Devin Davis will always hold the Miami RedHawks close to his heart. He’s the third-leading scorer in the program’s history. He played in the NCAA tournament twice. Miami played the Dayton Flyers four times during his career (1993-97) and won every time.
Times have changed, however. On Thursday, Davis posed for a photo in a conference room used by the Dayton men’s basketball team at the Cronin Center. He pointed to the “D” logo on his shirt. He stretched out his arms in front of the Dayton Flyers sign on the wall as if embracing his new program.
Although his famous dreadlocks are long gone — he cut them in 2004 — this is the same Davis opposing fans loved to hate. Asked what he thought of Dayton’s program during his playing days, he said, “I didn’t have respect for them, but I didn’t have respect for any program.”
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The Flyers have come a long way since their struggles in the mid-1990s. Now Davis, 42, hopes to help them continue to ascend. Dayton head coach Anthony Grant hired him in May as the director of player development.
“This is where my opportunity was,” Davis said. “My job is to try to help these guys as much as I can to be successful, not just there but after here, in school, after school, playing or not playing. Mainly, I’m checking on the guys academically and conversing with them, seeing where their minds are and trying to help them along the way.”
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Dayton did not have a director of player development in Archie Miller’s six season. Here’s the official job description: “The Director of Player Development serves under the direction of the head coach to support the men’s basketball student-athletes as a mentor and advisor in their overall development. The director will serve as program liaison to various campus support services (i.e. academics, compliance, etc). This position also assists the head coach with coordination of the program’s community involvement by both the coaches and team.”
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Davis fits the role perfectly. He knows what it takes to succeed on the court. He scored 1,828 points. He knows classroom work is important. He earned his degree. He then played pro basketball for 14 years in Europe.
Davis finished his playing career in 2013, so he’s not that far removed from the game. That will help him relate to the young Flyers.
“Basically, I’m like the big brother,” Davis said, “a brother you can come to and talk to about anything. That’s what I like doing. Some kids don’t get it. I was one of those kids growing up. I was a great player, but it could have very easily been a story about a kid who got lost or had a situation with a coach and now I’m penalized. I realize a lot of these guys are kids. Sometimes they do things kids do, and it’s immature. Sometimes kids are penalized for a decision they make, but it’s our job to help them see it and understand.”
Davis has already started working on relationships with the Flyers, meeting with them one-on-one and talking about their goals. He can’t coach them on the court because the NCAA limits how many coaches can do that, but he can watch practice and offer advice in other ways. He will be on the bench during the season for home and road games.
One thing the players often will hear from Davis is: “Be a pro.”
By that he means, “Be a pro in the classroom, when you’re walking around these streets, when you’re training, in how you treat someone. Being a pro means a lot of different things. I’m big on guys being pros. Once you learn how to be a pro in basketball, it carries over to everything else you do.”
Davis’ career has come full circle. At Miami Senior High School in Miami, Fla., one of his mentors was Grant, a Miami Senior grad who starred at Dayton and returned to Miami Senior to get his start in coaching on the staff of head coach Shakey Rodriguez. Now Davis is a mentor on Grant’s first staff at Dayton.
Grant was Davis’ position coach at Miami Senior through his junior year.
“We were really close in the sense that we would talk a lot,” Davis said. “He was still young. He would play with us at times. He was totally different because he was an older guy and he was out of college at the time, but he had that knowledge. No different than me having that knowledge here now.”
Davis and Grant kept in touch over the years. That’s common for Miami Senior alums.
“The thing about my high school, once you’re in that family, you’re always family,” Davis said. “I don’t care if it’s 20 years down the line. It’s like yesterday. You’d be amazed how it it is. It’s how Dayton is with their guys. They love the guys who come through the program, and they’re willing to help and support them any way possible.”
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This is the second time Davis has worked with Grant. Davis spent the 2014-15 season as a strength and conditioning coach at Alabama. That was Grant’s last season at Alabama.
Davis had a similar role there as a mentor to players. In previous years, Davis helped players at his alma mater, Miami, in the same way in an unofficial capacity. It started with Will Felder, who played for the RedHawks for two seasons (2012-14). Soon other players were reaching out to him for advice.
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That led to him talking to Grant about a position at Alabama. Two years later, Davis reached out to Grant again to congratulate him on landing the UD job. Eventually, that led to a job offer. Davis had been working in Miami, Fla., in real estate with his wife of two years, Rina.
“(Grant) was like, basically, ‘Is there something you want to do? If you want, I’ll help you,’” Davis said. “There is love there. Genuine love. I can say I love him because he’s been a guy in my life for a long time. We have each other’s back. We trust each other. It’s a mutual thing. The opportunity presented itself. I’m glad to have it.”