A friend of a friend-Dave Hanners-Mel Gibson-September 22

One thing I have learned is that good friends have other good friends. This is a series of stories about “friends of my friends”. The post below is the story for September 22, 2015.

My goal in 2015 is to learn or get re-acquainted with 365 people and doing a daily post on the “the friend of a friend” is helping me get closer to my goal.

In less than a month practice will begin in earnest for college basketball teams across the country. One former college coach that I admire has been retired for a number of years is Mel Gibson. Mel was a standout basketball player at Western Carolina University and grew up in Richmond County NC. He led Western Carolina to the NAIA national championship game in 1963. He was named an NAIA All-American and later helped Team USA win the gold medal at the 1963 Pan American Games in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Poster from 1963 Pan Am Game

Pan Am Games Poster

At WCU Mel ended his career with 2,021 points, second only to the legendary Henry Logan.

The Los Angeles Lakers selected Mel Gibson in the second round of the 1963 NBA Draft. He negotiated a no-cut contract – rare at the time – because he felt he needed another year to develop.

As it turned out, signing that contract was one of Mel’s biggest regrets. He started for Team USA in the 1963 Pan American Games and, had he remained an amateur, could’ve been eligible for the Olympics the next year.

After playing one season of professional basketball Mel turned his attention to coaching. He posted a 57-34 record as the head coach at Baptist College in Charleston, S.C., before coming to UNCW as an assistant coach in 1972 and then taking over the head chair in 1973. He was one of the first coaches that I ever heard of being tabbed as Head Coach in waiting. He knew going to UNCW that he was going to succeed Bill Brooks who was the coach when he arrived in 1972.

People today forget about the success Mel Gibson had in leading UNCW thru the transition of becoming a Division I NCAA university. He posted a 194-180 W-L record and that included his teams playing lots of guarantee games against major schools. Those guarantees helped support financially UNCW in their formative Division I days.

Mel today is a member of a number of Hall of Fames including UNCW, Greater Wilmington Hall of Fame, and Western Carolina. In 2005 Western Carolina University retired his #20 jersey.

Mel Gibson Retired Jersey

Along the way Mel had some pretty special assistant coaches including one of my best friends John Haskins who played for Mel Gibson and former NBA Assistant Coach Dave Hanners.

Mel and Dave are still close friends today.


Mel Gibson

The Friend of the Friend-DAVE HANNERS


From Fayetteville NC to the NBA

In 1980 Mel Gibson made a real good decision in hiring Dave Hanners as his assistant basketball coach at UNC Wilmington. At that time Dave Hanners was the Head Coach at Westover High School in Fayetteville, NC.

Since being hired at UNCW Dave Hanners has made a few stops at almost every level in coaching including spending 11 years on the bench as an assistant coach to legendary UNC Basketball Coach Dean Smith (1989-1997) and Bill Gutheridge from (1997-2000). In between his time at UNCW Dave also served as an assistant coach at Furman and East Tennessee.

In 2000 Dave began coaching in the NBA. In the past 15 years Dave has served as an assistant coach for the Philadelphia 76’ers, Detroit Pistons, NY Knicks, Charlotte Bobcats, and New Orleans Pelicans.

In his senior season (1975-76) at UNC Chapel Hill Dave was the back-up point guard to Phil Ford. For Wake Forest fans the memory of Dave Hanners is way too painful.

Dave-Hanners Card

Dave played a significant role in one of the most famous comebacks in Carolina history. In the opening round of the 1975 Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament, Carolina was trailing Wake Forest by eight points with only 50 seconds remaining.

Dave made that rally happen by contributing a key steal and a pair of assists in a frantic comeback that propelled the Tar Heels to a stunning one-point overtime victory. Spurred by that amazing victory, North Carolina went on to capture the 1975 ACC Tournament crown. That year, Carolina had to win the ACC Tournament to earn a bid to the NCAA Tournament. That tournament victory also began Carolina’s incredible run of 27 straight seasons in NCAA play, a streak that still exists but if Kansas advances in 2016 they will tie the Tar Heels streak.

Next month Dave will move to Chapel Hill, NC and for the moment anyway be listed as retired. I hope he can find time to get back to Wilmington, NC and see Mel Gibson.

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