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Davis named Associated Press coach of the year

Photo of Keno Davis
Keno Davis

SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS — The post-season honors keep accumulating for the Drake basketball team, in particular, head coach Keno Davis.

Davis, who capped his first season as a head coach by leading Drake to its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1971, was selected The Associated Press college basketball coach of the year Friday.

The 36-year-old Davis and his father, Tom, whom he succeeded at Drake, are the first father and son duo to win the national coach of the year award. Tom Davis was at Iowa when he won it in 1987.

“It is amazing to even be considered for this award,” said Davis. “And it is something I will treasure the rest of my life.”

The Associated Press college basketball coach of the year honor is the fifth national award for Davis, 36, who has been honored by CollegeHoops.net, Basketball Times, The Sporting News and the U. S. Basketball Writers Association.

He also is a finalist for the Naismith National Coach of the Year, the Jim Phelan National Coach of the Year and the Hugh Durham Mid-Major Coach of the Year.

Davis is the second straight first-year head coach — and second straight son who succeeded his father — to win the Associated Press award, following Washington State’s Tony Bennett last season. Bill Hodges of Indiana State in 1979 was the only other first-year coach to win the award, and he is the only other coach from the Missouri Valley Conference to have won it.

“I remember seeing this trophy when my father won it and thinking that except for championships there couldn’t be anything better to win,” Davis said. “I don’t want to speak for Tony, but since we were assistants we knew the players, recruited the players and that made the transition easier.”

Davis received 29 votes from the 72-member national media panel that selects the weekly Top 25. Bo Ryan, who led Wisconsin to the Big Ten Conference regular-season and tournament titles, was second with 14. Bruce Pearl of Tennessee got six votes and John Calipari of Memphis and Matt Painter of Purdue each had five. Davis was an assistant to Pearl at Southern Indiana from 1995-97.

“Bruce Pearl taught me to work hard and at full speed,” Davis said.

Drake, which lost four starters from last season’s 17-15 team, finished with a school-record 28-5 mark this season. With a starting lineup that featured two former walk-ons, including conference player of the year Adam Emmenecker, Drake won a school-record 21 straight games.

The Associated Press award capped a busy day at the NCAA Final Four Tournament for Keno Davis. It all began with the U.S. Basketball Writer’s Association’s annual college basketball awards breakfast. Keno Davis was presented with the Henry Iba Award as the USBWA’s Coach of the Year.

Andy Katz, senior college basketball writer for ESPN.com who is president of the USBWA, presented Davis with the award.

“A year ago I didn’t think he would be in this position,” said Katz. “But Keno Davis did an unbelievable job in turning the Drake program around.”

The Bulldogs, who were a No. 5 seed in the NCAA tournament, lost 101-99 on an overtime buzzer-beating 3-pointer to Western Kentucky in the first round.

“We have some momentum going that we want to continue next year,” said Davis.