|The son also rises: Coach Keno Davis leads Drake to 14-1 start|
|Written by Admin|
|Tuesday, 15 January 2008 11:59|
Drake was the final stop in Tom Davis' 32-year career as a head coach. It is Keno's first.
All those years around the game were not lost on Keno Davis. He absorbed his lessons well and applied them to the Bulldogs, one of the nation's most surprising teams.
Drake is 14-1 and 5-0 in the Missouri Valley Conference. It has won a school-record 13 straight games entering Wednesday's game at Bradley. Picked to finish ninth in the MVC, the Bulldogs are off to their best start and on the verge of their first ranking since 1975.
Keno Davis spent four years under his father before taking over last summer, making him part of a growing trend in college basketball. Sean Sutton has taken over from Eddie Sutton at Oklahoma State. Tony Bennett took father Dick's job at Washington State. Pat Knight is in line to succeed Bob Knight at Texas Tech.
Davis says the father-son connection can provide stability for schools looking to crack the elite.
``I don't think you can quite say enough about it,'' Keno Davis said. ``It's not like you can come in as a first-year coach and have nearly the kind of success we've had. It was going to be one that was going to take some time. It helped incredibly.''
Keno spent eight years working for his father, but nearly his entire life learning the game from him. As a kid, Keno followed Tom as he made stops at Lafayette, Boston College, Stanford and Iowa. He served as an undergraduate assistant under Tom at Iowa from 1991-95, followed by eight years as an assistant at Southern Indiana and Southeast Missouri State.
Tom, who had been out of coaching for four years after a 13-year stint at Iowa, made Keno his first hire when he took over the Bulldogs. Together they improved the talent level and rallied the community around a team largely irrelevant for two decades.
Last season, Drake finished over .500 for the first time since 1986-87. Tom decided to walk away, safe in the knowledge Keno was ready to take over.
``He was always there to bounce things off me, to make suggestions and to interact,'' Tom Davis said. ``I wanted him to feel like it was his program.''
Drake's recent success is no small feat. It's been so long since Drake has been ranked that the Valley's record books had incorrectly listed its last visit to the Associated Press poll for at least 20 years - and nobody noticed until this week.
Keno wasn't exactly handed the keys to a winner. Drake lost four senior starters from a team that depended heavily on dribble penetration and athleticism. Keno decided to shake things up. He saw a team full of strong 3-point shooters and he cut them loose.
The Bulldogs, ranked last in the Valley in 3-point shooting a year ago, are now third at 37 percent. They've also cut their points allowed by 17.5 a game, ranking tops in the Valley at 56.7 points per outing.
``This team is major 3-point threat from one to five. We've got power forwards and centers that can shoot the ball,'' Keno Davis said. ``We put a lot of pressure on the defense to figure out ways to guard us.''
Tom Davis hasn't strayed far. He's now a special assistant to Drake's athletic director, and in many ways has taken over the role that had been Keno's. The two talk after every game, and Keno uses his father - he of the 598 career wins - as a sounding board for anything and everything related to the Bulldogs.
``It's important for any coach to be able to have somebody that you respect to get another look at your team,'' Keno said. ``He's been invaluable to me my whole life and coaching career. This year, it's great to have him still a part of the program.''
As Tom points out, he's hardly the only coach to influence his son. Keno got to watch his father match wits with the likes of Dean Smith, Lute Olson and Gene Keady. But all it takes is one look at the Drake sidelines to know who influenced Keno the most.
Save for the shock of white hair and the grandfather's paunch, Keno is the spitting image of his father. So are the Bulldogs, who have followed Tom Davis' tenets of strong fundamentals and persistent pressure defense, and, most important, winning.
``It goes beyond the son working for the father,'' Tom Davis said. ``If the sons have success following in their father's footsteps, it goes back further than when they were assistant coaches. They learn a lot of things they didn't even know they've learned. And if they do have success, it has to do with that.''