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North Carolina coach Hubert Davis has the camera on him now — and no choice but to embrace it



North Carolina coach Hubert Davis has the camera on him now — and no choice but to embrace it

He has known this was a possibility since the day he left ESPN to join Roy Williams’ staff in 2012. Yes, it has been that long.

It’s possible you still remember Hubert Davis more as an ESPN basketball analyst than as an assistant coach for the North Carolina Tar Heels, largely because that’s how he allowed it to be.

On television, he had no choice but to be obvious, because the camera was on him. He was compelled to give his opinions on developments in the sport, to break down plays, to banter with the other personalities on the network set, whether in Bristol or one of the “GameDay” visits to a top college campus. That was the job.

MORE: Who is Hubert Davis? What to know about North Carolina’s reported next head coach

As an assistant, he has been relatively withdrawn. He’ll not have that choice any longer. He has the best job in college basketball now: He is the head coach at the University of North Carolina, the program that has produced a national champion every 7.8 years since I entered this business in 1982, that gave us Michael Jordan, Tyler Hansbrough, Phil Ford, James Worthy, Billy Cunningham, Vince Carter and so many other greats that I merely could list them all and fill the rest of this column.

It is a job that demands not just an adept strategist, but also a master salesman. Because even if the folks at Mercedes can sit there in their dealerships with the understanding the company’s reputation does a lot to sell cars, they still do a lot of “The Best or Nothing” television commercials and do what they can to close the deal.

That Davis has not been compelled to sell himself could be a product of not needing or wanting to market himself to athletic directors around the nation searching for head coaching candidates.

You did not see his name on many lists of candidates for this open position or that, in part because he did not court that sort of engagement and in part because there seemed to be an understanding he was waiting to see how North Carolina would handle the eventual retirement of Hall of Famer Roy Williams.

When he made the stunning move to leave a prime position on ESPN for an assistant coaching job that likely meant more work and more hours, there was the initial sense that he well might be Williams’ successor. When Williams announced his retirement last week, there was no reason to doubt that still was in play, save for the fact Davis has done little publicly to make everyone aware he wanted the job and warranted the opportunity.

MORE: With Williams’ retirement, college basketball loses an all-time great coach

Davis is not one of those who is arriving from the NBA with a terrific understanding of how to coach basketball — but not necessarily how to coach college basketball. He understands the recruiting game. He has experience scouting prospects. He knows about the politics and dynamics of college athletics. He has seen its greatest rewards (the 2017 NCAA championship) and its darkest challenges (the academic scandal that made the back-to-back Final Four seasons of 2016 and ’17 far less pleasant than they might have been).

He has prepared himself well for the responsibility of becoming a head college basketball coach, but to start at such an elevated position is a challenge all to itself. The past two coaches who took the Carolina job with limited to no background as a Division I head coach — Bill Guthridge in 1997, Matt Doherty in 2000 — did not perform well.

One can look at Guthridge’s two Final Fours and claim otherwise, but that’s like saying Steve Alford did a good job at UCLA because the Bruins reached three Sweet 16s. One can look at Doherty recruiting the core of the 2005 NCAA championship team and say he did not fail. There is more to each case. Recruiting under Guthridge collapsed to where the Tar Heels went 8-20 in Doherty’s second season. The operation generally declined under Doherty to the point, insiders told Sporting News at the time, multiple players from that championship core were ready to depart Chapel Hill.

This may not be a job for the inexperienced. It will be upon Davis now to demonstrate it is not his background that will determine how he is judged, but rather his performance. He’ll need to sell himself with his words and with his work.

The camera is focused on Davis now, and it’s not going anywhere.

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ESPN’s Holly Rowe speaks French and English in WNBA Draft interview; Twitter reacts



ESPN's Holly Rowe speaks French and English in WNBA Draft interview; Twitter reacts

ESPN reporter Holly Rowe received many a “tres bien” from her confrères in media for conducting a bilingual interview with WNBA Draft pick Iliana Rupert, a France international, on Thursday night.

Rupert was chosen 12th overall by the Las Vegas Aces. With the draft being a virtual event for the second year in a row because of COVID-19, Rowe conducted the post-selection interview in an ESPN studio while Rupert was on camera remotely.

MORE: Why Paige Bueckers was ineligible for ’21 WNBA Draft

Rowe began the interview with “Bonsoir,” or “Good evening,” and asked Rupert in French whether she spoke English. Rupert responded in the affirmative and the interview proceeded in English.

“It’s always been one of my dreams and it’s amazing being recognized,” Rupert said. “I’m really happy to [represent] my country and I’m just excited to finally start this journey.”

After two more questions and responses in English, Rowe switched back to French for the interview’s conclusion, telling Rupert “Bienvenue,” or “Welcome,” to the WNBA. She also gave her regards to Rupert’s family.

Rowe’s media colleagues were quick with the compliments.

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‘It shows how exciting we can be!’ – Saka says Arsenal have real chance of winning Europa League after Slavia rout



'It shows how exciting we can be!' - Saka says Arsenal have real chance of winning Europa League after Slavia rout

Bukayo Saka says Arsenal have a real chance of winning the Europa League after their rout of Slavia Prague, and claims their latest performance “shows everyone how exciting we can be”.

Arsenal bounced back from a disappointing 1-1 draw against Slavia in the first leg of their quarter-final tie at Emirates Stadium by picking up a comprehensive 4-0 victory in the Czech Republic on Thursday night.

Saka was among the scorers as the Gunners booked a last-four clash with Villarreal, and he is confident they can now go all the way in the competition after flexing their attacking muscles at the Sinobo Stadium.

What’s been said?

“It was fantastic from start to finish. We did it for all the fans, they all deserve it for all the support they give us. We are really happy to progress,” the Arsenal winger told BT Sport.

“We showed real character. The first one was disallowed, Emile deserved a goal, we kept going and got the first one again. We pretty much killed the game in the first half.

“In the first leg we played well but weren’t clinical, credit to the manager and coaching staff, the way we set up, pressed, they couldn’t get out.

“It shows everyone how exciting we can be, when we play like this it is so amazing to be involved in. We have a chance of going to the final and winning this competition, it is up to us. We look forward to the next opponent.”

Arsenal put Slavia to the sword

The Gunners went at their Czech opponents right from the first whistle in the second leg clash, and found themselves in front after just 18 minutes when Nicolas Pepe dinked the ball into the net after being teed up by Emile Smith Rowe.

Alexandre Lacazette then doubled the visitors’ account from the penalty spot after Saka was fouled in the box, and the teenager got his goal moments later when he cut in from the right-wing before firing the ball low past the goalkeeper at his near post.

Lacazette added extra gloss to the final scoreline with a trademark finish 13 minutes from time as Arsenal progressed to the semi-finals 5-1 on aggregate.

What’s next?

Arsenal will now turn their attention back to the Premier League, with a home fixture against Fulham scheduled to take place on Sunday.

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What pressure? Arsenal sweeps Slavia Prague aside to set up a reunion with Emery



What pressure? Arsenal sweeps Slavia Prague aside to set up a reunion with Emery

Slavia Prague 0-4 Arsenal: Match statistics

What was all the fuss about?

It was billed as the game that would define Arsenal’s season, a night that could even shape Mikel Arteta’s future at the club.

The pressure was supposed to be on against Slavia Prague but within 25 superb minutes, the Gunners were in cruise control.

Last week’s 1-1 draw at Emirates Stadium had left the Gunners with a very simple equation going into the second leg of their Europa League quarterfinal in the Czech capital: score a goal.

Arteta’s side knew failure to find a way through a Slavia side that was unbeaten at home in all competitions this season would send it crashing out of the tournament and leave an already disappointing season in tatters.

Serious questions were being asked of the players after the way in which they threw away a lead in the closing stages of the first leg to hand Prague the advantage going into Thursday night’s return fixture.

But in the space of six scintillating first-half minutes, those questions were answered in emphatic style.

The brilliant Emile Smith Rowe had already had a goal ruled out for the tightest of offside calls before Nicolas Pepe gave the visitors the lead on 18 minutes, thus canceling out Slavia’s away goal.

Alexandre Lacazette then struck from the penalty spot three minutes later to make it 2-0 on the night before Bukayo Saka added a classy third goal – all within 24 minutes of the game getting underway.

It was game, set and match Arsenal before we had even reached the half-hour mark.

Even in his wildest dreams, Arteta would never have imagined such an impressive start from his side, especially with his captain and talisman Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang missing due to contracting malaria while away with Gabon on international duty.

This was a major statement from his side and another example of why there is genuine belief within the club that things are heading in the right direction under the Spaniard.


The abject performances throughout November and the majority of December may have led to a hugely disappointing Premier League campaign, but the improvement since Christmas has been undeniable.

Since beating Chelsea 3-1 on Boxing Day, Arteta’s side sits fourth in the form table, with only Manchester City, Manchester United and West Ham picking up more points.

And now the Gunners have booked their spot in the Europa League semifinals, where they will meet Unai Emery’s Villarreal.

Clearly, there is still much for Arsenal to improve on and failure to go on and win the Europa League will more than likely leave it facing up to a season without European competition for the first time in 25 years.

For a club of Arsenal’s stature, that is not good enough, but there are still plenty of reasons for optimism and they were all on show as Prague was blown away in its backyard.

Arsenal’s homegrown youngsters have been the catalyst for the improvement since Boxing Day and one again they led the charge – with academy graduates Smith Rowe and Saka proving far too good for the Czech champions.

Immediately after seeing a goal ruled out for offside, Smith Rowe waltzed through the Slavia defense before working the ball to Pepe, who showed wonderful composure to score his fifth Europa League goal of the season.

Saka then took center stage, winning a penalty, which was converted by Lacazette, before scoring the third himself with a fine finish from the edge of the box.

At that point, the game was done and dusted. Arsenal had done its job and it cruised through the remainder of the quarterfinal, with Lacazette putting the gloss on a fabulous night’s work with a fourth goal on 77 minutes.

All eyes now turn to the semifinal against Villarreal and the return of Emery, the man Arteta replaced just over 16 months ago.

Emery led Arsenal to the Europa League final in 2019 and now he is the man standing in their way of repeating the trick two years later.

A return to the Champions League is now within touching distance for Arsenal. Just three games stand between the Gunners and a seat back at Europe’s top table.

They went to Prague with their season on the line and they return to London with the dream still alive.

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