New Detroit Mercy coach Mike Davis avoids timetables, promises effort

Dwjuan Frazier
Special to The Detroit News
New University of Detroit Mercy head basketball coach Mike Davis during media day press conference.

Detroit — A tall task lies ahead for new Detroit Mercy men’s basketball coach Mike Davis, and he doesn’t want to start by enumerating goals.

Instead, he wants to make sure the effort is always there from his players and that they continue to improve, the first-year coach said at media day at Calihan Hall on Thursday.

“We just want to see where we are week-by-week, month-by-month, from an improvement standpoint,” Davis said. “And that has nothing to do with wins and losses.”

After six seasons at Texas Southern — and an almost three-month coaching search conducted by Detroit Mercy — athletic director Robert Vowels announced in June that Davis would be the Titans’ new man. The relationship between the two dates back to Davis’ stint at Alabama-Birmingham, when Vowels was the commissioner of the Southwestern Athletic Conference.

Davis is taking over a roster that's welcoming 13 new faces, while returning just three from last season's squad. Among the new additions is Davis’ son, Antonie, who withdrew his commitment to Houston to come to Detroit Mercy.

One of the key returners, Josh McFolley, who averaged 11.1 points last season, said he’d heard a lot of good things about Davis before his arrival.

“I heard from a lot of people that he was a hell of a teacher,” the senior guard said of Davis, whose first head-coaching job was as Bobby Knight's successor at Indiana.

“I wish I had a few more years to learn some more from him, but I’m going to try to get as much as I can out of him this year. His past has been really great, so I’m looking forward to playing under him.”

Senior forward Gerald Blackshear, another player from last year's group, also said he's confident Davis and his coaching staff can turn things around for a program that’s won a combined 16 games the last two seasons, leading to Bacari Alexander's firing. And for himself, Blackshear wants to establish a leadership role.

“I’m trying to keep the guys disciplined and trying to take us as far as we can go,” he said.

Of Davis, Blackshear said: “He’s really old school, but he’s firm and strict. He knows how to keep us disciplined. I think he can take us far.” He is a cool dude, but it’s not like he’s trying to be our friend. Things are more systematic, there’s just a better system."

Davis’ predecessor, Alexander, was fired in late March after two consecutive eight-win seasons, a disappointing tenure  considering how highly touted he was following six years as an assistant under John Beilein at Michigan.

In 18 seasons with three teams — Indiana, UAB and Texas Southern — Davis has a record of 352-241, including nine NCAA Tournament appearances. In six seasons at Texas Southern, his teams earned four NCAA bids. Davis also led Indiana to the national=championship game in 2002.

With time, he said he expects Detroit Mercy to be competing in March. He added that as soon as next season, he hopes to get teams like Duke and Kentucky on the schedule to play the Titans.

With this season just weeks away, Davis and his staff have not yet revealed a starting lineup or other rotation guys.

“I only play about eight or nine guys,” he said. “If you want to get in the top eight, conversation won’t get you there, the assistant coaches won’t get you there.

"My eyes are on the practice tape and that’s how we’re going to get there.”

Davis and Detroit Mercy open the season Nov. 6 at Western Michigan.

Dwjuan Frazier is a freelance writer.