Saturday, January 05, 2002

Five Questions With: Mike Davis




        Mike Davis has had quite an eventful time in his first 1 1/2 seasons as Indiana's basketball coach.

        The former IU assistant, succeeding Bob Knight, had the most successful first season of any IU coach in the program's 101-year history, winning 21 games despite having no seniors. His Hoosiers held opponents to .382 shooting in conference action, a Big Ten record. He led them to an upset of then-No. 1 Michigan State, the first-ever win over a No. 1 team at Assembly Hall. IU's No. 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament was its highest since 1993.

        Yet Davis has admittedly struggled with the scrutiny given his high-profile post. After a loss at Kentucky last year, he said, “I'm not the guy for this job.” He said last Saturday his team had gotten “hosed” by officials everywhere it played, inferring a bias against him as a young coach. And his comments in a deposition in which he said he didn't approve of Knight's methods were made public Wednesday. Also, this year's team is struggling at 8-5.

        Davis took time Thursday to answer five questions from the Enquirer's Neil Schmidt.

        Q. Did you have an understanding of the intense love for basketball in Indiana before you came?

        A. Yes, I understood, because I'm from a football state (Alabama). I've always heard about Indiana and its love of basketball, the glory of the national championships. I didn't know how deep it was until I got here, and saw the passion surrounding even the high schools. High school coaches here prepare like college coaches.

        Q. You had a point long ago where you got out of coaching and sold Nike T-shirts out of your car and got recycling money for cans you found by the roadside. Why was that, and how did that experience change you?

        A. It definitely humbled me a lot. I played college basketball (at Alabama) and played ball overseas (in Switzerland and Italy), but I didn't have a degree at the time, so there wasn't a job I wanted that I could get. A friend of mine was selling T-shirts at flea markets, and he asked me if I wanted to do it.

        I learned a lot about people. A lot of people, from Sunday through Wednesday, they're broke. They get paid Thursday or Friday. If you don't catch them Thursday through Saturday, it's hard to make a sale. I was in the selling business, so I'd hit baseball games in the summer or go to the park (selling shirts) just to make ends meet.

        Q. Your predecessor was famous for his signature red sweater. What's your favorite fashion item or accessory?

        A. I guess my suits. I like to wear nice suits. I probably only have three or four, though. (Laughs.) And they're not designer suits.

        Q. You've had a few rough moments with comments you've made there, including this week. Is this a job you have to grow into?

        A. I just think it's the whole experience. Every day, you grow, no matter how you're doing. If you're not growing, you're standing still or going backward.

        A big part of it just being the Indiana basketball coach; the spotlight is on you all the time. If I was at Alamaba A & M and made any of those comments, no one would have made anything of it. It's a learning experience.

        Q. You've said you would be happy coaching anywhere, even if it wasn't at IU. Describe the satisfaction or joy you get from coaching.

        A. It's the same as (being) a player. I played basketball with a lot of enthusiasm, really competed hard. Once I wasn't playing any more, I felt really down and depressed. I started coaching just for the fun of it, and I got the same feeling (as playing). I'd be happy coaching anywhere. It gives me a great feeling to go out and prepare a team and see how the strategy works.

       



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