Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Tom Davis Talks About Bullard Going for the 'Dream Job'

This was before Matt Bullard enjoyed an 11-year NBA career with the Houston Rockets, Charlotte Hornets and Atlanta Hawks.

And it was before Bullard played alongside Roy Marble, B.J. Armstrong and Ed Horton on Iowa’s 1988-89 basketball team, and on the same Hawkeye team with Acie Earl, Les Jepsen and James Moses in 1989-90.

Even before he starred for Valley High School in West Des Moines.

I was recalling the summer when Bullard and my youngest son, Kevin, were on the same West Des Moines Little League All-Star baseball team.

“That’s when we were both about 13,” Kevin told me today.

Those were the days. We all remember ‘em, don’t we, Little League dads?

But it didn’t take Bullard long to figure out that basketball, not baseball, was his game. At least the game that was going to make him some big bucks.

After his Valley days, he played two seasons at Colorado and two at Iowa. He averaged 9.1 points for Tom Davis’ Hawkeyes in 1988-89 and 11.4 in 1989-90.

Then came a pretty good NBA career. He was with the Rockets for nine seasons, and wound up setting a franchise record for three-point field goal percentage at .446 in 1999-2000.

Now Bullard is trying something different. Along with other former NBA players Dee Brown, Darryl Dawkins, J. R. Reid and Gerald Wilkins, he’s trying to become the next analyst on ESPN telecasts of professional games.

The “Dream Job” competition is tough. Indeed, Wilkins has already been cut. And more cuts will follow.

I talked to Davis, who is in his second season as Drake’s coach, today about Bullard, and jokingly wondered if Matt had ever given him a financial reward for making him an NBA player.

Evidently, there was no such deal made.

Then I asked Davis how Bullard happened to land in Iowa City.

“It’s interesting,” Davis explained. “He was picked for some all-star team [the World University Games] while he was playing at Colorado, and they were training at Duke. B.J. Armstrong was on the same team, and Gary Close [one of Davis’ assistant coaches at Iowa and now on the staff at Wisconsin] went down there to watch practice.

“Gary called me up and said, ‘Matt Bullard told B. J. that he wants to come to Iowa. So I told Gary to have B. J. explain the rules—that he has to get permission from his coach if he wants to consider it. So that’s how it started. He then went to his coaching staff and said he wanted to leave, and ended up transferring to Iowa.”

I asked Davis if he’s seen the “Dream Job” tryouts on ESPN.

“I saw the first night, and I thought he looked good,” Davis said. “Whether or not he’ll win, I don’t know. A lot of it is personality, and the fans vote on this, don’t they? But, to me, he was clearly the best.”

Bullard is scheduled to play in the Drake/Dahl’s golf outing June 23 at the Tournament Players Club in Polk City.

“We are really excited to have Matt coming back for the event,” Davis said. “He won a championship with the Rockets in 1994 and can stick it from the three.”


Although Davis’ Bulldogs finished with only a 7-11 record in the Missouri Valley Conference, they go into the league tournament this week as one of the hottest teams.

After losing at Northern Iowa, 61-60, Drake has beaten San Jose State, Indiana State, Evansville and Bradley in succession.

The Bulldogs play Evansville, a team they’ve already beaten twice, at 8:37 p.m. Friday in their opening game at St. Louis.

At Drake’s Tipoff luncheon today at Christopher’s, Davis reflected on trying to beat a team for the third time in a season:

“So much of it depends on how you’ve done against them. If we’d blown them out in those two wins, I think we’d be going in with more confidence. I taped a thing with Larry Cotlar [of KXNO-radio] this morning, and I told Larry that we just ’killed’ Evansville in overtime down there. We were down 19 and we get into overtime and win, 76-72.

“In the game here, we ‘crush’ them, 83-81. I don’t think our team will be overconfident against Evansville. At least they shouldn’t be.”


Davis said sophomore forward Klayton Korver “has improved in every way. He’s improved his passing, he’s improved his shooting, he’s really improved his rebounding. He works so hard on defense, [even though he] still breaks down.

“We’ve got him overmatched. In every game we’ve got him covering someone 6-8 or 6-9 and 30 or 40 pounds heavier. Yet, he battles them. He goes inside, he goes outside. He never complains, never has a bad day.

“That’s why he has a chance to be a great player. Not just a good player, a chance to be a great player. He already has plans for this summer on what he’s going to do, and what his brother [Kyle Korver of the Philadelphia 76ers] is going to do to help him.”


Davis said he was having breakfast with Aliou Keita, Drake’s 6-8, 260-pound center from Iowa City, on the day of the recent game against Bradley in Peoria, Ill., and Keita told him he plans to attend Pete Newell’s Big Man’s Camp this summer.

“He’s excited that his adoptive father evidently told him he’ll send him to the camp, which is a pretty costly thing,” Davis said. “But Aliou is all fired up.

“What that does is make him motivated to train in the spring. We say [to him], ‘You’ve got to get in their and lift [weights]. You go to that Big Man’s Camp and you’re going to be embarrassed if you don’t get yourself going. They’re going to test your strength.’

“We’ll make up a few stories to help him along the way.”


Quoting Tom Davis:

“We don’t have any bad teams in this league. Yet, if you look at our neighbors--the Big Ten and Big 12--there are some bad teams in those two leagues. We just don’t have any bad teams in this league right now. I don’t know if we have any great ones. Southern Illinois [25-6 overall and 15-3 in the Missouri Valley Conference] is as close as we come. They may be great.”

Vol. 4, No. 313
March 2, 2005