By any fair measure, Hubert Davis crushed his opening press conference. The new UNC basketball coach, a former talking head on ESPN, was a natural on camera, giving soundbites that will resonate with fans, recruits, and the Carolina family alike.
He also had a clear message for one Tar Heel in particular: Walker Kessler. If you haven’t seen the press conference, it’s worth an hour of your time to hear it. If not, fast forward to the 52:00 mark, when WABC’s Mark Armstrong asked Coach Davis about the freshman forward:
Hubert Davis made no bones about it. His language was precise and direct. However Kessler’s end of season feedback with Roy Williams went, the bridges are not burned down and there’s a path back to the Dean Dome.
“What I’m gonna tell him is I want him back here at Carolina. He’s a Tar Heel, he’s always a Tar Heel. He needs to come back here and this is the right place for him. We would love to have Walker Kessler and his family back in Chapel Hill and back at UNC.”
Hubert Davis told the entire free world that when he found out he was the next head coach at UNC, he texted Kessler on Monday night, and they have a call scheduled on Tuesday night after the press conference.
While Coach Davis was a bit vague on how his style of basketball would differ from Roy Williams’, he’ll have to be more specific with Walker Kessler and his family if he wants him to reverse course and pull out of the transfer portal. It won’t be easy. Kessler has an equal measure of concern (perceived or legitimate) and opportunity.
Kessler and Puff Johnson suffered due to self-isolation rules during the season. Kessler was a victim of post depth and a lack of normal preseason (and early season) preparation. But as the season chugged along, he showed so many flashes, culminating in his Florida State and Notre Dame performances. His announced intention to transfer was a punch to the gut to Tar Heel Nation.
If Hubert Davis can convince Walker Kessler that he has a path to the NBA as a modern stretch forward at UNC, then there is a chance this saga has a happy ending in Chapel Hill. It won’t be easy, but if the new Ghostbusters could do it, so can the Tar Heels.