the Tar Heels in another century.
Davis’ advantage was having been drafted out of North Carolina in 1992 by the New York Knicks at a time it was a rising franchise. He played four seasons at Madison Square Garden for a perennial playoff team.
“I was in the NBA playing in New York for the Knicks,” Davis said Wednesday in a break from the Tar Heels’ summer schedule. “I got everything. I was in one of the best markets there is. I got all kinds of deals because I was playing well, and we got to the Eastern Conference finals and the NBA finals. We had Patrick Ewing and Doc Rivers. And then I got traded.”
Davis toiled in smaller markets for miserable teams in Toronto, Washington and Dallas.
“I went to a different market and didn’t play well,” Davis said. “This deal left, that deal left, and this deal left.”
Davis shares the moral of the story with his players and recruits when they ask about NIL.
“I started last year and continue to talk to them about importance of putting things in their proper place,” Davis said. “One of things I talk about – and I’m in 100 percent support of NIL and thankful the players can benefit from it – is there are three NIL boxes to check.
Number 1, you have to be in a great market. You can check that box. North Carolina is at the highest level. There are other programs at our level but nobody higher.
Second, you have to be playing well. You’re not going to benefit from NIL if you’re not playing well.
Number 3, and probably the most important, is you have to have team success. If you can check those three boxes, the NIL will come at you.”
North Carolina checked all three those boxes with the Tar Heels’ 2020-21 run to an NCAA runner-up finish. That partially explains the return of four starters who otherwise might have declared early for the NBA draft (Brady Manek is out of eligibility).
Big man Armando Bacot is back for his fourth year as a senior, guard/forward Leaky Black for a fifth year via the COVID 2020-21 exemption, guard Caleb Love as a third-year junior and guard R.J. Davis as a third-year junior.
Bacot, a 6-foot-10, 240-pounder, gained the most points among All-ACC first-team picks, although Wake Forest’s Alondes Williams was named the Player of the Year. He led the Tar Heels with 16.3 points a game and 13.1 rebounds.
Bacot also has been the most successful at cashing in on NIL. He signed a deal with Jimmy’s Famous Seaford, a popular Maryland-based restaurant, shortly after NIL was approved. He’s added other deals, including and acting appearances in the Netflix series, “Outer Banks.” The series is popular with teenagers, including Davis’ daughter. She has pressured her dad to use Bacot for a chance to meet the cast and humbling went to his player for help.
“I never thought I’d got to a player to hook me up,” said Davis. “Mando said he can make it happen. This huge bonus points for me as a dad.”
NIL is changing college basketball and Davis has been able to adapt.
“Kids are thinking about it, parents are thinking about and agents are thinking about it,” Davis said. “It’s something I have to think about, but it’s not something I focus on. As a coach, I’m not allowed to be involved. These are their NIL deals. I’m hired to be the coach at North Carolina and that’s my focus. I’ve always said focused on the things that are real and what’s real is trying to prepare this team to be the best it can be next season.”