Interim no more

Interim no more

Davis hired as new IU men’s basketball coach

By Stan Sutton, Herald-Times Sports Editor

March 22, 2001

NCAA championship banners serve as a backdrop for Mike Davis as he speaks during a news conference Wednesday in Assembly Hall following his appointment as the head coach of the Indiana men’s basketball team. Staff photo by David Snodgress
From the Mar. 22, 2001 Bloomington Herald-Times

The rampaging rumor mill surrounding the appointment of a permanent Indiana University basketball coach screeched to a halt Wednesday when Mike Davis was relieved of his interim label and given a four-year contract.

IU vice president Terry Clapacs, who served as chairman of the ad hoc committee formed last Friday by president Myles Brand, said the panel never weighed Davis against other potential coaches.

Contrary to widespread reports, he said the search committee never got to the point of considering Iowa coach Steve Alford or other rumored possibilities.

“We don’t name basketball coaches very often around here and when we do we make sure that we’ve made the right choice,” Brand said. “We’re absolutely confident that we’ve done so.”

The 40-year-old Davis, who was named interim coach two days after the firing of Bob Knight on Sept. 10, said he learned of his appointment between 10:30 and 11 a.m. Wednesday.

“I was happy and it was smile, smile,” he said. “But on the inside I’m going crazy. This is unbelievable for me.”

“We spent the year looking at the program,” Clapacs said. “At the end I think all of us witnessed a remarkable turnaround from our early-season play with a second-place performance in the Big Ten Tournament and a No. 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament.”

The Hoosiers posted a 21-13 record, including a 10-6 mark in the Big Ten. They upset two teams that were later seeded first in their NCAA regionals, Michigan State and Illinois, but were upset by Kent State last Thursday in the opening game of the West Regional.

“The contract is for four years and in the range of $400,000 a year with the opportunity for that to grow with endorsements, speaking engagements and successful operation of summer camp,” Clapacs said. “There are incentives in the contract, both academic and what we think of as competitive incentives.”

Clapacs said Davis will receive a bonus if the team exceeds the all-campus grade-point average.

“There will be a bonus paid if we make it to the Sweet 16, or to the Final Eight, to the Final Four or to the national championship,” Clapacs continued. “We will not pay a bonus if we get into the tournament and win the first game or two because, frankly, we expect that.”

Davis said he had received feelers from several “good schools” regarding his availability had Indiana chosen not to retain him.

“But I didn’t take it seriously at all,” he said. “Until they call you it’s just rumors. You hear rumors all the time.”

Clapacs said the university stood by its early announcement that it would wait until after the season to decide Davis’ fate.

“Coach Davis lived by that agreement and we did, too. All of us witnessed a remarkable turnaround from the early season,” he said.

“I personally felt long before this meeting that Mike was going to be the right man for this position,” said Clarence Doninger, who will retire as IU athletics director at the end of June. His successor, Michael McNeely, also was present at Wednesday afternoon’s news conference in Assembly Hall.

Davis, a native of Fayette, Ala., lives in Indianapolis, where his wife, Tamilya, teaches at Perry Meridian High School. His son, Mike Jr., is sophomore on the basketball team there.

In response to a question, Davis admitted he hadn’t decided where to maintain his residence in the future. He moved from Bloomington to Indianapolis while an assistant coach at IU.

“I’m going to discuss it with my family,” he said. “If I’m the head basketball coach here at Indiana I think it’s important for me to stay in Bloomington, especially when you have recruits in over the weekend who come by your house. That’s really a bad question to ask me because I haven’t talked to my family, but I need to be here.”

Indiana lost three of its first five games under Davis, a first-time head coach, losing to Temple and Texas in the Preseason National Invitation Tournament in New York and then falling at Indiana State. All three opponents made the NCAA Tournament.

Davis admitted he was extremely downcast after the dual losses in New York, as well as after a Dec. 22 loss to Kentucky in Louisville.

“But once we got in conference play there was never a doubt,” he said.

Davis, dressed in a dark suit and tie, crossed his legs in apparent nervousness during his acceptance speech.

“I’m extremely happy today. I know it doesn’t look that way, but I am,” he told reporters and others who had wandered in. “This is a great day for my family and my hometown of Fayette, Ala., a small, small town.”

The media-friendly coach thanked reporters for what he perceived as fairness and thanked the administration, adding, “There were times when the team wasn’t playing well. They could have stepped in and said, ‘We’re going to go in another direction.'”

Davis revealed he wasn’t opposed to making changes now that he has a mandate, including putting players’ names on their jerseys. But he said the Hoosiers would have to earn that.

The IU coach said he thought his team gave great effort in every game except Kentucky, which at 88-74 was Indiana’s worst loss.

“They came back and fought hard and beat two No. 1 seeds, Michigan State and Illinois,” he said. “They believed in my system. They worked every single day in practice. We had a lot of fun.”

Regarding Alford, a former IU All-American, Clapacs said, “The only decision was whether we hire coach Davis permanently or conduct a national search and go after anybody in particular that you might mention.”

Since Knight’s firing, rumors also circulated about former Kentucky and Boston Celtics coach Rick Pitino or Utah’s Rick Majerus coaching the Hoosiers. But Pitino signed Wednesday to coach Louisville and Majerus reportedly will talk to Wisconsin.

Wisconsin also played most of this season with an interim coach, Brad Soderberg, but school officials decided this week not to retain him and to search for a more-heralded coach.

Indiana bypassed such a temptation. As Brand said, “This season has revealed the character of Mike Davis. It’s revealed his resilience; his grace under pressure; his ability to unite and motivate young men. He and the team have represented Indiana University very well indeed.”

Brand said he received numerous letters and e-mail from fans, adding, “Many people wrote and said they enjoyed watching the Hoosiers play this year and were very proud of the team and Mike’s performance.

“Mike Davis is a role model.”