Normally when news of a coaching hire leaks you see everything button up quickly. Thus, when Jeff Goodman broke the news that former Tar Heel Pat Sullivan was going to join the UNC staff, most folks expected to hear Carolina confirm this news pretty quickly.
Quickly turned out to be a month.
The hangup may have been Sullivan’s previous job. As an assistant on the NBA’s Minnesota Timberwolves, he may have had to make sure all of his commitments were complete with them prior to moving on, and then it’s about getting all of the documents signed as necessary. Regardless, with a tweet the Tar Heels made the news official:
Last month, Goodman could only say Sullivan was coming on board, but now his role is defined as the Director of Recruiting. The role is a complete 180 from the previous job holder, Kendall Marshall. Marshall was essentially using said role as an entry point into coaching, but couldn’t sit on the bench and couldn’t really work with the team the way a coach would. Thus, there was only so much experience he could work on, and once he didn’t move up the chain with the new staff, it only seemed natural that this spot would open up.
Sullivan in charge of recruiting brings someone into the role who has nearly two decades in the NBA, and also has connections with coaches like Larry Brown and Doc Rivers, among others. He not only will have good insight into what the modern NBA is looking for, but he has a ton of experience breaking down tape and scouting opponents playing in a style that has quickly drifted down to the college game.
This last part is a sneaky good add for the team. Hubert Davis brings in even more coaching experience, but on the assistant side so someone who won’t be looking to overshadow the head coach, and should be able to provide a fresh voice in both breaking down tape for UNC and their opponents. If Davis is true to his word about wanting to stretch out the four a little, having someone who’s able to help the staff in how to do this will be immensely helpful.
The return is a bit of vindication for Sullivan, who was part of the staff until Bill Gutheridge retired, and then wasn’t retained by Matt Doherty. It took 21 years, but Sullivan finally is back in the assistant’s chair in Chapel Hill, and judging by the release he’s happy to have the chance to do it again:
You never think about coming back to Carolina because it’s such a great place that you never envision an opportunity coming open like this, but playing two seasons with Hubert, knowing his character and the passion that we share for this University and basketball program, it was an easy decision to make. He probably didn’t know I was hoping to come back, but I was so glad he called. Hubert has so much integrity; his beliefs and the way he cares about the program remind me of Coach Smith.
With this, the staff appears to be complete, and Davis was true to his word. Each coach is a former UNC player, crossing multiple coaching eras and with vast amount of different coaching and playing experiences. That experience is another reason Sullivan is a good hire, because he was there when Smith retired and elevated to the bench to be with Bill Gutheridge. He’s been there when the program had to transition from a legend, and he will undoubtedly be able to guide Davis into a few of the traps that Gut made his first couple of years.
Overall, the move seems to change the dynamic of the conversation among coaches, with Sean May being the one with the “least” amount of experience on the bench. There is a lot of basketball intelligence that will be on this coaching staff, hopefully it translates to a smooth transition into a new era of Carolina Basketball.
This also makes official that Kendall Marshall won’t be with UNC anymore, and we still aren’t sure what will happen with Steve Robinson. Now that these moves have been made, hopefully those two dominoes won’t take too long in falling.