Coaches to win NCAA championship in first yr: North Carolina’s Hubert Davis eyes historical past vs. Kansas

North Carolina men’s basketball fans likely began the year with cautious optimism about what the 2021-22 campaign might look like. The Tar Heels had been won three national championships under Roy Williams, but the legendary coach announced his retirement following the conclusion of last season.

Enter Hubert Davis. The former standout UNC and NBA guard had been an assistant coach under Williams for nine seasons with the Tar Heels before stepping into the role as head coach following Williams’ retirement.

How has Davis done?

He took the Tar Heels to a 23-8 regular season, capped off with a win on the road against rival Duke to spoil the Cameron Indoor Stadium finale of Mike Krzyzewski. After a second-round exit in the ACC Tournament, North Carolina entered the 2022 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament as a No. 8 seed in the East region. The Tar Heels have since knocked out No. 1 Baylor, No. 4 UCLA and upset No. 2 Duke in the Final Four to punch their ticket to the national championship game for the first time since winning it all in 2017.

MORE: How UNC coach Hubert Davis went from NBA journeyman to Roy Williams replacement

On Monday, the Tar Heels will take on No. 1 Kansas as they look to win their seventh national championship and officially open up the Davis era with a title.

Should they do that, Davis would make history in guiding a team to a national championship in his first season as the head coach of a men’s college basketball program. How many other coaches have accomplished this feat?

The Sporting News takes a look.

Coaches to win NCAA Tournament in first year

There you have only been one coach to ever win a national championship in his first year as a head coach of a men’s college basketball team — and even that comes with an asterisk.

Back in 1989, Michigan coach Bill Frieder took the Wolverines to a 24-7 regular-season record. The Wolverines earned a No. 3 seed in the Southeast region. There was only one problem: Frieder received a job offer from Arizona State.

Athletic director Bo Schembechler asked Frieder to leave the program as soon as he learned about Fisher’s desire to coach at ASU.

I have promoted Steve Fisher to become the interim head coach for the tournament.

DeCOURCY: Big-time North Carolina-Kansas matchup may be decided by big-time bigs

In what was initially expected to hold an interim title quickly changed. Michigan tore through its region and beat No. 1 Illinois in the Final Four to punch its ticket to the national championship game. There, they faced No. 3 Seton Hall. The game went to overtime, but the Wolverines came out on top in a 80-79 to claim the program’s only title.

Fisher remained the head coach in Michigan until the end of the 1996-97 season. He took the Wolverines to the national championship in back-to-back years — 1992 and 1993 — the former of which being the infamous “Fab Five” team.

Those two Final Four appearances were ultimately vacated, however, due to the Ed Martin scandal.

Coaches to reach NCAA Tournament championship in first year

Regardless of what happens on Monday, Davis is already in historic company as one of only four coaches to take their team to the national championship in their first year.

Along with Fisher, only three other coaches have guided their team to the national championship game in their first year of coaching. The first was Kansas’ Dick Harpwhose Jayhawks lost to the Tar Heels in 1957. Next came Indiana State’s Bill Hodgeswho took the Sycamores to the title game in 1979, but fell to Jud Heathcote’s Michigan State squad.

MORE: North Carolina vs. Kansas odds, picks, predictions for 2022 national championship game

There have been several coaches that have taken a team to the Final Four in their first year of coaching, however. The first ever to do it was Oklahoma’s Bruce Drake in the first annual NCAA Tournament of 1939.

Here’s the list of coaches who have taken a team to the Final Four in their first year.

Year Team Coach outcome
1939 Oklahoma Bruce Drake Lost Final Four to Oregon
1943 DePaul Ray Mayer Lost Final Four to Georgetown
1943 Texas bully gilstrap Lost Final Four to Wyoming
1957 Kansas Dick Harp Lost National Championship to North Carolina
1965 Wichita State Gary Thompson Lost Final Four to UCLA; lost third-place game to Princeton
1972 louisville lenny crum Lost Final Four to UCLA; lost third-place game to North Carolina
1979 Indiana State Bill Hodges Lost National Championship to Michigan State
1989 Michigan Steve Fisher Won National Championship vs. seton-hall
1998 North Carolina Bill Guthridge Lost Final Four to Utah
2022 North Carolina Hubert Davis ?

Coach to win NCAA Tournament the fastest

This would certainly belong to Michigan’s Fisher, who won a national championship just six games into his coaching career.

But there are others who have come close to his accomplishment, with two coaches winning a title for their program in their second year of coaching.

The first to win a national championship in his second year of coaching was Ohio State’s Fred Taylor, who guided the Buckeyes to their only tournament title win in 1960 in a 75-55 win against California. The next coach to accomplish the feat did not do it until 2014, when Connecticut’s Kevin Ollie guided the Huskies to a 60-54 win against Kentucky.

MORE: Why did Roy Williams retire? COVID-19, Hubert Davis succession influenced UNC legend’s decision

There have only been a handful of coaches even win a national championship within the first five years of coaching, however. To date, only seven coaches have won a national championship that early into their coaching careers. Davis could join Fisher at the top of the list.

Year Team Coach Year of coaching National Championship
1989 Michigan Steve Fisher one 80-79 vs. seton-hall
1960 Ohio State fred taylor two 75-55 vs. California
2014 Connecticut kevin ollie two 60-54 vs. Kentucky
1961 Cincinnati Ed Jucker 3 70-65 vs. Ohio State
1943 Wyoming Everett Shelton 4 46-34 vs. georgetown
1955 San Francisco Phil Woolpert 5 77-63
1966 Texas Western Don Haskins 5 72-65

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