CRAWFORD | Bellarmine moves to make Davenport a lifer with long-term extension
Bellarmine coach Scott Davenport has signed an extension with the school that will keep him as head men's basketball coach until his retirement.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – There’s been a lot of talk about money in athletics around here and around the nation lately. This is one of those rare deals where a coach gets a contract extension, but it’s the school that gets richer.
Bellarmine University on Wednesday announced that it has signed men’s basketball coach Scott Davenport to a deal that essentially will allow him to coach at the NCAA Division II program until his retirement – which judging from his recent performance, should be no time soon.
Dr. Susan Donovan has been president of Bellarmine for just a month. It didn’t take her long to size up the worth of Davenport, a Louisville native who has led the Knights to a 75.5 percent victory clip and a 92 percent graduation rate in 11 seasons.
“Bellarmine’s basketball program is one of which we can be very proud,” Donovan said. “Over the past decade, the Knights have enjoyed nearly unparalleled success on the court while also ensuring the graduation of our student-athletes. That is an ideal student-athlete experience, and we want to ensure that Bellarmine continues to provide that experience under Coach Davenport’s direction for as long as possible.”
Davenport has had the Knights in the past nine NCAA Tournaments. In the past seven seasons, he has won an NCAA Division II championship (2011) and been to the Final Four three other times (2012, 2015, 2017). His winning percentage in the NCAA Tournament – 74.2 percent – is the highest for any active Division II coach.
“His record speaks for itself,” Bellarmine athletic director Scott Wiegandt said. “Recognizing that type of success with a long-term contract is not only the right thing to do, it signals to recruits and players that we are committed to a high level of excellence, and that they can rely on that commitment for years to come.”
The record, of course, is easy to see. What you might not see is the time. You probably know he climbs up from time to time to dust off the backboards in Knights Hall by himself. You should know about his efforts to award scholarships to walk-on players who have earned them over years of service to the program.
You probably haven’t seen him or his staff write out motivational messages to his players and fasten them around candy bars, then throw them into the players in their beds before lights out on road trips. Nor do you see them pitch in with the team laundry -- which they also require the players to do from time to time, to give them an appreciation for the work the team managers do.
Maybe you’ve seen him filling up a cart in the grocery store with drinks and snacks for the bus before taking off on road trips. Maybe, like me, you were there the night he dragged himself out of the bed three days after surgery to deal with 28 kidney stones to coach his team to a victory over Shaw University.
I doubt if you’ve seen him meet with a player who shared an academic concern, only to have him tell the player to take care of first things first. The starting center a while back who missed Saturday games because he had to be in labs back on campus. The players whose upper-level class schedules he’s worked around. He knows why his players are there. The only three in 11 years who haven’t completed degrees after exhausting their eligibility went on to pursue pro basketball.
(Above, watch Davenport address his team at halftime of an exhibition game against Duke. The Knights trailed by five at the break in their first appearance of the 2012-13 season).
I wish I’d seen him that night in a snowstorm, in the middle of Kansas, climb down off the team bus – rather than risk it getting stuck in the storm off the interstate, and walk the length of the off ramp to see if there was a place to stay at the end of the exit.
Now at Bellarmine, Davenport has found a place to stay. Terms of the new contract were not disclosed. He last signed an extension just two years ago, through 2020. Now this one. If Bellarmine wants to extend him again, it may just have to extend his life.
That’d be fine by all of us. And I’m sure it would be fine by him. He has logged more bus miles and eaten more sub sandwiches and ordered more mid-level chain dinners and had more fun with every, single moment than any of us can probably imagine.
We don’t know how many times he’s gotten feelers from Division I schools. Goodness knows, he’s more than qualified to take any offer that comes his way.
But I also know that the guy who likes to describe himself as the son of a hair dresser in Louisville’s South End has an appreciation for where he is that few others in the position could have.
He grew up here, three miles from Freedom Hall, went to Iroquois High School. He played junior varsity at the University of Louisville. He coached Ballard High School for 10 seasons and won a state title there in 1988, coaching future NBA players in DeJuan Wheat and Allan Houston. He was an assistant at Louisville for nine seasons, bridging the end of Denny Crum’s Hall of Fame career and the beginning of Rick Pitino’s. Both men remained treasured friends and mentors of his today. Last year, he was inducted into the Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame, alongside many players and coaches he idolized as a child.
“Bellarmine is a very special place to coach every, single day,” Davenport said. “In my opinion, the individuals who make up the Bellarmine community and the support we receive is a key factor in our success on and off the floor. The most important element in our success is our players are outstanding on the court and they lead the way in our recruiting efforts. Talented prospects and students want to play with other talented players. Just as I tell our players every day, this is the greatest time of your life. I truly believe this applies to me as well.”
And now, it’ll apply a little longer. Or maybe a lot longer.
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