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Tom Davis’ legacy continues to grow

[ 1 ] May 24, 2012 |

Kenyon Murray was coaching a team in an AAU basketball tournament in Des Moines recently when he and an official struck up a conversation.

The topic was something that Murray hears being discussed more often these days, which is the growing number of former Iowa players now coaching, or as Murrray puts it, the Tom Davis coaching tree.

Murray is one of several former Hawkeyes who played for Davis that is now coaching basketball. The list also includes Ryan Bowen, Dean Oliver, Jess Settles, James Moses, Rodell Davis, Kevin Gamble, Mon’ter Glasper, Duez Henderson, Acie Earl and Ryan Luehrsmann, among others.

The jobs range from being an NBA assistant coach, which is Bowen’s role with the Denver Nuggets, to coaching at the collegiate level, in high school and AAU, and as individual instructors.

“I had an interesting talk with a referee and we talked about how many former players are coaching right now,” said Murray, who played small forward for Davis at Iowa from 1992-96. “It’s something that comes up a lot in conversation.”

Luehrsmann is the latest former Hawkeye to join Davis’ coaching tree. Luehrsmann was hired last month as the new varsity boys coach at Cedar Rapids Xavier.

Luehrsmann will face another player from the Davis coaching tree when Xavier plays against Cedar Rapids Prairie, whose head coach is James Moses.

“That will be very cool,” said Luehrsmann, who graduated from Cedar Rapids Washington and then played point guard at Iowa from 1996-2000. “James has already reached out to me and he made a joke that I need to step up my wardrobe in terms of the suit collection that I have.”

Davis coached for 13 seasons at Iowa from 1986-99 before resigning after not having his contract renewed. He is Iowa’s all-time winningest men’s basketball coach with a 269-140 record and he also led the Hawkeyes to nine NCAA Tournament appearances.

And now he’s adding to his legacy by having so many of his former players get into coaching.

“I remember initially when I was playing in high school I had no thoughts of being a coach,” said Bowen, who played forward under Davis from 1994-98 before playing almost 10 seasons in the NBA. “But I think just playing for coach Davis made me think this could be really fun to do what he does.

“And I think that’s one of the greatest things as a coach that you can do is get people to want to get into coaching and to leave that legacy.”

Luehrsmann credits Davis for helping to lead him into coaching by setting a positive example during their time together at Iowa. Luehrsmann played under Davis as a freshman, sophomore and junior at Iowa.

“I think there is definitely a trend around here lately,” Luehrsmann said. “I stay in touch with those guys and I think those are guys that really developed just a love for the game of basketball and really like just being a part of a team.

“And having the experiences that we’ve had in the past and knowing what goes into being on a successful team, it’s pretty neat to pass along the lessons that you learned as a player. A lot of those guys looked at the game differently. They were the ones that we’re always trying to learn more about the strategy of it.”

Luehrsmann and Davis got together shortly after Luehrsmann was hired at Xavier and the fact that so many former Iowa players are now coaching came up during their conversation.

“We talked basketball and coaching and we talked about that,” Davis said in a recent telephone interview. “You see a certain number of guys from right around this area. I don’t know why or what led to it all. I’m not sure about that.

“But I’m happy for them. They all seem excited about giving it a shot.”

Randy Larson, who coaches the boys’ basketball team at Regina, believes that Davis is largely the reason why so many former Hawkeyes are now coaching.

“I think it accounts from the fact that you were exposed to a role model there that is a gentleman and dignified and a great competitor and somebody that wins the right way and somebody that cares about his people,” Larson said of Davis, who still lives in Iowa City after retiring as the head coach at Drake University in 2007. “It can’t help but make you want to kind of be that way yourself.

“I used to go watch practice when he was here and I could feel that. The admiration that you feel for somebody that conducts himself that way is part of what makes you want to be that way yourself.”

Larson has followed the Iowa basketball program closely over the past three decades. He also runs the Prime Time League, which he and Davis started in 1987 in order for Iowa players to participate in more structured pick-up games over the summer.

Larson said he couldn’t remember a time when so many former Iowa players, especially from in state, were coaching.

The circumstances today, according to Larson, are nothing like when former Hawkeye and retired NBA veteran Bobby Hansen was hired as part of the radio broadcast team for Iowa men’s basketball games in the early 1990s.

“There is no doubt about it because in years past, before Bobby Hansen, they were trying to figure out who could be a former Hawkeye to be a radio broadcaster and there just wasn’t really anybody,” Larson said. “Nobody had gone into basketball really.

“You had some guys that played, but there weren’t any coaches that I can think of back in that era.”

Luehrsmann said being a former Hawkeyes appeals to those looking to hire head coaches, especially at the high school level.

“When they see the backgrounds that all of us have and that we’re in it for the right reasons, it makes it pretty attractive,” Luehrsmann said.

Davis said he never tried to encourage his players to get into coaching, nor his son Keno Davis, who also is a coach. But Tom Davis appreciates that so many have followed in his footsteps, including his son.

Keno Davis is preparing for his first season as the head coach at Central Michigan. He also was the head coach at Providence for three seasons from 2008-11 before being fired and for one season at Drake in 2007-08.

Keno led Drake to one of the most successful seasons in school history after replacing his father as head coach. The Bulldogs won both the Missouri Valley Conference regular-season and conference tournament titles with Keno as head coach.

“It makes you feel good,” said Tom Davis, who, after resigning at Iowa, was the head coach at Drake from 2003-07. “They’re a good bunch of guys. I think a lot of it has to do with did they enjoy their experience?

“Did they enjoy their teammates? Did they enjoy the competition? And if those were a positive then I could see where it’s attractive to go into coaching. And I just thought in my own career I had so much fun playing at the high school and then in college level. It was fun and it made you want to be a coach just because you enjoyed that part of your life so much.”

Luehrsmann is among three former Iowa point guards to get into coaching within the past two years, the others being Oliver and Jeff Horner, who played for Steve Alford at Iowa.

Oliver is an assistant coach at North Dakota, whose head coach is former Iowa assistant Brian Jones. Horner is the head coach at West Des Moines Valley.

Davis said it’s probably not a coincidence that all three former point guards are now coaching.

“I think it gives you something because you tend to think more like a coach when you have responsibility of running an offense or helping the coach make decisions, which a lot guards end up doing,” said Davis, who also played guard in high school and college. “I don’t know why that is, if it’s just a tradition that started. I don’t think that necessarily you have to be a point guard to make decisions on court.

“But they do sort of go hand-in-hand. I do think they think that way traditionally in the game because (as a point guard) you’ve got the ball in your hands more, you’re controlling the ball, therefore you’re controlling the game.”

The list isn’t limited to just point guards, though, with former forwards Bowen and Settles also coaching. Settles is the head coach at Iowa Wesleyan and Bowen just finished his first season with the Nuggets.

Bowen joined the Denver staff in early December after serving as Iowa’s video coordinator and administrative assistant under head coach Fran McCaffery for slightly more than one season.

“It’s been kind of neat to see, especially when you see some of your teammates get into it, and other guys as well,” Bowen said. “It’s nice seeing a coaching tree get started for coach Davis.”

Luehrsmann’s situation is different than most of the former Iowa players now coaching in that he’s only doing it on a part-time basis. He also isn’t concerned about moving up the coaching ladder because he works full time in the insurance business.

“Coaching is definitely my second job,” Luehrsmann said. “But it also means a great deal to me and I’ll work very hard at it.”

Luehrsmann is taking advantage of a new rule that allows high school schools to hire coaches that aren’t teachers. Being a teacher used to be one of the requirements to coach at the high school level.

“I think that gives guys like Ryan a lot of opportunities to get into coaching that aren’t teachers, but they still want to be involved,” Bowen said.

Murray, meanwhile, works in the dental supply business, but for the last year he also has directed his own basketball academy for kids. Before that, he was an assistant coach at Indian Hills Community College.

“Keno, obviously, was right off the tree,” Murray said. “(Coach Davis) really touched a lot of people. I just think it’s pretty cool.”

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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes men's basketball

About Pat Harty: Columnist Pat Harty has been covering the Iowa Hawkeyes for the Press-Citizen since 1991. Originally from Des Moines, he currently writes columns and covers Hawkeye men's basketball for Hawk Central. View author profile.

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