CHAPEL HILL, NC — North Carolina’s new head coach, Hubert Davis, intends to build his assistant coaching staff with members of the Carolina family. To that end, Davis aims to add his former teammate and current Monmouth head coach King Rice to his bench, multiple sources confirm.
Rice, who played three seasons with Davis at UNC from 1988-91, has spent the past 10 seasons as the head coach at Monmouth, leading the Hawks to a 161-154 record with three top spots in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. His two best seasons came in 2015-16 and 2016-17, leading Monmouth to back-to-back NIT appearances to cap seasons 28-8 and 27-7.
After Roy Williams retired last Thursday, Rice was among those interviewed by UNC athletic director Bubba Cunningham for the head coach position, according to sources close to the situation.
Davis is also expected to add former Auburn and East Carolina head coach Jeff Lebo, who also played alongside Tar Heel’s new head coach under Dean Smith, as well as Sean May, who spent six years on the coaching staff of Roy Williams, including the last four. as director of basketball operations for UNC.
In his introductory press conference Tuesday, Davis detailed why his coaching staff would have to be made up entirely of members of the Carolina family.
“In terms of personnel, you can’t do this job unless you’re a Carolina boy. It’s impossible,” said the 50-year-old. “You can’t train here, you can’t recruit here, you can’t work here unless you’ve been here, experienced it, lived it. So in terms of personnel, they’re all guys I’ve experienced this place and what I believe and have the passion and desire that we all have for this university and this program and these children in this community.
“One of the things I desperately want to do in terms of staffing is to connect the generations. I want to have guys on the staff that played for Coach Smith, I want to have guys on the staff that played for Coach Guthridge, and I want to have guys on the staff that played with Coach Williams. I want to be able to connect all of them because I think bringing all of those coaches together is what makes Carolina, Carolina. One thing I’m thinking about. You have to be a Carolina boy. And I want to an example from each of the coaches who have meant so much to me, but have also meant a lot to this program. “
Rice played 140 games as Tar Heel from 1987 to 1991, helping lead the Tar Heels to the Final Four in 1991. His 629 assists rank him sixth in the show’s history.
After his Monmouth team played the UNC at the Smith Center in 2016, Rice fought back tears in his postgame press conference, explaining how much Carolina’s program means to him.
“I’m the luckiest guy Coach Smith gave me a scholarship in 1987, and that made me have a great, great, great life,” Rice said. “… I am the luckiest man that I had the opportunity to play in North Carolina.
“The relationships that I have, I had Jimmy Black sitting with me. JR Reid and Coach Ford and many, many more who came today because I’m here with my team. And I’m grateful to all the coaches — Coach Ford, Coach Wiel , Coach Harp, Coach Gut (Guthridge), they all helped me, they took a stubborn boy and turned him into a man.
“I’m a proud, proud, proud Carolina man.”
Lebo, who played one season with Davis at UNC in 1988-89, has 20 years of experience as a head coach. His first head coaching job came in 1998-99 at Tennessee Tech, where he changed the Golden Eagles’ program in four years (75-43 record). After two years at Chattanooga (40-20), the 54-year-old jumped into the SEC to coach Auburn from 2004-10 (96-93) before spending eight years at East Carolina (116-122).
Lebo trained his final season at West Carteret High School in Morehead City, North Carolina after spending the 2019-20 season as an assistant coach under former Tar Heel teammate Joe Wolf with the Greensboro Swarm of the G League of NBA development. Lebo’s son, Creighton, was a rookie on the UNC team last season.
May’s duties as UNC’s director of basketball operations for the past four seasons included scouting, on-campus recruiting, video services, and team logistics, among others. May, a first-round draft pick of the 2005 NBA Draft, is one of seven Tar Heels to average a career double-double (15.8 ppi, 10.0 rpg). He won the Final Four Outstanding Player award after leading the Tar Heels to the 2005 national championship.