Challenges Still Come With The Territory

Nov. 3, 2004

By Mark Purdy
San Jose Mercury News

You drive to work every morning, year after year, and suddenly you are no longer a young coach learning the ropes. You're a fixture.

If you are Dick Davey, it's even more than that. You drive to work every day at Santa Clara University, year after year, and suddenly you are the dean of West Coast men's basketball coaches.

``Is that right?'' Davey asks the first time he's told this.

Davey has been head coach at Santa Clara since 1992. Now that Mike Montgomery has left Stanford for his Golden State NBA adventure, Davey is the man with the longest ongoing tenure of any major college or pro coach on the West Coast. Remember, Arizona's Lute Olson is not eligible for this honor. Last time we checked, Arizona doesn't border the Pacific Ocean.

So that leaves Dick Davey, the new Hoops Dean of the Left Coast. He ponders this astounding fact.

``I guess there's a lot of good and bad about that,'' Davey says. ``I think the fortunate thing that happened is, I was very lucky not to get a head-coaching job until I was 50.''

Why so?

``Because,'' says Davey, ``there was a shorter time frame when you could get fired. You know, if you become a head coach when you're 30, there's a pretty good chance along the way it will happen.''

You drive to work every morning to the same place for 27 years, and you end up having a sense of humor and a sense of reality. Davey first came to work at Santa Clara in 1977. He was an assistant under Carroll Williams until 1992, when the big promotion came. The seasons have been a blur. This month, practice started again at Santa Clara. The first exhibition game is Monday. The first regular-season game is Nov. 12.

Davey is pumped as ever.

``You know,'' Davey says, ``some guys have bad jobs. I have a great job. Stress? You create your own stress. Last night, I was here late with one of our freshmen, doing some work on his free throws. I came in this morning jacked up because this kid was not shooting the ball well and to his credit, after about 15 minutes with some technical things, he makes 52 out of 60 from the line. He was making maybe 40 out of 60 before.

``Now,'' Davey says, ``if I'm a financial consultant showing you how to retire and moving money around . . . that can't be as much fun. I got in the car and I was thinking, `That was exciting. That was fun.' ''

You drive to work every day in the real world, however, and real life is bound to intrude. At the moment, the non-basketball portion of Davey's day has never been as challenging or as somber. Each morning on the way to campus, he stops at a care facility in Los Gatos. His daughter-in-law is there.

Last January, Kathleen Davey collapsed at home while working out and went into cardiac arrest. She has been in a ``minimal response state'' ever since. She sees and hears, but her brain activity is uncertain. Davey visits every day, hoping for progress. Davey's son Mike, the basketball coach at Saratoga High, is building a house addition with special facilities so Kathleen can come home and be with their two children.

``We talk about it every day, my son and I, my wife and I,'' Davey says, his eyes beginning to water. ``It's discouraging because of how great we feel about her. I'm discouraged for her kids and for my son. . . . They're trying some new things. There's not 100 percent chance she won't have some sort of life. . . . But as far as the support of the community and Saratoga High and Santa Clara and our friends, it's been unbelievable.''

You drive to work every day, and you take in all of the world, and you appreciate the good stuff. Your assistant coaches. Your players. The Broncos should be decent this season. Maybe better than decent, if their guards stay healthy.

As a new head coach 13 years ago, Davey was hot out of the gate, riding point guard Steve Nash to the NCAA tournament three times. The years since have been all right, not spectacular. The Broncos haven't had a winning record since 2000-01. There is heat from the more rabid Santa Clara fans -- yes, there are some -- for better results. Davey's contract expires next spring. He isn't agitating for an early renewal.

``I want this to be a successful program,'' Davey says. ``If I'm in the way of that occurring, then I want to get out of there. So if we don't play well, I won't come back. I'll do something else. If we win, I'll be here. . . . I want our kids to be proud of what they're doing, all those cliches.

``I think the No. 1 thing is the school, the school's philosophy,'' Davey says. ``It's not like a lot of places where winning is the only thing. Yet at the same time, I know the school president likes to win. He's a competitor, too.''

How do you deal with all this? You drive to work every day, with one tough stop along the way, and you keep your perspective. The Warriors have had nine head coaches since 1992. Dick Davey has been the only one at Santa Clara. He must be doing something right.