Home Alumni Drake celebrates a men’s basketball season to remember

Drake celebrates a men’s basketball season to remember

photo of men's basketball team
The team recently was named the CollegeHoops.net Program of the Year.

Under Drake Head Men’s Basketball Coach Keno Davis’ guidance, Drake won both the Missouri Valley Conference regular season championship and, for the first time, the MVC tournament crown. The Bulldogs also advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1971, losing in the first round on a buzzer-beater in overtime. 

Davis took a team picked to finish ninth in the Missouri Valley Conference preseason poll and guided Drake to both the regular-season crown and league tournament title.

Under Davis, Drake was nationally ranked in both the Associated Press and USA Today/ESPN Coaches poll for a school-record eight straight weeks, including a No. 14 rating in the latest poll released on March 18.

Racing off to a 16-1 start, the Bulldogs cracked the top 25 polls for the first time on Jan. 21, being rated No. 22 in the Associated Press poll and No. 23 in the USA Today/ESPN Coaches poll. That marked the first top 25 appearances by a Drake team since the Bulldogs were ranked No. 16 in the Associated Press poll during the last three weeks of the 1974-75 campaign.

photo of Keno Davis
Keno Davis

Davis receives another national coaching honor

Coach Davis has been named the 2007-08 Chevrolet Division I College Basketball Coach of the Year in voting determined by the CBS Sports talent and production staff.

Davis was presented the award by Chevrolet General Manager Ed Peper in between the semifinal round games of Saturday’s NCAA Final Four in the Alamodome.

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

Davis also was recently named “Coach of the Year” by the Associated Press in San Antonio, Texas — site of the Final Four games played over the weekend– and 2008 CollegeHoops.net “Coach of the Year.”

The CollegeHoops.net honor is the fourth national award for Davis, 36, who also was honored by 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, and was named the Rawlings Missouri Valley Conference Coach of the Year during the MVC Tournament in St. Louis, Mo.

Alumni are invited to recognize Bulldogs basketball teams

Both the Drake men’s and women’s basketball teams will be honored at the State Capitol in Des Moines at 4 p.m. Monday, April 14. The teams will be recognized in the House Chamber and the Senate Chamber.

The Drake community, alumni and friends of the University are invited to attend the recognition ceremony in the public galleries at the Capitol. Fans are encouraged to wear Drake blue.

For more information, contact Shanna Fountain at 515-271-2074 or shanna.fountain@drake.edu.

photo of Vinaya Sharma
Vinaya Sharma at airport in Taipei, Taiwan, before boarding flight to San Francisco.

Drake alumni, fans reconnect, revel in the season

The Drake men’s basketball team gave alumni and friends a thrilling season, lasting memories, and a wonderful reason to reconnect with Drake and with each other. Even after a 26-foot three-point basket by Western Kentucky’s Ty Rogers lifted his team to a 101-99 overtime victory past Drake in the first round of the NCAA Tournament – and sucked the collective oxygen from the lungs of Bulldog fans around the globe – Drake alumni and friends continue to be proud of their team.

“It was a storybook season,” said Vinaya Sharma, BN’93, a credit analyst and actuary with Quantitative Risk Management in Chicago.

Sharma was part of that story: a longtime loyal Drake fan who, as a student, attended men’s basketball games costumed as a fired-up Darth Vader, he swore he would “travel to the ends of earth to watch Drake in the NCAA tourney.” He didn’t think he’d have to travel FROM the ends of earth, however:

  • His employer sent him to Hanoi, Vietnam, to speak at a risk management conference on March 19.
  • Since Hanoi is several hours “ahead” of U.S. time zones, he could reach America late that night and – if all his many flights were on time – get to the NCAA first-round site on March 20.

Sharma spent 36 hours on airplanes, wearing Drake blue, to get to Tampa via Taipei, Taiwan; San Francisco; and Charlotte, NC. While he was “devastated” by Drake’s loss and couldn’t watch any more of the tournament (for fear that “someone will slip in that shot on TV and I won’t have a remote to change the channel – seeing it once was bad enough”), he remains proud of the team and glad he made the journey.

“I went to games in [Des Moines’] Veterans Auditorium when it was empty and the team wasn’t good,” Sharma says. “I take my loyalties very seriously. I’m true-blue to my school.”


photo of Trevor Lane, AS'96, Phil Dwyer, AS'99, Jason Sauzek, BN'00, Gerald Hacker, BN'98, Todd Koer
Trevor Lane, AS’96, Phil Dwyer, AS’99, Jason Sauzek, BN’00, Gerald Hacker, BN’98, Todd Koerber, BN’98.

Even more planes, trains and automobiles

By Trevor C. Lane, AS’96

Drake fans did whatever it took to get to the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament there to watch Drake sweep the conference and head to the big dance. These faithful followers represented the sea of blue that washed the shores at the conclusion of the conference to celebrate with the players. 

Gerald Hacker, JO’98, and his father, former Drake Parents Board member Jeff Hacker, are a living testament of a movie moment where people scramble across the country (and around the globe, in some cases) in planes, trains, and automobiles to celebrate and cheer for Drake’s winning season.

When Gerald’s original flight was cancelled in Dallas, due to icy weather conditions on Thursday, March 6, he and his father jumped into the car to forge their way to the nearest AmTrak station – which happened to be in Little Rock, Arkansas, just over five hours away. From there, they were to catch a train to St. Louis, which was supposed to arrive early that Friday morning. During their trek, they fought the snow and ice successfully in their automobile, only to arrive in Little Rock and find out that their train had been delayed due to weather conditions.  

Determined to watch Drake play, these two Bulldog fans arrived in St. Louis on Friday morning a mere 20 minutes before tip-off for Drake’s first game of the tournament.

“It didn’t matter. That is what had to be done in order to watch Drake rise like the Phoenix from the ashes,” said Gerald. He added that supporting the basketball team is extremely important because “it will expand the reputation of our University into other markets, and hopefully put us in the ranks of teams like Georgetown, Duke, and other private universities where academics are a must.”

Jeff Hacker said “Gerald has been a loyal Drake alumnus and basketball fan. I wanted to be there with my son and his friends to celebrate.” The two family members had to miss the final game of the MVC tournament to catch a flight and get back to work on Monday, but they monitored the game via radio and text messages during their car ride from Arkansas back to Dallas.

Game watches gather alumni in bars, offices, homes

Through the season, alumni and fans read about the Drake team and their alma mater in publications ranging from The New York Times and The Washington Post to USA Today and Sports Illustrated. They gathered for “official” game watches in cities including Chicago, Des Moines, Denver and even Budapest, and hunkered over televisions and computer screens in homes and offices worldwide to track the team’s trip to Tampa.

Larry Knecht, LW’72, gathered with fellow fans in Kansas City’s 810Zone to watch the Drake-Western Kentucky game. Kevin Kietzman, who is the sports talk anchor on WHB [sports radio] and one of the principals in the 810Zone bar and grill, estimated that there were about 100 Drake fans in attendance,” Knecht said. “He was very complimentary of the Bulldog fans and said that the only time he had seen anything remotely close to this was a watch party for the University of Iowa a couple of years ago.”

In Denver, game-watch organizer Kevin Overberg, BN’91, and approximately 100 other Drake fans gathered at The Sports Column. “One highlight was that Nick Grant and his wife, Jessica, who were in town visiting family in Denver, chose Sports Column by chance. Nick was one of the four senior starters from last year’s [Drake] team.”

Jeremy Glenn, BN’94, chair of Drake’s Chicago Advisory Board, gathered downtown Windy City with nearly 200 Drake fans at Mother Hubbard’s. “The crowd was very diverse, ranging from a couple of current students to the mayor of Elmhurst to Gary Rogaliner, BN’72, who was a Drake cheerleader in 1971 when Drake last went to the NCAA tournament.”