Dick Davey, Cal Hoops, Zito, The Police
by Glenn Dickey
Feb 21, 2007

SANTA CLARA basketball coach Dick Davey and athletic director Dan Coonan have both been caught in the cross-hairs by an overzealous group of alumni.

Coonan has had to take public criticism for announcing the obviously forced retirement of Davey, just before the Broncos upset Gonzaga. But this was not Coonan’s idea.

From Coonan’s earlier time as an assistant AD at Cal, I know him to be a highly principled man. He was hired at Cal because he had been in charge of investigating and disciplining schools for code violations while working for the Pac-10, and then athletic director Steve Gladstone wanted to be certain Cal wouldn’t be guilty of those violations. The Davey situation is diametrically opposed to Dan Coonan’s way of conducting business.

According to my sources, it was a group of big donors who wanted the school to get to the Gonzaga level competitively who pressured Coonan and the school administration to force Davey to retire. The plan was for him to announce his retirement at the end of the season.

Then, the Broncos spoiled that plan by having an unexpectedly good season. The alumni got nervous, worried that Davey might renege on his promise to retire, so they forced Coonan to announce Davey’s retirement early.

And then, the Broncos upset Gonzaga and all those connected with the school had egg on their faces.

It’s a very distasteful episode, and another example of how collegiate sports can spin out of control when alumni start exerting pressure.

Santa Clara has had a model basketball program for many years, achieving moderate success while maintaining high ideals. It has resisted the temptation of recruiting the type of players who got Cal put on NCAA probation during the Todd Bozeman era and forced USF president Fr. John LoSchiavo to suspend the program for a year in the mid-‘80s.

Their coaching situation has also remained remarkably stable because they’ve hired from within. Davey was an assistant coach under Carroll Williams, who had been an assistant coach under Dick Garibaldi, who had been an assistant under Bob Feerick.

Davey has also been a very good coach. When he had a superior talent like Steve Nash, who he found in Canada but was not recruited by anybody else, he turned him into a great player. Nash has gone on to a spectacular pro career, being named the NBA’s Most Valuable Player in each of the last two seasons.

Santa Clara hasn’t been able to attract that kind of individual talent in recent years but whatever the individual talent level, Davey’s teams have always been very well disciplined teams which played at least as well as their talent allowed.

Sometimes, they played beyond that. Davey became known as a giant killer over his 15-year head coaching career, starting with his first season, when the Broncos upset Arizona, No. 2 ranked nationally, in the NCAA tournament. Overall, Davey’s teams have beaten five top 25 teams, the latest upset against North Carolina in the 2004 Pete Newell Challenge. The Tar Heels won the national championship that season, losing to only three other teams.

But, most of all, Davey represented the best of intercollegiate athletics. “He has been a father figure and mentor to scores of student-athletes, staff and fellow coaches,” Coonan said in announcing Davey’s retirement. “He has also made an unmistakable mark on those lives and on this great university.”

His players have shown their high regard for Davey by playing even harder, especially in the Gonzaga upset. They’re making an emphatic statement in the best possible way.

Davey himself has been very gracious throughout all this, making no criticisms, actual or implied, of anybody. That’s no surprise to anybody who knows him, and it should be an example to the alumni who forced him out.

CAL BASKETBALL: This has been a strange year for the Bears because of the multiple injuries, the most damaging the ones which knocked out big men DeVon Hardin and Jordan Wilkes early, forcing freshman Ryan Anderson to play in the middle. Anderson has played well – he could win Freshman of the Year honors in the Pac-10 – but his natural position is forward.

“It’s like when Amit Tamir was here,” said coach Ben Braun this week. “Because we were starting two seven-footers, Amit could play outside, where he was comfortable. If he’d had to play inside, he’d have been much less effective.”

It’s possible Hardin may return for the Pac-10 tournament, in which case Anderson would move to forward and Theo Robertson to the wing, as they played before Hardin was injured. That’s a long shot, though Hardin now has had the cast removed from his broken foot. “We’d only play him if he could practice for two straight days,” said Braun. “We’re not going to endanger his future by rushing him back.”

The good news is that younger players are getting more opportunities to play, which has accelerated their learning process. Freshmen Patrick Christopher and the super-fast Jerome Randle have especially benefited.

Meanwhile, Braun has done his best coaching job in years. The Bears are actually exciting to watch this year, even when they lose. The static offense of the recent past has largely disappeared, as they move the ball around crisply and run when they can.

Most important, the team has never conceded anything, even in the face of devastating injuries. “You can’t let them go out there thinking they have an excuse to lose,” said Braun. “It’s tough, but it is what it is. You have to play with what you’ve got.”

ZITO NO. 1? First, a Chronicle beat writer compared Barry Zito’s attempt at a new delivery with Michelangelo tampering with his work. Then, after substantial media criticism of his new delivery, Zito used the same comparison, saying it was like criticizing Michelangelo before his sculpture was completed.

Hmmmm. Michelangelo and Zito. Wonder which one ranks higher in historical importanc(Wednesday).


THE POLICE; Tickets are available for The Police concert on June 13 at MacAfee Coliseum on the Bay area link of TICKETS! TICKETS! TICKETS! on this site. Tickets are available for the baseball All-Star game at AT&T Park in July, as well as tickets to Warriors, Sharks and Cal and Stanford basketball games. Tickets are also available for concerts featuring James Taylor, Van Morrison, Bob Seger, The Who and Christina Aguilera, as well as the Legally Blonde musical, which runs through Saturday in San Francisco. Nationally, tickets are available for NBA, NHL and baseball games, and for concerts featuring Justin Timberlake, Elton John and Gwen Stefani, among others. Click on the Bay Area or national links below and the whole list will come up.

LETTERS: I updated this section Wednesday.

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