Six NC head coaches now have UNC ties

At around midnight Tuesday, Appalachian State coach Jason Capel texted new interim UNC Greensboro coach Wes Miller. The former North Carolina forward welcomed the former Tar Heels guard to the head coaching ranks, and told Miller that his heart would never stop beating fast, as long as he was a head coach.

“It’s actually the same thing Coach [Roy] Williams shared with me, the day he found out I was head coach at App State,’’ Capel said. “So I kind of passed that on to Wes.

“To me, that’s a testament to the program, having another head coach [come out of UNC].”

Indeed, Miller, who replaces Mike Dement for at least the rest of the season, adds another branch to the Tar Heels’ ever-growing coaching tree. Out of the 18 Division I basketball programs in the state of North Carolina alone, there are now six head coaches who previously played for the Tar Heels.

The list:

  • Williams, in his ninth season at UNC after playing on the Tar Heels’ junior varsity team and serving as an assistant coach in Chapel Hill, N.C., for 10 seasons.

  • Capel, in his second season as head coach of the Mountaineers after playing for UNC from 1998-2002 (and going to the Final Four in 2000).

  • UNC Wilmington’s Buzz Peterson, who played for UNC from 1981-85 (including on the 1982 national title team) and roomed with Michael Jordan.

  • East Carolina’s Jeff Lebo, who played for the Tar Heels from 1986-89 (advancing to the NCAA Sweet 16 each season) and is in his second year coaching the Pirates.

  • High Point’s Scott Cherry, a member of UNC’s 1993 national title team as a senior.

  • Miller, who played for the Tar Heels from 2004-07 and was a member of the 2005 NCAA title team. He is now the youngest head coach in Division I, at age 28.

Before the season, Williams said there is a good reason why so many UNC players get coaching jobs: ”It’s an attractive thing to people, the North Carolina success,’’ he said. “And those people who were involved in it, if you’re looking for someone to help your program, you’d like someone who’s been more involved in it already.”

Capel added that playing for UNC prepares you for the sidelines, because you’re learning from the best.

“The biggest thing is, when you’re at Carolina, you’re taught how to play the right way,’’ he said. “… I think what people see is you’re going to get guys that are pretty sharp, guys who know how to handle themselves, how to conduct themselves, guys that know the game pretty sell, and can teach it pretty well.

“It’s truly a testament to Coach [Dean] Smith: what he’s done, what he’s taught, because we all just try to copy him and the things he’s done. We all hope we can be successful, and pay tribute to him by doing that.”

Robbi Pickeral can be reached at bylinerp@gmail.com. Twitter: @bylinerp.