The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) should hire North Carolina Central University (NCCU) Men’s Basketball Coach LeVelle Moton. Moton is a local product (Raleigh, NC). He is a winner (four MEAC Championships and trips to NCAA Tournament in 10 years; winning 60% of his games). He can recruit. He is connected. He can coach on any level. Most importantly, however, his biggest attribute is his CHARACTER.
As an All-American player at historically Black NCCU, Moton’s nickname was “Poetry in Moton.” The definition of “poetry in motion” is “someone or something that moves in a way that is very graceful or beautiful.” Coach Moton has been the leading voice among his peers in addressing systemic racism in America often articulating his points with the same grace with which he played the game.
As a new coach at UNC, Dean Smith became a legend because of the courage of his convictions.
In 1967, Smith recruited Charlie Scott to become the first African American scholarship athlete at UNC. In doing so he integrated the Atlantic Coast Conference and UNC became the model for integration that other programs would follow in the south with dubious intentions – often valuing players for their athletic talents while ignoring their value to humanity.
However, Smith’s commitment to integration was rooted in his beliefs, according to Art Chansky, author of “Game Changers: Dean Smith, Charlie Scott, and the Era That Transformed A Southern College Town.” In a 2016 interview with WUNC 91.5, Chansky said:
“Dean came to Chapel Hill with the DNA because his father had integrated high school basketball in Kansas back in the 1930s…. He had it in his mind that whenever he coached a college team, it was time for him to integrate it, too.”
Much like Jackie Robinson, Scott arrived on UNC’s campus with the grace to excel on the court while facing hostility off it. To cope, Chansky says Scott “found his social life at North Carolina Central.”
Inducted in the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2018, Scott proved he belonged in the ACC. He averaged 22.1 points and 7.1 rebounds per game at UNC. He was All-American, All-ACC, and led the Tar Heels to Final Four appearances in 1968 and 1969.
He won a gold medal at the 1968 Summer Olympics as a member of the USA Men’s Basketball Team and continued his excellence in the pros being named Rookie of the Year in the ABA and becoming a three-time All-Star in the NBA winning a championship with the Boston Celtics.
Like Scott, Coach Smith benefitted from an NCCU affiliation, too.
Smith’s famed “Four-Corners” offense was an innovation of a fellow Kansan and Jayhawk John McClendon another legendary NCCU basketball coach who studied directly under the game's founder Dr. James Naismith. McClendon was the first African American to become the head basketball coach of a predominantly white institution and a professional team.
It would be poetic justice for the school whose basketball arena bears the name of a legendary coach, known for transforming a southern city through courage, to make a courageous hire of the man who has become one of NCCU’s all-time greats by demonstrating grace while teaching his players to become the men they are destined to be despite the racism they face in America every day.
If UNC is looking for its next legendary coach, he can be found a few miles down the road at NCCU. However, The Mighty Eagles should do everything in their power to keep him. Like Coaches Smith and McLendon before him, Coach Moton is a rare game-changer, both on and off the court.
Travis Mitchell is a Raleigh native and former Chief Content Officer for UNC-TV (now PBS North Carolina. He is currently the SVP & Chief Content Officer for Maryland Public Television and a graduate of Morgan State University.