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Herbert Davis rose from his desk and greeted me with a smile. I was told before I arrived that he didn't want to be called Coach because that title was for someone else. I asked what he went by.

He looked puzzled before laughing.

In his spacious, sunny office in the Dean E. Smith Center, he sits in a Carolina blue armchair. He leans back as if he has all the time in the world to talk, as he relaxes in a blue quarter-ZIP. We talked about our families, our favorite fishing holes and the blue classic pickup truck he drives.

There are black frames behind him with jerseys and photos from his NBA and UNC careers hanging in them. North Carolina's victory over Duke in the Final Four is one of the best moments from last year's NCAA tournament. Right in the middle of his basketball past and present is where he is sitting.

It is a fitting place for Davis, who visits often with his nostalgia for the program and his beloved coach Dean Smith, but who also knows that he must keep the 112-year-old program and its players moving forward.

After nine seasons as an assistant under Roy Williams, Davis became the head coach of the Tar Heels.

The Tar Heels dropped out of the AP rankings after four losses in a row, but this year has been different for Davis and the team. Some critics are wondering if a sophomore slump is taking place for Davis, or if he was the right person to succeed Williams in the first place.

I'm here to talk to Davis about this particular point in his relationship with the university, which he's been a part of for a long time. Smith's legacy is always present in UNC basketball lore but also in Davis' personal and professional life.

Smith, who died three weeks before his 84th birthday in 2015, coached at the university for 36 years and retired with a Division I record of . Smith's voice is still heard by Davis in difficult moments, as well as a reminder to keep going.

Smith's winning tradition is not mentioned in Davis' office. He mentioned the love and respect Smith showed for his players, the investment in their character and service to the community, and the interest in their families.

You can see his attempts to give UNC basketball a more modern hue as you walk down the hall. There is a fresh coat of bright white paint with Carolina blue accents on the walls. Changing a paint color or changing offensive strategy doesn't mean severing ties to Smith.

Davis is tethering himself to the past in order to focus on the immediate future.

Davis says that everything he does is connected to what Smith did for him while he was here. I want to follow the same path as Coach Smith, but I have to do it my way. That is what I would like to do. I would like to do this with my own quirks.

It's where he's sitting.

Davis grew into a star at North Carolina and still embraces the environment that allowed him to blossom. John Biever /Sports Illustrated via Getty Images

Herbert Davis was six years old when his uncle and a friend took him on a road trip. This was not an average trip and it took 13 hours in the car. Both Walter's friend and his uncle were named Walter. Walter Davis and Phil Ford were the greatest college ball players of their era and Olympic gold medal winners.

It was 1976, and the three were driving home to Chapel Hill, North Carolina, from Montreal, where Smith had just led Team USA to their place atop the Olympic podium and the globe. There were two gold medals around his neck as he slid around the backseat.

Walter and Ford talked about Smith and the Olympics. He would be playing for Coach Smith in 12 years. He worked in the stadium facility that bears Smith's name.

"I've known him since he was a young child," Ford said. The head coach at the University of North Carolina is a young man.

Davis' journey to wearing the uniform wasn't guaranteed, even though he'd been watching his uncle play since he was a toddler. Smith visited Davis as a favor to his uncle Walter, but encouraged him to go somewhere he would get more playing time.

Davis wasn't going to be deterred. He knew he could be a good player for the Tar Heels. The school record for career 3-point percentage is held by Davis.

Davis said that he was given a chance by Smith. I was not a McDonald's All-American. I was given a chance. I want to give people a chance.

Dean Smith remains a guiding force in Davis' life, on the bench and beyond. "Everything that I do is filtered through what I think he would want me to do," Davis says. AP Photo/Susan Ragan

Most of the former Tar Heels who played with Davis mentioned his dedication and hard work. He is described as having a competitive edge but not using any profanity. Unless you count the distance.

Davis was a player for the Tar Heels. He didn't start a game until his senior year. His scoring average went up from 3.3 to 21.4. When Davis was a junior, the team made it to the Final Four, despite being knocked out in the Sweet 16 three times.

George Lynch was with Davis for three seasons and remembers joking with him.

He would let you know that he got the best of you in practice, even though he wouldn't say a word.

There wasn't a "locker room talk" from Davis at that time. Tomorrow.

Lynch says that he was like a choir boy for everyone. He would say "fart" instead of "f---" In the locker room, we would make jokes about being fart.

It is a reflection of his nature and his faith, but it is also part of his homage to the Carolina tradition.

I've known Coach Smith since I was a junior. Ford says he didn't hear him swear until the day he died. He probably would have if he was going to swear.

It doesn't seem like Davis is conscious about avoiding profanity. As he searches for a replacement for what he really wants to say in order to maintain a clean image, he feels like curse words don't exist in his vocabulary and never have.

Everyone on the team gets on the line if Davis hears a bad word from a player. Any music the team plays during practice is covered by his policy. It needs to be a clean version if it comes out of the speakers.

He told me that he is quick to laugh and to cry. Everyone is told by him. He doesn't keep it hidden. He cried with joy and pride after the Tar Heels defeated Saint Peter's to reach the Final Four.

I was excited for them because I was anticipating what they were going to see at the Final Four. He said he was excited for them. I tell the men that I'm just an emotional guy. You have to show emotion when you do something that you love. Emotions signify that something is important and that you care about it.

Chapel Hill has always felt like home to Davis, who returned even during his professional playing career to surround himself with familiar coaches and players. Grant Halverson/Getty Images

The windows in Davis' office give a great view. The trees are still green in Chapel Hill. The nation's oldest public university is crowded with students. When the first students arrived at the university in 1795, they were greeted by the largest structure in the world. Another giant has called Davis before.

Davis was selected by the New York Knicks as the 20th overall pick in the 1992 NBA draft. He wasn't ready to leave his hometown of Northern Virginia despite being born there and growing up there.

Normally people get up there a week or two before, but Davis went the last day possible to go up there. "You know how you feel around your parents, and you feel like you can do anything, even if you don't know what you're doing." I felt that way here. I didn't feel like I was being watched. Dean Smith and Bill Guthridge were with me.

The Knicks were the first of six teams Davis would play for over his 12-year career at the pro level, but no matter where basketball took him, he always had the same routine: take the first flight back home to Chapel Hill and come straight to campus.

As soon as the playoffs were over, Davis was going back to his hometown. I was here for the entire summer. Every day I would come back to the office and talk to Coach Smith and Coach Guthridge. I spent the entire summer in the NBA.

Smith talked with Davis about everything from marriage to kids to career decisions. Smith's words and advice were planted in Davis' mind as he parents three teenagers.

One of life's turning points was the time when Davis wanted to visit Smith again. He had just accepted the head coach position to succeed Roy Williams and had a lot of calls and texts to answer. He walked instead. He sat by Smith's headstone on the east side of the campus.

There is a book on top of the marker. "Reflect gracefully on those who went before you" is a verse from the author of the book of Revelation. It's important to honor those who contribute to a better future for those who follow.

Davis said he wanted to spend time with him at his gravesite. I wanted to thank you for believing in me and giving me an opportunity and I just wanted to listen to him. He set a good example for me.

Davis spent nine years as an assistant under Roy Williams before becoming the first Black head coach in North Carolina men's basketball history. AP Photo/Gerry Broome

The banner-draped table on the floor of the Dean E. Smith Center was used to introduce Davis as the head coach of the Tar Heels. The Heels had a first-round exit from the NCAA tournament. The team went 14-15 the year before that.

In accepting the position, Davis became the first black head coach in the history of the program. According to the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport, only 24% of Division I men's basketball head coaches are black.

Davis thinks it's significant. My father was one of the first group of students to integrate schools in Charlotte Mecklenburg County. The head coach at the University of North Carolina is the son of the father. There's a big deal.

Charlie Scott, the first Black scholarship athlete to attend the University of Carolina in 1967, was recruited by Smith, who was a civil rights advocate. Smith was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Obama, who noted in his speech that he was dedicated to efforts to desegregate.

Davis and his team talk a lot about diversity and inclusion. He is talking about them with me.

Davis tells his players that it's important to have a voice. One of the things that we talk about a lot is having a voice and how to use it to bring people together. Over the last two or three years there have been a lot of things happening in our country. Our players have been talking about having a voice, making sure their voice is positive, and generating a positive solution to where we want everything to be. I talk to the guys about that, not just the African American players.

Davis has installed a new offense at North Carolina, but at its foundation is still a personal relationship between coach and players. AP Photo/Chris Szagola

The walls of Davis' office are lined with sneakers in a variety of colors. They're pristine on display in protective, clear acrylic boxes, ready to be picked out for the walk upstairs to practice or a home game, a different change of formality from Smith's suit and brogues.

He tries to get a pair every couple of weeks.

I asked Phil Ford what it took to accumulate such a large collection of baby blue, so he gave me his opinion.

Ford thinks that he could get them from someone. I don't think it's as hard for him as it is for others.

He has a dealer. I reply with a lot of humor.

"So, Michael Jordan?"

When Jordan hit the shot that sent the Tar Heels to the national title in 1982, it was different than when Smith was the coach. The UNC offense is being modernized by Davis. His players have been given space.

Ron Smith, a UNC basketball historian and author of "The Tar Heels", thinks that Hubert knew what was going to happen. The offense we're going to have to run is what you do right now. If you are going to be able to recruit these guys, you need to be more focused on an NBA style.

It was a big shake-up to move away from what former players call "The System" that has always used two bigs, to a style of play that encourages post players to shoot 3s.

"He quickly identified that he needed to make some changes, and I think that's one wonderful example that takes a lot of guts, is not to just fall into familiar waters but be willing to try to swim in the deep end from the very get- go," says Eric Montross

Without an opportunity to get to know Davis, it could have been a difficult transition for the players. He knew he needed to change how the team played, but also that their enthusiasm and dedication would not come from practice alone, but also time away from the court.

The guys have to stop by at least three times a week. Davis doesn't want to talk about basketball. Coach Smith did not need to do that. We would hang out after class, play video games, take naps, have lunch, and we would just be hanging out with them.

The players might look behind his desk when they come by. There is a box on the wall. There is a paper inside.

Smith instructed his estate to send out checks to all of his lettermen with instructions to have a nice dinner with their wives or friends.

When I asked him what he did with his, Davis said it was right there.

I apologized to Mrs. Smith and said that this would be the first time I disobeyed her coach. He said that when you balance the checkbook you will be short $200. I am unable to cash this. It's not possible.