Q & A: On eve of return to Indiana, former coach Mike Davis discusses his past and present

  • 11/16/2014 12:12 pm in

On Thursday evening, as Texas Southern coach Mike Davis spoke on the phone from Cheney, Wash., the Tigers coach said he didn’t even want to be playing Eastern Washington the next day in their season opener. He wanted to be in Bloomington.

More than eight years after his departure as Indiana’s head coach, Davis is set to make his return to the place he once coached, as his Texas Southern squad faces the Hoosiers on Monday at 6 p.m., as part of the Hoosiers Showcase.

Inside the Hall spoke expansively with Davis — on his time coaching at Indiana, his current situation at Texas Southern and his anticipation surrounding Monday’s game. Our full conversation with the former Hoosiers’ coach is posted below:

How did the opportunity to play Indiana this season present itself? Is it something you have wanted to do for a while?

I’ve never thought about it but it was because no one asked me. But I definitely wanted to come back and play a game at Indiana. And a guy called me and asked me do we want to be in the event that they were in, we’d get a chance to play them now. It’ll be great for our team and our program.

When you first accepted the invitation, what were your immediate thoughts?

I was excited. A good chance for my older son, he’s my assistant coach on my team, and my younger son that is playing ball and hopefully can be recruited one day by Indiana. We homeschooled him so he could get a chance to travel with us a lot. And as I’ve said before, Indiana gave our family the biggest pure memory that we could ever have, and that was getting an opportunity to coach at Indiana, first of all, and then play for a national championship where our whole family came down — brothers and sisters, cousins and friends — everyone came in to watch us play.

Do you, personally, feel ready for a return to Indiana?

I just think the older you get, you start to appreciate things that really have been good to you. And I really appreciate what they have done for me and for my family. So when the guys called me about the game, I was excited. No way I was going to turn it down. I think I was surprised and shocked. We’re just going to go in there — and it’s not about winning or losing the game. It’s more about us getting the chance to see what big-time basketball is all about.

Obviously, you came in right after Bob Knight was fired. How difficult was the situation you inherited?

The one thing people don’t realize was that I was with coach Knight for two or three years and he did a lot for me as a basketball coach. Just the little things that I think a lot of people take for granted, like doing scouting reports. So from a basketball standpoint, I think I was OK. It was just other things that made it a difficult first job at a place like that. Understand that this was really more than just basketball.

What was your favorite memory from your time at Indiana?

My favorite memory was when we beat Kent State. Everybody wanted to fly home that night, all the players wanted to come back. And I wanted to stay there and just kind of enjoy it. But they wanted to fly back. And when we flew back, there were thousands and thousands of people at the airport. When we got to Assembly Hall, the parking lot was just crowded with people. They were just so excited about us going to the Final Four. That was my most fond memory.

Do you have any regrets from your six seasons here?

I don’t. Everything was a learning experience for me. It was a process for me. I never thought I would have been at Indiana for 20 years. I never thought that. And I don’t have any regrets to be honest with you because, honestly, it was such a great opportunity for me.

Switching gears a bit, last season you led Texas Southern to the NCAA tournament — the third team you’ve taken to the big dance. How much did you enjoy last season, and how important was Aaric Murray to your team’s success?

Well the year before we had won the conference outright but we couldn’t go to the NCAA tournament. And then last year we won the tournament. And it was more of the kids trying to do it for me, because that was my third school that I took to the NCAA tournament and the third school that I won the conference with. So it was really more of a celebration for me, from my players.

And Aaric Murray had problems at West Virginia and La Salle, and I thought I turned him around. I thought I got a lot out of him, and he really had one of the best years he ever had in college basketball. He scored 48 points against Temple, and last game of the NCAA tournament he scored 39 points. So he was a success story, and nobody thought that he could play the way he played. Everybody thought he had talent, just could never get it together. And we did that, but we had to do it.

What will be the biggest challenge for Texas Southern this season?

Well, I’m looking forward to it. Two of our starters from last year — they won’t be able to play. One (senior forward Jose Rodriguez) is out for the year, and one (senior guard Madarious Gibbs) is out for three weeks. So we’ll lose two of our starters from last year. And then we have another kid that won’t be able to play — he’s still at home — he’ll be our starting four or five guy. So right now, we’re just trying to get better every day in terms of getting ready for our conference season in January. And playing these games is more of can we go into the arena, concentrate, execute and give a great effort every night.

Do you feel any particular importance for the season opener against Eastern Washington?

It’s a lot of travel. We’ve been flying all day today. Get up and fly out, back and forth across the country. But that’s the point of what we do. I’ve embraced it. Our first 16 games, we have only one home game. It’s tough, but I have embraced it, just trying to make sure that our guys stayed focused and they keep working.

How much have you followed Indiana over the years?

I follow them a lot. I follow them a whole lot. I watch a lot of their games. And like I said, my oldest son, Mike, he has friends there and they talk about the games. My youngest son, Antoine, he talks about the games and he still has friends there that he hasn’t seen in eight years, I guess.

There was plenty of offseason turmoil surrounding Indiana over the past several months. What are your thoughts on what has been going on?

Well what’s the point of Indiana and what a young kid has to understand? When you sign on the paper with Indiana, if you do anything it’s going to be highlighted all over the country. They love their program. They love their basketball. So you really have to think about things before you do it when you’re part of the program.

How difficult is it to manage guys off the court?

It’s almost impossible. What people don’t understand is that when you sign a kid who is 18 years old, he is who he is and who he has been for 18 years. And then you’re trying to mold him, first of all, into a team guy. And so once he leaves you, you don’t know what kind of music he’s listening to, you don’t know what kind of conversations he’s having with his friends, we have no detail what kind of guy he is outside of basketball. So you don’t really get a chance, when you talk about recruiting, to spend that much time with them. So there are signs, sometimes, that can tell you what a kid’s character is and what he’s about. And what he believes is normal for him may not be normal for us. So it’s very difficult. You never know.

Do you sympathize with Tom Crean?

Oh yeah, any coach. Any coach. I talk to my guys on a daily basis, because where I am, you may not hear about some things that our guys are doing. But I know that they have to compete in the real world against other players and other people from all walks of life. It’s a challenge that I embrace, as far as trying to teach them and mold them into men and being able to take care of their families. But you get them and you have them for a month or a year or sometimes three or four years, but they’ve been doing this for 18, 19 years.

Do you anticipate any members of the 2002 Final Four team being in attendance on Monday night?

I hope so. (Tom) Coverdale now, we texted the other day, and he sent me a video of my mom getting out of the car and checking into the hotel for the Final Four and he gave me a video of his senior night when they gave him a standing ovation. It was a really, really, really great time for me to see that. Just to confirm everything that I thought — that the place I coached and the place I’m going back to on Monday gave my family and I some great memories.

How much do you value that 2002 team as the years have passed?

You always think that when you have a team, a lot of times you don’t appreciate that team and the effort they gave. You appreciate it, but you don’t truly appreciate it until you start coaching other players, other teams, and you realize that they’re not giving that same effort. They never come together and make this a real team. That was a real team. Not a great conference team, but it was a real, real, real team. We beat people that we just had no business beating. But we were a real team. Dane Fife, Coverdale, Jared Jeffries, Jarrad Odle, those guys, they made a commitment to do something special for Indiana. That wasn’t about me, that wasn’t about them, they wanted to do something for Indiana. And that’s what made it a real team.

What are you most looking forward to on Monday night?

I just want my kids, both my boys, to be with me and really just enjoy it and give (Indiana) appreciation for what they’ve done for us. Because I never would have had the UAB job and definitely wouldn’t have had the Texas Southern job if I wasn’t the head coach at Indiana. If I hadn’t played for a national championship. So, you know, I want to be able to enjoy it. Just let the people at Indiana know how much I appreciate them.

Have you thought about the potential crowd response you might get?

It hasn’t crossed my mind. I think I may be the only head coach that ever coached at Indiana to go back as an opposing coach, to coach an opposing team, I would think. I don’t think anyone else did — I know they’ve had former players do it but not a former head coach, I don’t think. Maybe an assistant coach, but not a former head coach. I just want to show my boys, and thank them. As I look back on it, I just want my two boys, who are old enough now, to really, really appreciate it and enjoy it.

What enjoyment for you will there be in just being back in Assembly Hall?

I can’t wait. I can’t wait. I wish we weren’t even playing at Eastern Washington because I’m ready to get to Bloomington. I went back one year and we played at Butler, but I didn’t go to Bloomington. So this will be the first time I’m going back to Assembly Hall. I almost took my son to an elite camp last summer in Indiana, but something came up and I didn’t get the chance to make it up there. But we’ll get the chance to practice a little bit, get a little shoot around in and shoot in the gym. It will be good for us. It will be good for my family.

(Photo credit: Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images)

Filed to:

  • CreanFaithful

    Every time I read something on Davis, I walk away more impressed. What a class act.

  • Gregory Spera

    If I was able to attend this game, I would stand and give Davis a warm welcome back.

  • IUBizmark

    Solid and humble man. I’m glad Mike is doing well. I wish him nothing but the best and as thankful as he is for the opportunity at IU, we should be thankful for what he gave us in his time here.

  • CreanFaithful

    And potentially in the future:

    “and my younger son that is playing ball and hopefully can be recruited one day by Indiana.”

  • IUMIKE1

    If someone doesn’t think that Mike Davis “gets it” when it comes to knowing what IU bball is all about they are just wrong IMHO. Regardless of how we think Davis ranks as a coach, we have to admit that he took over a job that,
    1) Most coaches would have never even thought about taking with the shoes that they knew they would be expected to fill.
    2) Created a situation where, short of winning the National Championship and being close to that good the other years, he was going to be deemed, not up to the task.

    I personally hope that he receives a VERY warm welcome from the crowd. Even with IU and him parting ways, in a fashion not to his choosing, he stills understands what a great opportunity he was presented with and is, even now, still grateful for it. The fact that he is so happy about being able to come back and be in Bmtn again, let alone be there with another Div 1 team to play a game in AH, tells me that he ” gets it “. Here’s to hoping that the Hoosier faithful show him the respect that he deserves.

  • IUMIKE1

    A comment like that, under past circumstances, should solidify to all that he ” gets it “.

  • SCHoosier

    “That (2002) team wanted to do something special for Indiana.” Oh Yea. Welcome back Coach Davis. I hope the Hoosiers give your guys a spankin’ but you and your family will ALWAYS be Hoosiers and welcomed back to A-Hall.

  • Robert Weber

    Davis made the best of an absolutely impossible situation. Even with all the championships, that 2002 team remains one of my all-time favorites. They were just plain FUN.

  • dwdkc

    Very gracious interview. Davis is a good man. Knowing our classy fans, he will be given a warm welcome.

  • DarkSouth

    Mike Davis is a man with grace and worthy of respect.

  • ForeverIU

    I’ll be very happy if we win on two fronts tomorrow: 1) giving Mike Davis the tribute he deserves, and 2) the game. The forecasts show that we will win on both fronts with flying colors. Counting on the grace and sportsmanship of my fellow Hoosiers.

  • CutterInChicago

    Great read. Wish I could be there in-person for this game (how many times I’ve said that about those vaunted match-ups with Texas Southern…) I am confident he will get a special Hoosier welcome (and if not, remember, they aren’t booing… they are saying “Bouchie”)

  • Michael Crawley

    “I want my son to play at Indiana.” I really hope he does. CMD I remember your kids being at the games and goofing with Dane Fife your kids and family was as part of that team as the players. That was awesome to watch.

  • VanPastorMan

    Are you referring to Steve Bouchie from Washington Indiana who played at IU in the 80s? He was my hero bc I am from there.

  • SilentBob

    That team that played in the championship game birthed my love of college hoops. I was 9 yrs old at the time, so up until that all I knew about basketball was Reggie Miller and Space Jam. The Duke upset, probably because of my young age, is still one of the greatest IU games I’ve ever watched. Since then I’d say I’ve devoted about 90% of my sports interest to college hoops. This will be like a flashback to my childhood for me. Super excited to have Mike back.

  • INUnivHoosier

    Davis always came across as a very sincere, honest person. He is a class act, and he is worthy of great respect. I hope that Assembly Hall fans give him a good cheer when he is announced.

  • Miamihoosier

    One thing you’ve missed out on was a true rivalry between IU and Purdue. The last 15 yrs, the two have taken turns dominating each other. I dont think theyve played a single game in over a decade, where both were ranked. My bold prediction for this year is that, they will both be ranked in one if not both their match ups this year. Purdue plays nasty nasty defense. They might be the bestman to man defense in the league. …we might be the best offense…its going to be 2 great games

  • SilentBob

    Oh yea been saying Purdue is vastly underrated all off season. Edwards and Stephens can really ball and they have two 7 ft centers. Their back up could probably start for the majority of big ten teams this year and I think he is better than Hammons honestly. They ran a solid zone today against IUPUI today as well to go along with their man to man

  • phaluska

    What a great game. Who can forget Moye stuffing Boozer?! One of the all-time greatest IU games in the tournament IMO.

  • fourputtsforsnowman

    I too will be clapping for Davis. He really did make the best of that situation.

  • mark

    my very thought. I always felt he took far too much heat. People say he took IU to the Final Four with Knight’s players. Well, first of all, Davis probably spent more time recruiting some of them than Knight, and second of all, he still had to coach them, and Davis used offensive schemes totally different than Knight. I recall Todd Leary saying on air once that some of the players wouldn’t have had such confidence in their 3-point shooting if Knight were still there. And that 2002 team was special … possibly a sprained ankle away from a championship, we’ll never know for sure. Also recall how Davis called out the fans after the most despicable moment in IU fan history, when they kept booing hard-working Sean Kline for no reason. Regardless of how good a coach you think Davis is, IMO he deserves a standing ovation tomorrow. He represented IU with class and integrity.

  • mark

    Tom Coverdale, Jarod Odle and AJ Moye …. 3 of my all time favorites!

  • StevieV610

    I was always a major fan of Coach Davis and I’ll be giving him the ovation he deserves tomorrow. In terms of reminiscing, of course the Duke & Kent St. games during the ’02 tourney stand out–however, I must say that there is something rather poetic about the team/coach we defeated IN the Final 4 (Oklahoma) that year that demonstrates the difference between Coach Davis and his successor.

  • pcantidote

    It was a rollercoaster with Davis, but he had a lot of success against Purdue! Just for being a class act he deserves a standing ovation.

  • Zach

    What a great interview. Excited for the game and to give this man a standing ovation tomorrow. Welcome back Coach Davis!

  • MPmike B

    Welcome back home Coach Mike Davis! What a class act. We will never forget the tourney run back in 2002 that was a great time in I.U. memory. Thank you, and I will always be pulling for you except when you are playing against IU, of course.

  • Hoosier4life67

    Everyone keeps saying they hope the fans give him a warm welcome. I don’t see how anyone wouldn’t. Class act that took over a pressure cooker situation and did the best he could do. I’ve said it many times that I don’t think coach Knight would have taken that team to the ship. And I love coach Knight.
    I predict a standing ovation from the thousands of class act Hoosiers that will be at this game. Enjoy the game Coach Davis. Glad you’ll be sharing it with your kids. You deserve it.

  • WhatsUpKnight2.0

    CMD may not know the X’s and O’s like CBK, but had that team playing fast and loose come tournament time, and that’s exactly what they needed. his best coaching job i think was just getting out of their way and letting them perform. absolutely agree it would have been a different story if CBK were still there. so for that, i’d give CMD a standing O.

  • WhatsUpKnight2.0

    that’s the type of play where you remember exactly where you were and who you were with when it happened. i know i sure do!

  • Florida Girl

    We are here and going to the game. I will be standing and cheering for him!

  • Chappy Dan

    I just remember screaming MOYE MOYE MOYE until my throat was shredded.

  • KmanCRK

    Yogis. Never seen a bar atmosphere like it. Unbelievable.

  • John Prichard

    Every one seems to have a short memory. I have nothing against Coach Davis and I hope the fans are not rude. He should never have been hired as I.U. head coach, and it was an agonizing eight years.

  • Danny

    Sorry don’t really appreciate your commentor name of all the great comments we have here and you use that name.

  • Tim O’Nawbny

    I was yelling so much during that Duke upset my son, who is now an IU senior, got out of bed and became a huge Hoosier fan then and there. Mike Davis is a classy and passionate coach. Someone at the game give him an extra shout out for me, please.

  • Danny

    Wecome back Coach Davis what i appreciated most was how you took over the team and kept all the players together. It took a very special person to do that. It was amazing how far you took them them that year. Being along time IU fan i will never forget that. I hope your family and you have a great experience on your return to IU. Also hope you have a great coaching career. God Bless you and your family.

  • SCHoosier

    Those two players you mentioned plus Hammon make PU a threat. However the bench could help finish off IUPUI..and they stayed in the game. Hammons is a beast in the sense that he’s in much better shape..and when he gets the ball low all you can do is foul him. Tough match up.

  • marcusgresham

    No, your age has nothing to do with it. It just IS a great game

  • millzy32

    Last year was no Peach of a year and this may end up going the same way. At least in the Davis era there was a run in the tournament past the sweet sixteen.

  • WindyCityHoosier

    What a great interview. Coach Davis summed up that 2002 team perfectly… they were an example of the sum of the parts being greater than each individual player. They were a great team. The Kent State game was indeed a highlight but the game against Illinois and the BTT run they made that year were also very special. Really glad Coach Davis was back in Assembly Hall – enjoyed seeing his warm smile!