Davidson is back in the Big Dance. Yes, the same Davidson that you were captivated by in 2008 when Stephen Curry captured the attention of America by making big shots and making a run before losing to eventual national-champion Kansas.
This time the Wildcats are back without any star power, but that’s not keeping them from making music, as long-time coach Bob McKillop likes to say. They do have first-team, all-conference players in Jake Cohen and De’Mon Brooks and they are back in the Dance after beating Western Carolina in double-overtime to earn the bid.
Bob McKillop joined WSCR in Chicago with Boers and Bernstein to discuss this team compared to the one with Steph Curry, what Curry meant for his program, the luxury of knowing his players will be around for four years, if he’d take a one-and-done guy, his message to his players going into the NCAA tournament and if being the Southern Conference Coach of the Year ever gets old.
How would you describe this year’s team and compare it to others you’ve had that have had more big-name players?:
“You know, I use this analogy all the time, it’s like going to the Met to watch Pavarotti — our 2008 team, Pavarotti being Stephen Curry. Now it’s like going to Broadway and watching Jersey Boys. You don’t care who’s playing Frankie Valli, you just want to hear the music. We’re sort of a Jersey Boys kind of team, where it doesn’t matter who’s in the lead role. There’s so many guys who could play it and you’re still going to get good music.”
What did Steph Curry mean for your program?:
“He was a stamp of national excellence for us, to do what he did during his time for us. Now he’s a constant presence because he’s always in the national papers because of his success with Golden State and the attention the NBA gets. It’s something that’s not faded with his departure from Davidson, but continued.”
On the luxury of knowing his players are going to be around for four years:
“The reason the landscape of college athletics is so level right now is because programs at the mid-major level are keeping guys around for four years. That maturity, that experience, you put a team out on the court that has 21-, 22-, 23-year-old men on the court and they’re going against these hot-shot 18-year-olds. Invariably, there’s going to be the mental maturity that three, four, five years extra provides. That’s why Virginia Commonwealth, that’s why Butler, that’s why George Mason, that’s why we’ve done the things we’ve done the last six years. It’s a great luxury to have that, knowing that guys are going to be around and that when you put in a system, it’s going to be passed from class to class.”
If there’s a guy that you know is one-and-done, but says he wants to do it at Davidson, you’d still take him, right?:
“Um, I hope I have that opportunity to have that question answered. … I hope there’s sometime some player tells me that.”
At what point do you give the message to your players that it’s time to get serious and also maybe make sure they don’t buy into any Cinderella hype?:
“That seriousness started about three hours ago when we had practice and I put the fear of God in them. I tell them my own experiences as a player. I tell them my experiences as a coach. There’s so many memories that I have, so many tidbits that I can reflect back on when you’ve done this as long as I’ve had. You constantly use them as learning tools, as teaching tools. … In ’72 I signed as a free agent with the 76ers. I was just so happy to put on the 76er practice gear that I didn’t care if I was cut. … I did not invest myself as much as I invested to get to that step. I told our guys, ‘I don’t want you being content with yesterday’s glory. You have to realize this is a journey and you have the challenge of the next step in front of and don’t be content with just getting a Southern Conference championship.”
Do you ever get tired of being the Southern Conference Coach of the Year?:
“It’s a thrill every time because I share that. I share that with a wife who puts up with the nonsense of me being a coach and a staff who works beyond the 24 hours of the day. And players who were with me 20, 25 years ago. … That’s the kind of thing that keeps me young and inspired and encouraged by this profession, that you have an impact on people’s lives and you’re a part of people’s lives.”