Detroit — Mike Davis made it clear that he's ready to get to work as Detroit Mercy's new men's basketball coach.
"It's all about hard work and pushing yourself to the limit. I pride myself on that. I pride myself on doing things that no one else is willing to do," Davis said Thursday at his introductory news conference. "I look forward to working with you guys. I look forward to the challenge. We control our ability. There's nothing in your DNA that says you can't be a champion. It's all in the work you're willing to do. I'm excited to be here, and we will really work hard."
If you ask Detroit Mercy athletic director Robert Vowels, Detroit Mercy got its man.
Despite a two-and-a-half-month search, Vowels told The Detroit News that Davis was the only coach offered the men's basketball job.
Then, why did it take so long?
"There were some other challenges we had that we needed to work through during this period of time," Vowels said. "Internal issues and challenges, so we had to be careful. I wanted to make sure that the process was fair and just try to identify the best candidate."
Vowels also addressed why Detroit Mercy has been so quiet about the search.
"Some of the secrecy we've had, we've had to do that for various reasons to make sure that this process was never compromised in any form or any fashion," he said.
Eyebrows were raised when Davis' former employer, Texas Southern, announced Davis was leaving for Detroit Mercy before Detroit Mercy had announced he had been hired. Vowels, who just made his second men's basketball head coaching hire, isn't saying what those internal issues and challenges were, but he is proud of his new hire's extensive resume.
Davis, Detroit Mercy's 22nd men's basketball coach, is an 18-year college head coach. He has 14 winning seasons under his belt and a 352-241 record, including nine NCAA Tournament appearances.
His first head coaching gig was at Indiana, taking over for Bobby Knight. After taking Indiana to a national championship game, Davis' teams regressed, and after six years he wound up at Alabama-Birmingham, where he met Vowels.
"We were actually neighbors in Birmingham," Vowels said. "When I was the commissioner of the SWAC, he (Davis) was at UAB, so we used to go to functions together — same neighborhood. I would watch his teams play at UAB, always impressed about how prepared they were."
Davis reached the NCAA tourney in his fifth year at Alabama-Birmingham but was let go after the next year for what the school said was poor ticket sales.
That's how Davis wound up at Texas Southern, where he enjoyed NCAA Tournament appearances in four of six seasons.
Davis had plenty of nice things to say about Detroit Mercy, but spent most of his time at the podium talking about how difficult the decision was to leave Texas Southern.
"I really struggled with the decision that I had to make because I fell in love with Houston," Davis said. "I fell in love with my players. I fell in love with the city, and I told my family three years ago that I would never leave Houston. I've had a lot of opportunities to go other places — I never entertained them.
I flew here not to take it (the job). And I flew back and said 'This is where I'm going to come,' " Davis said, referring to Detroit Mercy.
"I felt like I was wanted. When I came and I was on the interview, it was obvious how they felt about me. They wanted me here."
It's clear Detroit Mercy wanted Davis, but Vowels wouldn't say quite how badly, in monetary terms, it wanted him.
Former Detroit Mercy mens basketball coach Bacari Alexander was believed to have had a five-year deal worth $450,000 a year, and Davis reportedly was making less than $300,000 a year at Texas Southern.
All Detroit Mercy officials would say about Davis' contract is that it is a "multiple-year" deal.
If Davis is getting big bucks, it mirrors the big job ahead of him. Detroit Mercy has made one NCAA Tournament since 1999, and its roster is depleted at the moment.
All the more reason for Detroit Mercy to have hired Davis, who is known for quick turnarounds.
"I had a guy call me last night. He said, 'Coach, how long do you think it's going to take you to get things turned around, get the culture going?' I said, 'About two months,' " Davis said as the crowd of mostly alumni clapped.
He's light on exactly how that turnaround will happen, citing the need for full cooperation from the players, but chances are his sons could help.
Antoine Davis is a prized sharp-shooting recruit for the 2019 class and could follow in the footsteps of his brother, Mike Davis, Jr., who played for his dad at UAB and is an assistant at Texas Southern.
Davis didn't say anything about the recruitment of Antoine, but did share an anecdote to highlight their hard-work philosophy:
"I have a son that plays basketball and our motto is, 'What can you say you do that nobody else is doing?' He shot 60,000 shots in two weeks."
Davis said the plan is to bring his entire coaching staff from Texas Southern with him to Detroit Mercy, but nothing is finalized yet and no timeline exists for that.
That leaves Jermaine Jackson Sr. in limbo. Jackson Sr. was the interim coach during Alexander's seven-game suspension last season, and again briefly after Alexander was fired, but he's not expected to remain with the staff. Jackson Sr.'s son, Jermaine Jackson Jr, is a sophomore on the Detroit Mercy team right now.
Vowels said Jackson Sr. was considered for the head-coaching job but doesn't know if the Jacksons will remain with the team.
"I have no idea," Vowels said. "That's a personal choice and a personal matter."
No matter who's staying or going, and despite what could be a long road back to success, Detroit Mercy alumni are excited about the new hire.
"Any time a guy can step in and replace Bobby Knight, that's a lot of pressure and big shoes to fill," former Detroit Mercy and Detroit Pistons basketball player Earl Cureton said. "Everywhere he (Davis) went, he has a good success rate. I'm happy to have him here. He's interested in building a program. I hear he's got a son that's going to be pretty good. I don't expect him to work magic right away, but I think in a couple years we should be in the thick of things."
Eric Coughlin is a freelance writer.