Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Homebuilder And Alum Gratias Goes to Work for Drake

Tom Gratias builds houses.

Tom Davis builds basketball programs.

In the next several months, Gratias plans to build something that will help fatten the athletic pocketbook where Davis does his building.

"Drake used to own this state in basketball," said Gratias, referring to the golden years when coach Maury John's Bulldog teams made a habit of going to NCAA tournaments and advanced to the Final Four in March, 1969.

Gratias, a 1968 Drake graduate, told a group of boosters today that his company – Gratias Construction – will build a “walkout ranch home that’s going to be about a half-million-dollar house.

“I hope to raise between $150,000 and $200,000 for the Drake athletic department.”

Gratias said the home would be part of the Homebuilders Association of Greater Des Moines Home Show Expo in June.

A thunderous applause from the boosters greeted Gratias’ announcement.

“I was impressed, too,” said Davis, who is in his second season at Drake after becoming the winningest coach at the University of Iowa.

Davis said Rick Wanamaker, who played on Drake’s Final Four team, put him in touch with Gratias.

“Give Rick a lot of credit for this,” Davis said. “Keno, my son [an assistant on Drake’s coaching staff] and I had lunch with Tom Gratias, and he proposed the idea of building the house. After that interesting lunch, I went back to the office to talk with Dave Blank [Drake’s athletic director].”

Blank said today that “I know Tom Gratias has done this with some other institutions in the past, and it’s been very successful. To do something like this for Drake is unbelievable.”


Davis said he and his staff have started work on next season’s schedule.

The Bulldogs will play the first game in the new Events Center in downtown Des Moines, and that will be part of a tournament that will wind up in Las Vegas.

“Our first game will be at the Events Center, the second game will be at the Knapp Center,” Davis said. “Then we’ll go to Vegas. Keno tells me that it looks like we’ll open with Oklahoma State in Vegas, then play either Boston College or Minnesota.

“It’s not like we’re adding a couple of patsies to the schedule, especially when we go on the road.”

Davis’ plans for next season also call for Drake to host a tournament early in the season. Officials are seeking a sponsor for that.


Drake is still trying to recruit a big inside player.

“I’m looking for Ben Wallace’s brother, but I haven’t found him yet,” Davis said with a laugh.

“But not the brother who got arrested in that big brawl.”

David Wallace, 34, was involved in the fight between the Detroit Pistons and Indiana Pacers last Nov. 19 in Detroit.

Ben Wallace is a standout player for the Pistons.


Having fun with the boosters, Davis said:

“This is a hard job, you know. If it was easy, it would have been done a long time ago. This isn’t something you do overnight.”

Drake hasn’t had a winning season since 1986-87.


“Mike Mahon is one of the best sports information directors in America.”

--Tom Davis talking about Drake’s veteran facts-and-figures man

Vol. 4, No. 307
Feb. 9, 2004