Davis still feels he’s not appreciated

Davis still feels he’s not appreciated

By Stan Sutton, H-T Sports Editor

April 1, 2002

ATLANTA – Someone once said, probably after a divorce, that you never appreciate what you have until you’ve lost it.

Tonight Mike Davis will coach the Indiana Hoosiers as they play for a national championship, becoming only the third IU coach to do so. The other two, Branch McCracken and Bob Knight, had tenures of 19 and 29 years in Bloomington.

Maybe we’re reading between the lines here, but if IU expects to keep Davis for a couple of decades it is time for the university and its fans to do some serious sucking up.

Davis, who sometimes speaks with alarming honesty, gave indications Sunday that he feels unappreciated.

That he expects a raise, especially if the Hoosiers continue their magical ride to glory by beating Maryland tonight.

That he is tired of being told to prove himself.

And, with emphasis, his real ambition as a coach is a National Basketball Association job.

“I hope I get a raise. I do,” Davis said.

Asked if anyone from the administration had talked about such a raise, Davis said, “We have not. We’re just going to wait until the end of the season and see what happens.”

Davis recently signed a four-year contract that was retroactive to his being named permanent coach a year ago. But compared with some of the top coaches in the Big Ten, his salary is down the list.

“I make more money than I’ve ever dreamed of making,” he said. “But the thing that frustrated me more than anything is when they said, ‘You have to prove yourself.’ We’re in the championship game. That should be proof. Maybe not, but to me it should be.”

Davis, who once made $200 a week as an assistant at Miles College in Birmingham, Ala., added, “I don’t want to seem selfish or anything. If they want to take care of me, fine. If they don’t, then, hey, I have three years to go on my contract.”

Davis admitted Friday that only three weeks earlier he had considered leaving Indiana and looking for another job. His name surfaced in rumors about the DePaul position.

“Some of you guys have no idea what I go through sometimes,” he told a crowded news conference Sunday.

Davis, who coached in the Continental Basketball Association, reiterated a longtime desire to coach in the NBA.

“I don’t want people to take this the wrong way because when I say something it’s always (misinterpreted) – not by you guys, but by Indiana fans sometimes,” he said. “My first real job was in the CBA. I love NBA basketball. I watch NBA basketball all the time. I doubt anyone ever calls me from the NBA but if they did I’d definitely listen. That’s the ultimate, to coach in the NBA. I think my style is letting guys play. I would really enjoy that.”

At this point Davis had a second thought, saying, “I know people are going to take this the wrong way. I shouldn’t even talk about it, but we’re in the championship game so it doesn’t matter now.”

Davis is a fixture at many Indiana Pacers games and the second-year coach has many friends in professional basketball.

“I would love to coach in the NBA. I really would. Maybe it would take me five or 10 years from now but that is a goal of mine,” he continued.

Davis has made several remarks in Atlanta that he probably won’t choose to take into any salary negotiation sessions.

For instance:

“It’s not really about coaching. It’s about luck.” And, “Coaches get too much credit; they really do.”

Davis’ success this season probably would be attractive to an NBA team, which usually is better prepared to pay gigantic salaries to coaches than do colleges.

He installed his own offense at Indiana and made it work, even as traditionalists bemoaned the departure of Bob Knight’s motion offense.

He developed a relationship with his players that goes deeper than basketball, one in which the Hoosiers swear by him both as a person and a coach.

His players reflect a carryover from his own work ethic, developed as Alabama’s Mr. Basketball and as a star for the Crimson Tide.

“I played against Dominique Wilkins, Michael Jordan, Jeff Malone, some of the older guys,” he said. “I took it personally. If they scored a basket on me, it was like life came out of me. If you defend now there’s not a lot of players who can handle really good defense.”

Whatever his ambitions, Davis shows no indication that his humble nature will change.

“The thing that I dislike more than anything is when you have players, NBA guys or coaches, who think that they’re more than someone else because they play or coach. I’m too old to change now,” he said. “I understand how a coach can forget who they are. I’ve had three guys kiss me and tell me they love me.”

If IU faithful want to keep Davis around they might be wise to do the same thing.