Interview With Dick Davey

Dick Davey

Interview Conducted 9/8/2008

John Medina/SCU Athletics

John Medina/SCU Athletics

After an illustrious career as Head Coach at Santa Clara from 1992-2007, Dick Davey will return to the sidelines as an assistant to new Stanford Head Coach Johnny Dawkins.

Davey received an unexpected call from Dawkins while golfing in North Carolina with some Santa Clara friends.

DAVEY: “[Dawkins] talked some other people about some of the other positions open and my name came up several times.”

When Davey returned to his home in California, he made the short 30 minute drive to Palo Alto to interview with Dawkins.

DAVEY: “I gave him a list of reasons why he shouldn’t hire me, including my age and the fact that I couldn’t turn a computer on.”

“I feel tremendously lucky that he had enough confidence in me after not knowing me very well to decide he would hire me.”

Coach Davey and his staff had a unique style of recruiting players to Santa Clara. Rather than stroke a potential recruit’s ego, he would give them an honest assessment of what they needed to improve.

DAVEY: “I don’t think I ever walked into a home and told them how good they were, but then again, I never recruited Abdul-Jabbar either. If so, I may have changed my philosophy.”

“I never thought we recruited a kid who was so good that we couldn’t live without him if he didn’t want to come. So I wanted kids to come [to Santa Clara] who wanted to be there.”

“A lot of people would tell you that doesn’t allow you to recruit the kind of players you need to get, but I always felt that get them among your terms rather than theirs… and hopefully they’d come through and become dominant players for your program.”

As an example of Davey’s approach, he traveled to Victoria, British Columbia, to watch a point guard who was not recruited by any other Division I school.

Davey told him afterward that he was the worst defender he’d ever seen as a coach.

DAVEY: “I said that with the idea in mind that I’d strike a chord with him and he’d want to fight back a little in that regard.”

The player, future NBA star Steve Nash, signed soon thereafter.

DAVEY: “He wasn’t the worst defender I ever saw. I kind of went overboard a little bit.”

“He actually became a pretty good college defender.”

“That was kind of our approach [to recruiting].”

Davey’s Santa Clara squads were noted over the years for major upsets over nationally-ranked teams. In the 1993 NCAA Tournament, #15 Seed Santa Clara upset #2 Seed Arizona.

Santa Clara, up by 12 points in the first half, allowed Arizona to go on a combined 25-0 run during the last 5 minutes of the half and the first five minutes of the second half.

DAVEY: “All intelligent coaches under those conditions call timeout. For two minutes and fifteen seconds I stared at our five guys on the bench and they stared at me. Not one word was said. Finally, we reached a point where the buzzer sounded and I looked at them all and said ‘gentlemen, we have to score’. So that just goes to show you how smart us coaches are.”

“Our kids really came alive, not because of that dynamic pep talk, but they realized our backs were against the wall and they wanted to stay around a little longer.”

The hotel which Santa Clara stayed at expected the team to lose.  They received a call the next morning from the hotel staff at 6:30 a.m. asking them to leave because a convention was coming in that day.

DAVEY: “Obviously we didn’t leave. We stayed, but the whole scenario that transpired there was kind of funny.”

Davey offered two reasons for why Santa Clara pulled many upsets during his tenure.

DAVEY: “Something that had been carried over the years at Santa Clara was the competitive nature of the kids that came there. I think the kids who were there when others were being recruited there let them know it was a competitive environment.”

“Quite honestly, excluding myself and I wouldn’t put myself in there, my staff there was outstanding in getting kids to improve their ability level. It wasn’t the place where you went out and recruited the top talent. It was the place where you would recruit the guys who would work hard, who had good attitudes, and had good grades and hopefully get them to aspire to become better and I think our staff did a pretty good job in that regard.”

Davey will have a bittersweet reunion on December 23rd, when Stanford makes a short bus ride to play at Santa Clara – a game that was scheduled before he was hired.

DAVEY: “[Santa Clara’s] my place. It’s where I was for thirty years. I loved the people and the environment. I had chances to leave a couple times to go to other places that were a little bigger, but I really wanted to stay there because of the players I got to coach.”

“It will be hard because I have strong feelings about some of the kids who will be playing. I love a lot of those kids that are there, the program, the environment, the whole thing, so it will be a tough game.”

“But when it comes down to the final analysis, it’s a game. You go out and try to win the game.”

Dick Davey Links:

Stanford Biography

Santa Clara Biography and list of notable upset victories


Davey Interview with KRON4’s Gary Radnich

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