Davey's Concerns Surpass Basketball

Nov. 24, 2004

By Brian VanderBeek
Modesto Bee

STOCKTON, Calif. -- The seat at the near-end of the bench -- the one reserved for the Santa Clara University head basketball coach -- is empty most of the time.

Its designated resident for the last 13 seasons, Ceres native Dick Davey, spends more time on the court than the majority of his players -- coaching, pleading, encouraging, baiting and doing everything in his power to guide his Broncos to another victory.

On Saturday, all that effort paid off in a stunning victory over fourth-ranked North Carolina. On Tuesday, Santa Clara fell back to earth with a 71-65 loss at Pacific.

"The joy of beating North Carolina is kind of short-lived after what happened tonight," Davey said. "We didn't have a time to build the momentum from that, and this obviously is discouraging for us."

In Davey's world, however, there are levels of discouragement. Tuesday's level was that of a minor setback, what should pan out at little more than a off-key note for his young and talented team.

This morning, Davey will stare the very definition of discouragement in the face, yearning for a glimmer of hope.

On his way to the office each day, Davey makes a detour to a long-term care facility in Los Gatos, where his daughter-in-law -- the wife of his only son -- rests in a state of minimal response.

On Jan. 24, Kathleen Davey, a very fit 37-year-old mother of two, collapsed during a workout at home and went into cardiac arrest. Husband Mike was at a practice with his Saratoga High varsity basketball team, but their oldest daughter, 6-year-old Samie, knew enough to call 911, and paramedics arrived less than five minutes later.

The emergency team restarted Kathleen's heart and transported her to a hospital, but she suffered brain damage and a coma was induced to prevent the onset of seizures.

Today, she remains under constant supervision. Diodes track brain activity and indicate she can hear and see, but her eyes don't track. Sometimes she responds to voices, sometimes to touch, sometimes to light, but seldom in any pattern to indicate she's trying to communicate.

Davey will sit with his daughter-in-law, massage her arms and legs and talk with the care staff.

And then he goes to work.

"I like to think I still coach my team, but there are other issues in life that are very important to me," Davey said. "I like to think I spend my time and do all the coaching things I used to, but when I have time to think, the situation with her is always on my mind.

"I feel very bad for our son and our families. We hope there's some way down the road we can help the situation."

This wasn't Davey's first brush with family health issues. Last year, his wife Jeanne was diagnosed with breast cancer, a battle she appears to be winning.

And those around Davey are seeing a change. Maybe he's mellowed, but isn't that supposed to happen anyway?

"He's always been very good about delegating things and letting his coaches do things," said Steve Seandel, Davey's top assistant for the last 13 years. "It's such a credit to him that he's hung in. He's still very much in charge, but we know there are things he has to do off the court."

There are still recruiting chores to be done, scouting trips to be made. One of them is an almost-annual visit to the Modesto Junior College Tournament, where he gets a chance to visit his sister while scoping talent and playing tricks on the locals.

You see, in the back of the MJC Tournament program, Dick Davey, his father, is listed as being a member of the 1941 all-tournament team.

"I always tell people that was me, and then they get around to figuring it out mathematically that I'd have to be 85 years old," Davey said.

Unlike his father, Davey didn't attend MJC, choosing instead to go right from Ceres High to Pacific, where he earned three varsity letters in both basketball and baseball.

"It's always so hard to play here anyway, and I don't really like playing here just because of the strong feelings I have for UOP," Davey said.

If anything, those around Davey say maybe he isn't as quick with his smile as he used to be, but that his dedication to his team and his family remain as strong as ever -- perhaps now just in a different proportion, with different perspective.

"Between last year with the fight against cancer with his wife, and now this year, I think it's taught him what's really important," Seandel said. "He's still as competitive as he ever was, but at the end of the day, you have to go home and fight for a life.

"That's a little different than losing by six points to UOP."