From the sidelines
Radford University has honored one its most influential basketball coaches of all time. This past week, the Radford basketball office suite was named in honor of former men’s basketball coach Joe Davis and his wife, Anne, in recognition of their contributions to the basketball program.
Davis successfully guided the Highlander men’s basketball program from an unaffiliated small college entry all the way to the NCAA Division I ranks. He posted nine winning seasons in 10 years as Radford’s head coach from 1978-88, including a 23-4 record in 1978-79 and a 16-12 mark in 1984-85, Radford’s first Division I season.
Davis left Radford in 1988 as the all-time winningest coach, posting 165 victories and a .589 winning percentage. Radford joined the Big South during Davis’ time at the helm, starting league play during the 1985-86 season as the Highlanders posted an 18-15 conference record during his time.
This is truly one of those individuals that had gone unnoticed in what and who he was able to influence. Former players included Rod Cousin whose son plays on the current team and a guy by the name of Steve Robinson, who also coached under Davis and is now the associate head coach for last year’s national champion, the University of North Carolina.
He was a true mentor to these and so many other individuals including myself.
I will never forget the first time I met Davis. It was in my sophomore year at Radford University, and I had just started working at the Dedmon Center in the equipment room.
A mild-mannered man approached the desk and asked for a basketball. With everything that I had been taught, I then asked who are you? He introduced himself, and I was sort of embarrassed.
From then on, we had a great relationship. He always called me by my first name and made sure he asked me how my day was.
I later started working basketball games as part of the student sports information staff, and I watched and learned a lot about college basketball on and off the court. He and I were both there when the university went from Division III to the Division I athletic ranks. That was a journey I’m glad I witnessed, and probably had one of the best people to lead us there—Joe Davis.
I became the school’s mascot and performed at several basketball games. He always gave me a good ribbing.
Over the years, I became friends with both he and his wife. They were two of the friendliest people I’ve ever met in my life.
Over time, Davis asked me to help with a summer basketball camp where he told me to go over there and teach 10-year-olds how to shoot free throws. No formal training, just go do it.
Later, he got me a job as an administrative assistant with the national Five-Star Basketball Camps that used Radford as a stop for a number of years. He and Five-Star Director, Howard Garfinkel, then recommended me for the director of basketball operations at then-Baptist College in Charleston, South Carolina.
I didn’t take the job, instead I started my career in sports broadcasting at WRAD radio in Radford and then later as the sports editor of the Radford News Journal.
Davis was a major influence in what I do today, and I thank him for asking for that basketball some 30 years ago. It is always a pleasure to see him still today.
While I never got the opportunity to play for or coach under him, I was influenced by this humble man that the university honored this past week.
Congrats to the ol’ ball coach and his wife. A lot of future players and coaches, and maybe equipment managers, will now ask who are you—who is Joe Davis—and hopefully someone will tell them of the man that helped to build a program and influence a lot of young men’s lives.