PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) -After a sterling debut as a head coach at Drake, Keno Davis is bracing for a tougher challenge - and opponents - in his first season at Providence.
He was hired in April to revive a program that finished with losing records in three of the last four seasons and has languished in the bottom half of the ultra-competitive Big East Conference.
Davis appeared primed to build Drake into a mid-major juggernaut after guiding the Bulldogs to a 28-5 record and their first national ranking in 33 years.
But the reigning AP coach of the year said he couldn't pass up the chance to test himself in the Big East - where his father coached nearly 30 years ago - against programs like Connecticut, Georgetown and Louisville.
``I'm not going to lie to you: When I got into the profession, the idea of being able to coach in the Big East was a dream of mine,'' the 36-year-old said. ``To be able to compete at that level every day is something that drove me.''
eastern on Nov. 15, return a nucleus of upperclassmen, including leading scorer Jeff Xavier, forwards Randall Hanke and Geoff McDermott and point guard Sharaud Curry, who missed nearly all last season with a broken foot but was an all-Big East honorable mention selection a year earlier.
Davis' success at Drake is creating high expectations at Providence.
The Rev. Brian J. Shanley, the president of the Catholic college, has called the new coach an answer to a prayer, and athletic director Bob Driscoll says returning to the NCAA tournament for the first time in five seasons is a realistic goal.
The Friars went 6-12 in the Big East - despite twice upsetting Connecticut - last season and were 15-16 overall. They lost in the first round of the conference tournament, but Davis said the parity of the league - a record eight teams got bids for the NCAA tournament last season - makes him optimistic.
``We can beat anybody and we can get beat by everybody,'' Davis said. ``I like the fact going into the year that you have an opportunity.''
In 1977, Tom Davis became coach at Boston College - one of five stops in his 30-year career.
Keno Davis spent time with his father and absorbed the sport, traveling to conference tournaments and performing thankless tasks like wiping sweat off the court during games.
2007. The team was coming off a 17-15 season, but under the younger Davis, the Bulldogs stormed through the Missouri Valley Conference, were nationally ranked for eight straight weeks and reached their first NCAA tournament since 1971.
``We felt like we made great strides with that program, obviously, and that it wasn't just a one-year wonder,'' Davis said
Davis arrived at Providence after a prolonged search to replace Tim Welsh, who was fired after leading the team to just two NCAA tournament appearances in 10 seasons. Jim Larranaga of George Mason and Travis Ford, then of Massachusetts, turned down offers. After Driscoll approached Davis, he conferred with his father, who told him to at least check it out.
Davis is promising a new style of play at Providence and said there won't be many teams executing the same fast-break offense and pressure defense as the Friars.
``He's a little bit more encouraging, nurturing,'' senior reserve forward Jonathan Kale said. ``If you make a mistake, he's not going to pounce on you about it. He's going to let you know how you made the mistake and why you made the mistake.''
After he was introduced as coach, Davis said a Providence fan approached him and told him coaches here were expected to win right away.
``I said, 'You know what? They want to win right away everywhere,''' Davis said. ``There's no four- or five-year building plans anymore. You're supposed to win right away and that's the pressure of being a coach in today's day and age.''

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