Monday, October 11, 2004

Drake Players Think They Can Be 'Doggone Good'

Rick Brown leaned over and asked, “Coach, Maly [Rick always calls me Coach Maly], did you ever think there’d be a 10-second commercial break during a Drake basketball media day conference?"

“No,” I told Brown. “Times have changed. Heck, I can remember when there were just three people at some postgame Drake basketball press conferences—coach Rudy Washington, me and the guy who was waiting to sweep up for the night.”

But this was the New Look this afternoon on the Drake campus. Mediacom was there with its TV cameras to go live with the press conference—complete with the commercial break--that ushered in Davis’ second season as the Bulldogs’ coach.

I wouldn’t swear to it, but athletic director Dave Blank looked like he had TV makeup on his face, and Davis had his silver hair neatly combed for a session that drew an Internet columnist [that was me] and reporters such as Brown from the local paper, Jim Ecker from the Cedar Rapids Gazette, assorted TV and radio reporters and Drake boosters in the Morrison Room.

Just to make it an official event, Paul Morrison—the Drake historian for whom the room is named—was there, too.

Davis, who came out of retirement last year after coaching 28 seasons at Lafayette. Boston College, Stanford and Iowa, coached Drake to a 12-16 record. His team figures to be considerably better this season, because of players such as 6-8 sophomore Aliou Keita of Dakar, Senegal, and he was in a good mood.

Davis even had fun with Mike Mahon, Drake’s hard-working sports information director.

He commented about how well Mahon was dressed. I guess he figured Mahon doesn’t always wear a sportcoat and tie.

I told Davis that Mahon maybe had a financial deal with Mediacom that was helping out with his snappy clothing.

Mahon didn’t offer any insight into that, but he did tell us that we were participating in a “historical moment” at the press conference.

“This is believed to be the first time in the state of Iowa that we’ve had a live basketball media day televised,” he said. “We’re happy that Mediacom is providing this opportunity.”

Then Mahon turned matters over to Blank, who—like Davis—was dressed in a navy blue suit.

“Welcome to everybody here in the room and, to those in the television audience, thank you for being with us,” Blank said. “Although it’s quite warm outside relatively speaking, we’re excited about the beginning of a new basketball season.

“Basketball season is just around the corner. Practice starts Saturday. I’ve had lots of questions about our season ticket situation, and what I can report is—based on this time last year—we feel we have increased as much as 10 percent. The numbers are going well and we’re excited about that.

“We know the building will be quite full game-in and game-out again this season. I also want to tell you that we will be announcing not long from now a TV package for the men’s basketball program and some for our women’s basketball as well.

There will be three or four different components to that, but one that I’m most excited about announcing today is with Mediacom. You will be able to see a good mix of our games, both live, tape-delayed, home and away, on TV. The hope is that we can get most, or all, of our games televised.

“I think we’re on the verge of announcing maybe the largest and most aggressive TV package for men’s basketball ever here at Drake. Mediacom will be the biggest player in that, and we’re very appreciative to the folks at Mediacom.”

Of his challenge and his squad, Davis said:

--“These guys think we can win. Whether that’s realistic, I don’t know. But they think this ballclub can be pretty doggone good. That’s what you want as a coach.”

--“This is not an easy job to turn around. This is not a quick fix.”

--“[Senior guard] Pete Eggers has been a real leader of this team.”

--Junior guard Sean Tracy may be the most improved player.

--Junior guard Chaun Brooks and sophomore forward Klayton Korver have worked the hardest over the last year and a half.

--Junior forward Josh Powell of Des Moines Lincoln “has had some health problems in the off-season. He [was in] a car accident and had some other health difficulties. He’s looking good and trim and has a chance to be a key guy.”

--“The work ethic has definitely improved. You get guys who do what you want them to do.”

--“We’re deeper by far than we were a year ago both in the back court and front court.”

--“The front court is still a major problem, even though I think we’re better. Adding Keita gives us another dimension. And [freshman] Brent Heemskerk is a polished young player. [At 6-8 and 225 pounds], he’s not as big as you’d like and as physical as you’d like, but he can pass and he can cut. He’s going to contribute.”

--“When you have a bad inside game, which is what we had last season, and also a bad outside game, too, you’ve got a bad combination.”

--"Lonnie Randolph was the focal point of our pressure defense last season. If we can give him more help through Brooks, Eggers or Tracy, that will improve our defense even more.”

I wondered what Keita brings to the table, other than the ability to speak a number of languages--English, French and Arabic among them?

“He’s a big body,” Davis said of a 260-pound center who played at Regina High School in Iowa City and transferred to Drake after playing eight games at Tulsa in the 2002-2003 season. “He’s wide and he has big shoulders. He’s in terrific physical condition.

“He’s dropped as much as 30 pounds. He’s got great hands and a great head, but doesn’t know how to play yet. I’ve had some other big guys as you know who have come on. You just can’t rush them. It may take him a while.”

I asked if Keita compares with anyone Davis coached in his 13 seasons at Iowa.

“He’s got some of the physical characteristics of Eddie Horton in the sense of a big, brawny body,” Davis said. “But Eddie knew how to play. I mean, Eddie was a very intelligent player.”

Keita said he was attracted to Drake “because I knew I would learn a lot under Coach Davis. “I thought this would be the right place for me. He had big guys like Brad Lohaus and Acie Earl who played for him at Iowa.”

Eggers is a 6-4 guard who came to Drake as a walk-on and since has been awarded a scholarship.

“He worked his way into a starting role, then was elected an honorary co-captain by his teammates,” Davis said. “I don’t know that’s ever been done anywhere. It tells you a lot about Pete.”


It’s a bit difficult to decide what’s the most surprising—Nebraska getting clobbered, 70-10, by Texas Tech; Ohio State losing its second straight Big Ten football game, 24-13, to Wisconsin or Kansas State being tied with Iowa State and Colorado at the bottom of the Big 12 North standings with an 0-2 record.

All I can say is that Nebraska, Ohio State and Kansas State – which have been regarded as collegiate football powerhouses – are in big-time trouble.

And nobody – repeat, nobody – is shedding a tear.

Suddenly, Ohio State looks very beatable Saturday against Iowa at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City. That would mean an unheard-of third straight conference loss for the Buckeyes.

I’m starting to wonder if first-year coach Bill Callahan is in over his head at Nebraska. There already are whispers that Callahan’s players quit on him during Texas Tech’s 49-point last half. Nebraska has been fielding football teams for 114 years, and this was the worst loss in school history.

I guess Callahan’s west coast offense isn’t quite ready for prime time.

Omaha World-Herald columnist Tom Shatel was moved to write that the loss “was the worst, most embarrassing defeat in this observer’s 13 years of watching the Big Red…..”

“Forget the first-year coaching staff excuse,” writes “This kind of a performance from a Husker team is simply inexcusable.”

Nebraska’s defense is coached by Kevin Cosgrove, who was at Wisconsin last season. Now former Iowa player and assistant coach Bret Bielema is the Badgers’ defensive coordinator, and his players are doing incredibly well.

“Bielema has done a magnificent job with the Badger defense,” said. “The unit is playing light years better than the one Kevin Cosgrove coached last year, and could earn Bielema a Broyles Award, given to the nation’s top assistant coach.”

And K-State? Well, did anyone think miracle worker Bill Snyder could keep doing it forever?

And the coordinator in charge of the Wildcats’ defense is none other than former Iowa player and Iowa and Iowa State assistant Bobby Elliott. That defense was rocked for a 31-28 loss Saturday by lowly Kansas.


Brad Nessler, Bob Griese and Lynn Swann will be the announcers for Saturday’s Iowa-Ohio State game, which starts at 2:30 p.m. The fact that Swanny will be the sideline announcer at Kinnick Stadium makes it a class act for ABC-TV. Just kidding, of course. Where’s Holly Rowe when we need her?…..Iowa’s 15-game Kinnick Stadium winning streak trails only Boise State (22), Oklahoma (17) and Southern California (17) in Division I-A football……The Hawkeyes haven’t beaten Ohio State at Kinnick since a 20-14 victory in 1983. The Buckeyes are 15-5-2 in Iowa City……Ohio State hasn’t lost three straight since 1999. The Buckeyes dropped their final three regular-season games that season to Michigan State, Illinois and Michigan…..You’d never know it by the local paper this morning, but actor Christopher Reeve died at 52 and former baseball player Ken Caminiti died at 41 yesterday.

Vol. 4, No. 266
Oct. 11, 2004