Hubert Davis Was So Close to Having a Forgettable Press Conference

Illustration for article titled Hubert Davis Was So Close to Having a Forgettable Press Conference
Screenshot: ABC11

The first 38 minutes of Hubert Davis’ introductory press conference as the new men’s basketball head coach at the University of North Carolina hit each of the points that new hires for high-profile coaching gigs are expected to.

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He was gracious, emotional, and humble. He told the story of his own journey to North Carolina as a relatively unheralded recruit, his experience while playing there, and how the coaching he received helped develop him into an NBA prospect—context making him uniquely qualified for this position. And while not overtly charismatic in a way that jumped off the screen, he possessed the appropriate timbre for a coach at a southern school. You can picture him schmoozing with boosters, glad-handing school administrators, bantering with media, and reassuring parents and AAU coaches—the soft skills that are as much of a requirement for this sort of job as his basketball mind is.

He was so close to having the sort of impressive and immediately forgettable introduction I’m sure he wanted, that he could probably taste it. “This has been nerve-wracking, but I think I did good.” I imagine he thought to himself. “Just a few more minutes, and I’ll be able to get something to eat. Maybe I’ll treat myself to a steak.”

And then, at around the 38-minute and 30-second mark, he was asked for his thoughts on being the first Black head coach in the storied program’s history.

It was a softball question, with the sort of answer you could grab from a template. But even before he said the thing that caused this press conference to be the, um, opposite of forgettable, there was a clear sign of an awkwardness about race. Specifically, how he repeatedly referred to himself and other Black people as “African American.” No one who is Black and is also comfortable talking about race says this. It’s formal, robotic, and anachronistic, and it just feels like an overcorrection. And he doesn’t have the excuse of mirroring the language of the question—which often happens in situations like this—because the question said “Black.” Davis saying “African American” was a choice. It was also a choice to express, as his answer concluded, how proud he is to have a white wife.

Now, I do not have much experience with white wives, because I’ve never had one. But I’m certain that if I did, I’d be proud of her too! You’re supposed to be proud of your spouse! The pride thing isn’t the weird thing here! Pride doesn’t see color! What’s weird is his choice to articulate a pride in his wife’s whiteness, because that’s weird and also because that information has no relationship to the question or his coaching prowess. It was a non-sequitur, where the only possible rationale for it was that he believed it somehow softened his aggressively uncontroversial statements about race seconds earlier, and that’s a very, very, very bad reason to make that choice. Essentially, he All Lives Matter-ed that answer, when no one was asking for it.

I could even understand him bringing that up if the question was about racial healing instead of his status as the first Black. It still would’ve been a weird choice, but I’d get it. Instead, he chose to end his thoughts about the dearth of Black coaches in sports with “BUT I GOT A WHITE WIFE AND HALF WHITE KIDS THO.” And now, we will remember this press conference for a long time.

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Anyway, I just hope Coach Davis still got his steak.

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB, a contributing opinion writer for The New York Times, and the author of What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Blacker (Ecco/HarperCollins)

DISCUSSION

sigmapapi
sigmapapi...(No me importa!)

I think his stance and awkwardness comes from the fact that he is the first black coach of a mediocre institution with the exception of their dental school and their basketball program (more the latter than the former). If he would have addressed the question head on, he would have been seen as “aggressive” and would have gotten the boosters upset. I mean, after all, they have given this black guy a chance! How dare he say something to the effect that black athletes have essentially given the school its reputation as a powerhouse (Hell, the GOAT went there and gave them a championship in ‘83) and it is about time they have a black coach.

If he doesn’t take them to the NCAA championship in 2 years, he is fired. If they have one losing season, the school will be ready to go in another direction and buy out his contract. He will get zero chances and (like all POC’s put in positions of power) they will expect total perfection.

So, I am willing to give him a pass. This is Chapel Hill after all.

NOTE: I must disclose that I hate this school with a passion. Not because of athletics but because this school is mediocre at best, touted as the pinnacle of higher education (flagship school in the UNC system). Its racist history is known (Silent Sam) and continues to be propagated on its campus. They only want POC’s on campus to use them. Fuck this school.