If Roy Williams hadn't retired as North Carolina's coach last year, the 2022 men's Final Four would've had four Hall of Fame coaches in New Orleans, but no person of color leading any of the programs.
Instead of being on the sidelines, Williams watched proudly from the Superdome seats as former assistant Hubert Davis coached the Tar Heels in Monday's national championship against Kansas.
A full-time first-year coach had never won it all — and Davis came so close with a 72-69 loss to the Jayhawks. His turnaround was impressive, taking UNC from a midseason bubble team to a 29-10 finish.
"I should be disappointed," Davis told reporters after the game, "but I'm just filled with so much pride."
Davis' impressive NCAA tournament run with North Carolina quietly made it back-to-back seasons where a Black coach reached the men's Final Four, following Houston's Kelvin Sampson last year.
Surprisingly, that hadn't happened in consecutive years since Clem Haskins with the Gophers in 1997, followed by another ex-Minnesota coach, Tubby Smith, winning the title with Kentucky in 1998.
The difficult journey for people of color to get head coaching jobs, let alone reach the pinnacle of the sport, isn't lost on South Carolina women's coach Dawn Staley. She became the first Black coach in Division I basketball history to win two national championships after beating Connecticut 64-49 on Sunday at Target Center.
"I felt a great deal of pressure to win because I'm a Black coach," Staley said. "Because if we don't win, then you bring in so many other — just scrutiny. Like you can't coach, you had enough to get it done but yet you failed. You feel all of that, and you feel it probably 10 times more than anyone else because we're at this platform."
Staley said she wanted to cut up pieces of her championship net to give to some Black male coaches because "they don't get opportunity."
Last year, Sampson broke a seven-year drought of having a Black coach in the men's Final Four. The previous was ex-UConn coach Kevin Ollie, still the last coach of color to win the NCAA men's title in 2014.
No current Black coach in Division I has won the men's national championship after Smith retired this spring from his alma mater at High Point after coaching for 31 seasons.
A decade separated John Thompson's first NCAA title for a Black coach at Georgetown in 1984 with Nolan Richardson's championship run in 1994 at Arkansas. And Smith cut down the nets at Kentucky four years later in '98. But there's been only one Black coach to join that group on the men's side in the past 24 years.
"I expected more," Smith told the Star Tribune when still coaching at High Point. "You got to be getting the right jobs and having the right support from an administrative standpoint. I think it's been disappointing to see the dwindling of African-American coaches in high-profile programs."
Connecticut fired Ollie in 2018 after the school self-reported violations, which eventually turned into owing him more than $11 million for wrongful termination. He's now coaching and in charge of developing 16- to 18-year-old players in the Overtime Elite league.
Sampson, who was forced to resign at Indiana in 2008 for something now allowed by the NCAA with text messaging recruits, repaired his image and turned Houston into a perennial power, including an Elite Eight run this year.
The only other Black former Final Four coaches currently leading programs entering this season, though, were Marquette's Shaka Smart (VCU in 2011) and Detroit Mercy's Mike Davis (Indiana in 2002). They both are so far removed from their magical March Madness runs.
This year, UNC's Davis became the first Black men's coach to reach the Final Four from a major conference since former Georgetown coach John Thompson III in 2007.
Staley built South Carolina into a national force from the ground up, but there's no comparison on the men's side.
North Carolina hiring Davis as Williams' successor put a coach of color in charge of a blue-blood program — giving him more resources and a better chance than most of his peers to reach the biggest stage and win it all.
It's easy to see Staley returning to the women's Final Four year in and year out. But the men's side didn't necessarily have that maybe until now. Davis and UNC could be back again soon, too. And that would be another step forward.