WATCH: Interview with Keno Davis
MOUNT PLEASANT – The introduction of 2008 National Coach of the Year Keno Davis on Tuesday as the 20th men's basketball coach in Central Michigan's history marks the beginning of a new era on the court.
For the foreseeable future, Davis will bring an exciting brand of basketball featuring an up-tempo offense – as fast as anyone in the country, Davis said – and a commitment to defense to McGuirk Arena and wherever the Chippewas may play. More than just generating excitement, championship-level quality play is Davis' expectation for Central Michigan; a perfect fit for the Championship Culture that CMU Athletics stresses in each of its endeavors.
But Davis believes that the on-the-court X's and O's can only go so far in building a successful program. Championship Culture means more to him than just the final result on the scoreboard and the win-loss columns.
It's about building a program the right way.
“Everybody wants the program to have a ton of wins and to win championships and to have that kind of success,” Davis said to a media room packed to the brim. “More importantly, you have to have the right kids in the program who are going to represent the program well, who are going to work hard in the class room and who are going to represent it off the court.”
It is this philosophy and commitment to building a program the right way that attracted Davis to Central Michigan and vice versa.
“There's been a tremendous investment in and tremendous support for the program going forward with the new building and new energy, and we're very excited to be at this step,” director of athletics Dave Heeke said. “We found the right person who has the right philosophy and the right vision for a successful program here at Central Michigan University. We've got the guy who's the perfect fit for this community, this basketball program and this university.”
When the Chippewas head coaching position became available in mid-March, Davis said it was on his short-list of jobs in which he was interested, in part because of CMU's commitment to its student-athletes.
“As you look at Central Michigan, you look at the commitment and the investment they have made to the student-athletes here,” Davis said. “You can see it's at a level beyond where it's ever been. When you put those things together, now you're talking about the potential for great success.”
Great success is the goal for which Davis and his program will strive, but in order to do so he believes his players, both present and future, must show a high level of commitment to hard work and dedication, a blueprint for success he learned from watching his father Dr. Tom Davis, who coached for many years at, among other places, Boston College, Stanford, and Iowa.
Applying this blueprint in his own career, Davis took over a Drake team in 2007-08 that finished the season 28-5, ranked No. 14 in the country and as champions of the Missouri Valley Conference with a 15-3 conference record. That blueprint followed him to Providence College from 2008-11. He guided the Friars to a 19-14 record and a seventh-place in the ultra-competitive Big East Conference on the merits of hard work and dedication.
“The way you build it is first with the young men who are part of the program,” he said. “You challenge them to do great things. To do that, they have to have a work ethic that they're going to outwork their opponents. You take those young men who are already focused on that or need to be refocused, and then you recruit the best fit.”
In saying he wants to recruit the “best fit,” Davis doesn't necessarily mean the best player, but rather the player who will best help Central Michigan basketball become the best it can be.
“He's the kid the fans want to see and they want in the game,” Davis said. “They're chanting his name because he's their favorite player. I want a team of favorite players. They're going to outwork so many guys around the country that, when they leave, they're the success stories.
“The fan favorites are the one who outwork people to be able to come to great things. By putting together a team of motivated student-athletes, we can achieve great things.”
With Davis and his philosophy of doing things the right way at the helm, a bright future is in store for a proud Central Michigan basketball program with a storied history.
“It's really an exciting day for CMU athletics as we usher in a new era of Chippewa basketball,” Heeke said. “Today we introduce the right individual who has the vision to rebuild CMU basketball into what it should be, a successful program.”