Catching up with Keno: New men’s basketball coach running a mile a minute
Keno Davis said he was getting about three hours of sleep a night – and it showed.
A week and a half after being introduced as the new men’s basketball coach, Davis had bags under his eyes and was clearly exhausted. His new office was empty, with stacks of paper on a bookless bookshelf. There were several suits covered in plastic hanging on the doorknob.
“As long as I know where everything is at, I’m fine,” Davis said about his unorganized new office. “I just cleaned my desk this morning.”
The new coach has been setting up meetings with current players on the roster. He said he wants to meet with all of them a few times, to talk about what is expected of them in the office and on the court.
He is trying to put together a recruiting class, which has to be done “now,” as he emphatically said multiple times. He also has a wife and two young children still living in Munster, Ind.
“Once this next (recruiting) contact period ends, I will try to get a full night of sleep,” Davis said. “My wife’s working on organizing the house, taken care of the kids and looking for place to live up here. I’m so busy for the first month, there’s no reason to hurry.”
Until then, Davis said he is leaving the office after midnight or early in the morning, going to his hotel room for a couple hours and back in the office.
Keno’s personal life
Obviously, he won’t be free much during his first few weeks on the job; but, when he does have time, Davis loves to hit the golf course.
When he first attended University of Iowa in the early 1990s, he dreamed of taking his golf game to another level, but he said his dreams had to take a backsteat to reality.
“I grew up as a pretty good golfer,” he said. “To a point freshman year at college I was aspiring to be a really good golfer, and I kind of made a decision at that point I was going to get into coaching.”
Davis said he’s been so busy coaching that he hasn’t been able to work on his game.
“I’ve pretty much added a stroke every year to my handicap,” Davis said. “Being a head coach, even when I go out on the course I tend to have my cell phone attached to me.”
Davis didn’t talk about his sense of humor, but assistant coach Kevin Gamble did. Gamble said he doesn’t show it on the court, but off, he is always joking around.
“He likes to laugh; it’s a side of him people don’t often see, because he is intense on the court,” Gamble said.
On a free weekend Davis said he would like to spend it with his four-year-old son and nearly-two-year old daughter.
“My four year old is starting to get into sports and understand when he sees dad on TV, it’s neat,” Davis said. “It’s a busy time, but it’s a fun time as a parent to have them at that age.”
Davis went on to say he thinks – and hopes – his son will be a left-handed baseball pitcher. To help the cause, dad used to “swaddle” his son and put his right hand behind his back so it wouldn’t become his strong hand.
“We’ll see if it works,” Davis said with a smile.
Growing up in the game
At Iowa, Keno had the opportunity to be an undergraduate assistant for the basketball team with his father Tom Davis at the helm.
“It was a great experience for me,” Keno said. “Here, I am an undergrad student keeping charts during the game, talking with coaches at halftime. At this age (18-19) to be sitting on the first seat of a Big Ten bench, that was a great experience.”
Gamble played for Keno’s father at Iowa in the 1980s and said he was around the team long before actually attending the school.
“He was 13-14-15 when I played, just a young kid always there,” Gamble said. “When he wasn’t at his high school basketball practices, he would be at ours. He would sit at the end of the bench for games.”
Gamble said he would listen and be in on all of the pregame talks.
“You think it might not, but when you’re around the game that much it you pick up all those things,” Gamble said.
After Iowa, Keno was offered a job to coach with his father’s former assistant – Bruce Pearl. Pearl, who went on to coach at Tennessee, picked Keno out of 100 people who applied for the job at Southern Indiana. It was a Division II school but one that won a national title the previous year.
“I learned from how intense (Pearl) was,” Davis said. “He motivated through his intensity.”
Davis said he was also thankful for his Division II experience. He said not having a support staff taught him how to do every little thing for the program – which in his mind is missing in coaches that have only been at big programs.
Gamble, who also coached with Keno during his time at Providence, said he coaches similar to his father.
“They sound alike, they look alike,” Gamble said. “They have the same demeanor. When you’re around someone so long, you pick up on what they do. Keno has put his own wrinkles in.”
Still, Gamble says the coach the same way – fast pace, pressure defense and are very positive with players, which he loves.
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