Davis finds himself at the center of national media storm

Davis finds himself at the center of national media storm

by Stan Sutton, H-T Sports Editor

November 15, 2000

Fate might have seen Mike Davis coaching at Delaware this season, which is why the new Indiana basketball coach is a bit stunned by his surroundings.

Tuesday night a nation watched as the 40-year-old Davis coached his first college game from the Indiana bench. ESPN was here. So was The New York Times and several other national publications. The attention was a bit overwhelming to a coach who has been overwhelmed since being named the IU coach in mid-September.

“When I walked out on the court tonight for the first time I couldn’t feel my legs,” Davis admitted. “I was just hoping to make it to our bench without tripping over the lines, and when I got there I just wanted to sit down.”

After three seasons as an assistant to Bob Knight Davis was exploring the horizon last summer in search of a head coaching job every assistant desires. He looked at Tulane and Delaware and nothing happened. Then the earth opened around his feet and when Knight’s 29-year career here was terminated Davis became the man.

A crowd of 12,025 accorded the new coach a warm ovation, but Assembly Hall provided a milder atmosphere than it usually offers. Part of that was the absence of the IU pep band, which reportedly wasn’t present because of a long-scheduled concert. Tapes of the band were played throughout the night.

The crowd noise was lackluster at times and seemed to indicate a wait-and-see attitude regarding Davis’ first team, which appeared to be as nervous as the coach in the first 10 minutes but came to life thereafter. The setting appeared to be as surreal to the fans as to the coach.

“Four years ago (assistant athletic director) Steve Downing came down to Tuscaloosa, Ala., to interview me for this position. I had no idea that I would be here in this position tonight,” Davis told a packed news conference. “I was nervous all day today, not nervous from a coach’s standpoint but not knowing how our team would respond to the first game of the season.”

Davis had predicted on the eve of the game that the Hoosiers probably would sputter on offense at the start of the game. But he felt if their defense could keep them in the game the offense would take care of itself.

Did it ever. Indiana rebounded from a slow start to make 15 of 21 shots in the second half.

“We have some really good shooters on this team. Everyone who we put on the court can shoot,” Davis said. “I did everything I could to settle them down and the more I talked the first half the tighter they got.”

Davis thought Kirk Haston loosened up his teammates by making some big shots en route to a 28-point game.

Perhaps Haston’s calming contribution was less significant than that of backup guard Tom Coverdale.

“I told people early in the season when we had individual workouts Tom Coverdale was our best guard. He twisted his ankle. He missed about a week of practicing. His conditioning has been bad. He played well against Marathon Oil and tonight he played the way he was playing when we had individual workouts,” Davis said.

The new coach expressed his hope that the Hoosiers will be more calm from the outset when IU meets South Alabama Friday night. The winner will move on to New York’s Madison Square Garden for the semifinal round on Thanksgiving Eve.

If Davis thinks he saw a media circus last night he can only imagine when will await him in New York.