Hubert Davis ready for coaching debut with No. 19 North Carolina

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Hubert Davis sounds at ease.

He’ll coach his first regular-season game Tuesday at 19th-ranked North Carolina. It’s the place where he played under Dean Smith before enjoying a long NBA career and later returned to join the staff of another Hall of Fame Tar Heels coach in Roy Williams.

Entering Tuesday night’s game against Loyola Maryland, the 51-year-old Davis is pointing to his deep connections to the program as the reason why he feels so comfortable.

“From that standpoint of having the spotlight on you, yes, I have not been there as a head coach,” Davis said Monday. “But I’ve been there before. So this isn’t anything different to me. I’ll be walking out there the same way – the emotions and the feeling will be the same way – as I have walking through that tunnel the other 2,000 times that I’ve walked through the tunnel.”

The transition at North Carolina stands as one of the highest-profile coaching change entering college basketball’s opening night Tuesday, from the April retirement of a 903-game winner with three national championships in Williams to the significance of the tradition-rich program turning to its first-ever Black head coach in Davis.

The night also marks notable debuts at several other marquee programs, including former Hoosiers star and NBA coach Mike Woodson taking over at Indiana (against Eastern Michigan), former Texas Tech coach Chris Beard leading No. 5 Texas (against Houston Baptist), Loyola Chicago’s Porter Moser taking over at Oklahoma (against Northwestern State) and Gonzaga assistant Tommy Lloyd replacing Sean Miller at Arizona (against Northern Arizona).

It also begins the farewell season of Hall of Famer Mike Krzyzewski for ninth-ranked Duke, which faces 10th-ranked Kentucky in the Champions Classic in New York’s Madison Square Garden. Krzyzewski will retire after the season and hand off to associate head coach and former Blue Devils player Jon Scheyer.

For the Tar Heels, the nephew of 1970s program great Walter Davis is a bridge to the Smith era. Yet he’s also tied to recent successes since joining Williams’ coaching staff in 2012 after working as an ESPN basketball analyst, including reaching the national championship game in 2016 and then returning to win the title the following year.

“It just says a lot about the program,” big man Armando Bacot said of Davis’ UNC ties. “You see a lot of other programs going and getting guys from other schools, other leagues and stuff like that. But just us being able to keep it in the family says a lot.”

Davis has leaned into that tradition by hiring a staff full of former UNC players, including bringing in former East Carolina and Auburn head coach Jeff Lebo while promoting a Final Four Most Outstanding Player in Sean May as an assistant alongside Williams holdover Brad Frederick.

Davis wants to keep some traditions such as remaining one of the nation’s best rebounding teams, while adopting tweaks such as improving floor spacing with outside-shooting big men.

That much was clear in how the Tar Heels overhauled their frontcourt by bringing in 6-foot-9 transfer Brady Manek from Oklahoma and 6-11 transfer Dawson Garcia from Marquette. In Friday’s exhibition win against Elizabeth City State, the two made 4 of 9 3-pointers.

Davis has also been encouraging Bacot to shoot 3s after an offseason of work to expand his range. The 6-10 junior made his only 3 in the exhibition after attempting one in his first two college seasons.

After the exhibition, Garcia described Davis, whose college head-coaching experience is limited to the Tar Heels’ junior varsity team, as “super engaged … like he’s competing out there almost with us.”

Davis seems to look at it that way, too.

“I’ve played basketball my entire life,” Davis said. “I’ve been out there. So I know basketball. I know Carolina basketball. … I’ve had a lot of experiences, whether it be on the court or on the bench, that I can pull from to help me make decisions during a game.”

Kentucky’s Tionna Herron recovering from open-heart surgery

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LEXINGTON, Ky. — Kentucky coach Kyra Elzy says freshman Tionna Herron is recovering from open-heart surgery to correct a structural abnormality.

The 6-foot-4 post player learned of her condition after arriving at school in June and received other opinions before surgery was recommended. Senior trainer Courtney Jones said in a release that Herron underwent surgery Aug. 24 at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston and is recovering at home in DeSoto, Texas.

Elzy said Herron “is the definition of a warrior” and all are grateful to be on the other side of the player’s surgery. Herron is expected back on campus early next month and will continue rehabilitation until she’s cleared to return to normal activity.

“Her will and determination to eventually return to the court is inspiring, and it’s that `game-on’ attitude that is what makes her such a perfect fit in our program,” Elzy said in a release. “We are so thrilled for Tionna’s return to our locker room; it’s not the same without our full team together.”

Herron committed to Kentucky during last fall’s early signing period, rated as a four-star prospect and a top-70 player in last year’s class. Kentucky won last year’s Southeastern Conference Tournament and reached the NCAA Tournament’s first round.

Emoni Bates charged with 2 felonies

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SUPERIOR TOWNSHIP, Mich — Emoni Bates, a former basketball prodigy who transferred to Eastern Michigan from Memphis, was charged with two felonies after police found a gun in a car during a traffic stop.

The 18-year-old Bates failed to stop at an intersection Sunday night and a search turned up the weapon, said Derrick Jackson, a spokesman for the Washtenaw County sheriff’s office.

Defense attorney Steve Haney told The Associated Press that the vehicle and the gun didn’t belong to Bates.

“I hope people can reserve judgment and understand there’s a presumption of innocence,” Haney said. “This was not his vehicle. This was not his gun. … We’re still gathering facts, too.”

Bates was charged with carrying a concealed weapon and altering identification marks on a firearm. He was released after his lawyer entered a not guilty plea. Bates’ next court hearing is Oct. 6.

“This is his first brush with the law,” Haney said in court. “He poses no threat or risk to society.”

Less than a month ago, the 6-foot-9 Bates transferred to Eastern Michigan to play for his hometown Eagles. Bates averaged nearly 10 points a game last season as a freshman at Memphis, where he enrolled after reclassifying to skip a year of high school and join the class of 2021.

“We are aware of a situation involving one of our student athletes,” EMU spokesman Greg Steiner said. “We are working to gather more details and will have further comment when more information is available.”

Bates was the first sophomore to win the Gatorade national player of the year award in high school basketball in 2020, beating out Cade Cunningham and Evan Mobley. Detroit drafted Cunningham No. 1 overall last year, two spots before Cleveland took Mobley in the 2021 NBA draft.

Bates committed to playing for Tom Izzo at Michigan State two years ago, later de-committed and signed with Memphis. Bates played in 18 games for the Tigers, who finished 22-11 under Penny Hardaway. Bates missed much of the season with a back injury before appearing in Memphis’ two NCAA Tournament games.

In 2019, as a high school freshman, the slender and skilled guard led Ypsilanti Lincoln to a state title and was named Michigan’s Division 1 Player of the Year by The Associated Press. His sophomore season was cut short by the pandemic and he attended Ypsi Prep Academy as a junior, his final year of high school.

UConn to pay Kevin Ollie another $3.9 million over firing

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STORRS, Conn. — UConn announced Thursday it has agreed to pay former men’s basketball coach Kevin Ollie another $3.9 million to settle discrimination claims surrounding his 2018 firing.

The money is in addition to the more than $11.1 million in back salary Ollie has already been paid after an arbitrator ruled in January that he was improperly fired under the school’s agreement with its professor’s union.

“I am grateful that we were able to reach agreement,” Ollie said in a statement Thursday. “My time at UConn as a student-athlete and coach is something I will always cherish. I am pleased that this matter is now fully and finally resolved.”

Ollie, a former UConn point guard who guided the Huskies to a 127-79 record and the 2014 national championship in six seasons as head coach, was let go after two losing seasons. UConn also stopped paying him under his contract, citing numerous NCAA violations in terminating the deal.

In 2019, the NCAA placed UConn on probation for two years and Ollie was sanctioned individually for violations, which the NCAA found occurred between 2013 and 2018. Ollie’s attorneys, Jacques Parenteau and William Madsen, accused UConn of making false claims to the NCAA for the purpose of firing Ollie “with cause.”

The school had argued that Ollie’s transgressions were serious and that his individual contract superseded those union protections.

Ollie’s lawyers had argued that white coaches, including Hall-of-Famers Jim Calhoun and women’s coach Geno Auriemma, had also committed NCAA violations, without being fired, and indicated they were planning to file a federal civil rights lawsuit.

The school and Ollie said in a joint statement Thursday they were settling “to avoid further costly and protracted litigation.”

Both sides declined to comment further.

Ollie, who faced three years of restrictions from the NCAA on becoming a college basketball coach again, is currently coaching for Overtime Elite, a league that prepares top prospects who are not attending college for the pros.

Dream’s McDonald returning to Arizona to coach under Barnes

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TUCSON, Ariz. — Atlanta Dream guard Aari McDonald is returning to Arizona to work under coach Adia Barnes.

The school announced that McDonald will serve as director of recruiting operations while continuing to fulfill her WNBA commitments. She will oversee all recruiting logistics, assist with on-campus visits, manage recruit information and social media content at Arizona.

McDonald was one of the best players in Arizona history after transferring from Washington as a sophomore. She was an All-American and the Pac-12 player of the year in 2020-21, leading the Wildcats to the national championship game, which they lost to Stanford.

McDonald broke Barnes’ single-season scoring record and had the highest career scoring average in school history before being selected by the Dream with the third overall pick of the 2021 WNBA draft.

South Carolina, Staley cancel BYU games over racial incident

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COLUMBIA, S.C. – South Carolina and women’s basketball coach Dawn Staley have canceled a home-and-home series with BYU over a recent racial incident where a Cougars fan yelled slurs at a Duke volleyball player.

The Gamecocks were scheduled to start the season at home against BYU on Nov. 7, then play at the Utah campus during the 2023-24 season.

But Staley cited BYU’s home volleyball match last month as reason for calling off the series.

“As a head coach, my job is to do what’s best for my players and staff,” Staley said in a statement released by South Carolina on Friday. “The incident at BYU has led me to reevaluate our home-and-home, and I don’t feel that this is the right time for us to engage in this series.”

Duke sophomore Rachel Richardson, a Black member of the school’s volleyball team, said she heard racial slurs from the stands during the match.

BYU apologized for the incident and Richardson said the school’s volleyball players reached out to her in support.

South Carolina said it was searching for another home opponent to start the season.

Gamecocks athletic director Ray Tanner spoke with Staley about the series and supported the decision to call off the games.