A couple of week’s ago, word had gotten out that Jackie Manuel was leaving the Carolina coaching staff to move over to join the coaching staff at American University. It’s Hubert Davis’ first departure behind the bench as a coach, and the question wasn’t if he would bring in another player to replace Manuel, but which one.
On Wednesday, Inside Carolina reported that Davis had found his replacement, and it’s a much more recent alumnus than anyone else on the staff.
Marcus Paige—the hero of the Tar Heels who helped fans cope during a dark time in the program’s history, as well as the person who’s hit perhaps the most forgotten about big shot in NCAA Final History—has decided he no longer wants to travel around the world to play basketball. Instead, he will join the UNC coaching staff.
The move brings back someone else who can snap a player’s attention by taking his finger and pointing to the rafters where his number 5 hangs amongst the honored jerseys, the other being Sean May. He also, easily, becomes the youngest alumnus to join the main coaching staff, having just left Carolina seven years ago. While the work that Jackie Manuel will always be appreciated, there is something about the idea of having someone still in his 20’s working with players as they look to move on beyond college.
The Director of Team and Player Development role that Paige will fill isn’t an on-court coaching role, but it can be perhaps one of the most important on the staff. Under Manuel, the role was one that had the players do community service as well as diversity outreach with the university. He also was in charge of career development for the players, and considering his path as someone who spent multiple years in the G-League and then overseas, he’ll provide valuable information for a wide range of leagues for the current players.
There is actual coaching done, though, as he is also responsible for the video services of the team, presumably helping cull the tape that players and coaches will work on. As Manuel showed in the work he did with Leaky Black last season, the coach also becomes a trusted ear to help players in ways that maybe they can’t get from some of the older coaches. Having just come off the court, Paige will provide a perspective not currently available on the staff.
It’s not known if the staff shakeup will cause that role to be modified slightly to include more coaching and less off-court items, or vice-versa. In a world of NIL, someone who includes “community service” as part of their job could be someone who assists more with engagement in local businesses.
No matter which way the staff wants to use him, it’ll be great to see Marcus Paige back in Chapel Hill starting next season. Maybe this work will get him the National Championship ring that was denied him a few seasons ago.