ATHLETIC DIRECTOR BUBBA CUNNINGHAM DIRECTS AN ATHLETIC DEPARTMENT THAT FEATURES A HALF-DOZEN HALL OF FAMERS
Carolina Athletic Director Bubba Cunningham provided his thoughts on working with Carolina's Hall of Fame coaches.
WHAT HAVE YOU ENJOYED ABOUT WATCHING THESE COACHES LEARN FROM EACH OTHER AND WORK TOGETHER?
There is tremendous respect among our coaches and a great mutual appreciation for how good they are in their particular areas. I think you see that in their support of each other, whether it's in a meeting or in attendance at each other's events. That has been something very special to watch.
WHAT BENEFITS ARE THERE FOR THE YOUNGER COACHES IN THE DEPARTMENT OF HAVING RELATIVELY EASY ACCESS TO SIX HALL OF FAMERS?
Obviously, it's beneficial to them to be able to watch those coaches coach their games and see the strategies and motivation that they are using on a daily basis. But there's also an opportunity for younger coaches to utilize the Leadership Academy, coaches' meetings and athletic department events to interact with our more experienced coaches and ask questions about how they run their programs. I've found that our veteran coaches are very open to helping the younger members of the department. And our veteran coaches also regularly demonstrate a commitment to continuous learning and development. That becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
HOW HAS WATCHING THIS GROUP CHANGED THE WAY YOU THINK ABOUT SUCCESSFUL COACHES AND THE QUALITIES YOU LOOK FOR WHEN YOU'RE HIRING A COACH?
Sometimes when you answer a question like this it sounds trite, but I've really found that it is true. What has become very important to me is the authenticity of the person and how that comes through in the way they build a program. And that doesn't necessarily mean they're doing it the exact same way. Instead, they're being true to themselves. Anson, for example, has very well-articulated values and he has quotes associated with each of them. The players on his team memorize those values. At the end of the year, when they're playing in a championship game, he writes a very personal letter to each senior, and the team knows that they are playing for those seniors.
That's a different style than Roy Williams might use. He emphasizes the Carolina Family, which is something he learned a great deal about from Coach (Dean) Smith. It's not as formally written out, but he still has that personal connection with the players that is every bit as strong as the one that Anson has.
They might achieve it in different ways, but the consistency of the care and the total commitment to the kids is the same. The foundation of that is the same. How they achieve it depends on the individual, and they have a unique understanding of what works best for them.
FIT IS SUCH AN IMPORTANT PART OF A COACHING HIRE. WHY IS CAROLINA THE RIGHT FIT FOR THESE SIX, AND HOW DO YOU IDENTIFY THAT SAME TYPE OF FIT WHEN YOU'RE HIRING A NEW COACH FOR ONE OF CAROLINA'S 28 SPORTS?
There are very specific characteristics of a place that you have to understand. Actually, more than just understand them, you have to appreciate them for you and your program to be successful. Each school is slightly different. North Carolina is a highly competitive academic institution with great athletic programs. Some of those attributes are easier for some people to understand than others. Those who embrace the school are more successful than those who might try to change aspects of the school to fit their personality. The trick is that you don't always know for certain in an interview process who will embrace the special characteristics of an institution. And you have to understand that those characteristics, and the way a coach relates to them, can change over time.
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