CRAWFORD | For Bellarmine, Davenport's new deal is another reaso - WDRB 41 Louisville News

CRAWFORD | For Bellarmine, Davenport's new deal is another reason to celebrate

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Bellarmine University photo. Bellarmine University photo.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — I almost had to ask the folks at Bellarmine University if there hadn't been a misprint in the news release announcing a contract extension for men's basketball coach Scott Davenport.

It says, right here in black and white, that Davenport has been at Bellarmine 10 years, and has signed an extension that will keep him at the school until 2020.

That they signed him to a longer deal is no surprise. That he's been there for a decade seems impossible. Where does time go?

It seems like just yesterday I was in the Bellarmine locker room before the 2011 NCAA Division II championship game in Springfield, Mass., and Davenport, with a smile on his face, was telling his players that he wasn't asking them to do anything in that game that they hadn't done all season. (See the video I shot of that speech for The Courier-Journal here.) Shoot this percentage, get this many rebounds, this many assists, hold them to this field goal percentage, and they would be national champions. "Do these things," he told them, "and you'll never want this day to end."

His teams have done those things ever since. And, maybe, maybe, he never wants it to end.

Every coach says his players are good kids. Davenport told me, get on the bus with mine and go to dinner. Talk to them at the hotel. See for yourself. He wasn't kidding.

There are coaches who would view what Davenport does as the coaching equivalent of paying one's dues. They would look at a job at an NCAA Division II school as being consigned to the backwaters of college basketball. There are no five-star hotels. There are no four-star restaurants.

Beware of people who use "stars" to calculate value. Often, their feet aren't firmly planted on the earth.

I went with the Knights when they played an exhibition at Duke to open the 2012 season. The flight to Durham, N.C., was the only road game of the season when they would not ride a bus. We got to the Southwest Airlines gate at the airport and the Knights didn't even have “A” boarding passes. We ate lunch at the TGI Friday's in the Tampa airport. The flight to Durham was delayed. Davenport and his staff found an empty terminal and showed Duke video to the players, who sat in the airport seats. (Read my story from that trip, and watch video, by downloading this E-article from iTunes).

Lunch at Golden Corral. Dinner at Lone Star Steakhouse. And all the time, Davenport looked as if he'd won the lottery. He was having the time of his life.

In the locker room before facing Duke, he told his team: “I don't care who they are. I don't care how many stars they have next to their name. You know why? They have stars don't they? He (pointing to Austin Rivers' name on the board) had stars all over his name in high school didn't he? I don't care. We know all these guys are stars. We keep to what we believe in every day. None of us are ever as good as all of us. It's us against them. It's not five one-on-one games.”

They could put that on a plaque and hang it in Davenport's office. It's what he has preached every day. “None of us are ever as good as all of us.” He has preached team, and for most of the past five years at Bellarmine, his teams have listened and believed.

It's not often that any of us finds a spot when we're in our element. Davenport that day in Springfield, that day in Durham, those days in Knights Hall at practice, has been in his element. He is there still. He may go on to bigger jobs at bigger schools. He's earned that opportunity. But he's in his element now, on that campus in the Highlands, where his coaching and teaching have taken root and blossomed with three Final Fours, including an NCAA Division II championship, in the past five years.

Everybody remembers the good times. They might forget that a little more than a year before cutting down those nets in Springfield, a crazy spate of injuries knocked the Knights from preseason No. 1 all the way out of the Division II Top 25. The team bus broke down in the middle of Kansas during a blizzard. It limped along at 5-10 miles per hour for an hour. It came to an exit near Marshall, Kansas, but rather than have the bus get off and risk getting stuck, Davenport waded into the snow to see if there was a place to stay off the exit.

Strange as it is to say, the success that Bellarmine has enjoyed over the past five seasons was in some ways born on that worst road trip ever in 2010. Truth be told, even of the worst road trip ever, Davenport can look back and smile.

And that's a big reason why so much success has followed.

He was going to be a pharmacist. “Worst pharmacy student in the history of the University of Louisville,” he's fond of saying. But he liked to hang around Crawford Gym just for fun, and one day when a faculty lunchtime game was short a man, he sprinted onto the court in his Chuck Taylors and blue jeans, and wound up playing in a faculty pick-up game. Turns out one of the guys playing with him was Bill Olsen, who told him he should walk onto U of L's junior varsity team. It changed his life.

Just in the past year, Davenport stood in the living room of a St. Xavier student fighting cancer and told him he was going to get to play in an actual NCAA basketball game against the University of Louisville. He and the Knights took Patrick McSweeney with them, in the locker room, in the stands, all the way to the Final Four. And Davenport brought in a walk-on from Fern Creek, Michael Parrish, and told him he'd earned a scholarship. Parrish, who grew up the son of a single mother in tough circumstances in Louisville, was floored.

As a coach, you must be doing something right when your team has such outstanding ball movement and shooting percentages that The New York Times comes to a Division II practice to see what all the fuss is about.

Davenport still wipes down the backboards in Knights Hall from time to time. He hits the grocery for snacks before road trips. He and his coaches still compose notes on pieces of candy to toss to players in their rooms before games. He's been known to have his coaches and players do the team laundry during the preseason, so they appreciate the job managers have to do the rest of the season.

I don't know if he's had a loss in his career as hard to stomach as the Knights' loss in the national semifinals this season on a late three-pointer by Florida Southern. The game was, for all intents and purposes, the national championship game. But afterward, amid the disappointment, he told his players, “You don't have to have a trophy to be champions.”

You don't have to make a million dollars a year and travel on a charter plane, either.

Wednesday night on campus, they will celebrate the season. And after the school's announcement today that Davenport has signed a long-term deal, there's one more big reason to celebrate.

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