Friday, January 20, 2006

With Dave Blank Soon To Be Gone, My Question Is: How Long Will Tom Davis, the Basketball Coach He Hired, Stay At Drake?

There is another matter that needs to be addressed in the aftermath of the scenario that unfolded the other day at Drake University.

Dave Blank, who has been the school's athletic director since June 29, 2000, will be gone after the Drake Relays in late-April. His next job will be running the sports program at Elon University in North Carolina.

So what I'm wondering is this:

Will Tom Davis [pictured at the right] remain as Drake's men's basketball coach after Blank is gone?

I hope he does, but that doesn't keep me from wondering.

Blank is the reason Davis is at Drake. "Doctor Tom" was lured out of retirement by Blank on April 22, 2003. Davis had been the winningest basketball coach in history at the University of Iowa, and was seemingly enjoying life both inside and outside his home on a golf course in Iowa City.

He didn't leave Iowa on the best of terms -- actually, it wasn't even Davis' idea to quit coaching there after 13 seasons and a 269-140 record -- so he stayed away from Carver-Hawkeye Arena and the people who worked there.

But everyone knew Davis still had a lot of basketball knowledge in his brain. Everyone knew he could put it to use somewhere else if he so desired.

Blank was looking for a new coach after Kurt Kanaskie's 2002-2003 Drake team had a 10-20 record and became the 16th consecutive Bulldog squad to finish with a non-winning finish.

I thought -- and wrote in these columns -- that Blank should take a look at Davis, and he did just that.

It would have been easy for Davis to say, "Gee, Dave, thanks for asking, but I'm enjoying my retirement. I see a lot of collegiate basketball on TV. There are some things I'd do differently than the coaches do who I watch, but I think I'll continue playing a lot of golf and taking it easy."

But Davis, somewhat surprisingly, took the Drake job -- which just happens to be the most difficult in the Missouri Valley Conference because of the academic standards that athletes there must measure up to.

If it's the toughest job in the Valley, it's also got to be the toughest in this entire area -- which includes the Big Ten and Big 12 universities, too.

Give Davis a thank-you for taking on the challenge.

But will be stay after this -- his third -- season at Drake? Blank, the man who gave him a fresh chance, will be gone. Who knows what the next athletic director will be thinking.

David Maxwell, Drake's president, could no doubt ease the uncertainty by naming Jean Berger or Mark Kostek the successor to Blank. Berger [my choice for the job] and Kostek are associate athletic directors at Drake, and would make the transition to athletic director easier.

Bring in some 40-year-old up-and-comer from East Stroudsburg who doesn't know the Knapp Center from Knapp Dodge, Chrysler and Jeep in Kingfield, Maine, and who could guess how long Doctor Tom will be setting up shop at Drake.

This Drake team, which has an 11-8 record, could be the one that ends the 18-season streak of non-winning records at the school. For Davis' sake, and for the sake of Drake's long-suffering fans, I hope that happens.

But, with Blank gone and with an unknown future at Drake, I could understand Davis saying, "I did all I could. Good luck to the Dogs and to the new athletic director. It's time for me to hit the links."


Gordy Scoles, the former Iowan who lives in Bennettsville, S.C., writes:


Although we live about two hours' from the Carolina Panthers, I still pull for the Chicago Bears. But if a team had to beat them, I guess the Panthers are as good as any. However, the Bears losing to the Panthers didn't bother me as much as Joe Buck's non-stop yapping. I only wish there was some way I could apologize to Red Grange and George Connor for the way I used to berate them when they announced the Bears' games in the 50's. I thought Buck made Grange and Connor look good."

[RON MALY'S COMMENTS: I think Buck and others like him think they're being paid by the word. Joe Buck is a classic example of a young announcer being hurried to the TV booth because he had a father [Jack Buck] who was a pretty good announcer. Joe is even worse in baseball than he is in football. He's an obvious St. Louis Cardinals fan and a Chicago Cubs hater then].


Former Iowan Al Schallau, a Hawkeye and Southern California fan who now lives in California, has been busy at the computer.

Here's one of his e-mails, in which he announces that he is withdrawing his name as a potential candidate for governor of California:

"Iowa Hawkeye football coach Kirk Ferentz has announced that he has withdrawn his name from consideration for any NFL head coaching vacancies.

"I am also announcing today that I am withdrawing my name as a potential candidate for governor of California in 2006.

"I think Kirk Ferentz's chances of being offered a head coaching job in the NFL are about 10 percent better than my chances of being governor.

"In 2002, Coach Ferentz did interview for the Jacksonville Jaguars head coaching job. He never had a chance of getting that job. In 2002, Jack Del Rio was the hottest head coaching candidate in the NFL. If Jacksonville had not offered him a head coaching job, two or three other NFL teams would have.

"NFL teams want to fill their head coaching vacancies with men who have been career assistant coaches in the NFL. That fact of life has now been demonstrated in spades, hearts, diamonds and clubs.

"My youngest son [age 30, and a pro football guru], asked me, 'What was Iowa's record this year?' Then he said, "Wow. Anybody should know that a 7-5 record in the Big Ten does not get you a head coaching job in the NFL.'

"I hope we will now be rid of the annual 'Is Kirk Ferentz leaving for the NFL?' frenzy that has gripped Iowa Hawkeye fans and new media persons every December since 2002.

"I keep wondering why a similar frenzy does not grip the Ohio State, Michigan, Texas, and Miami fans every year. I have never heard or read one word about any NFL teams being interested in offering a head coaching job to Jim Tressel or Lloyd Carr or Mack Brown or Larry Coker.

"NFL teams aren't interested in offering a head coaching job to Kirk Ferentz either."

[RON MALY'S COMMENTS: I'm sorry you're pulling out of that governor's race so quickly, Al. You'd probably do better than all the other clowns who plan to run. I know one thing. If I had to choose between you and a weightlifter, I'd vote for you].


Here's another e-mail from Schallau:


"I find it distressing that Iowa Hawkeye football will continue its policy of playing their first two games each year against Central Cupcake A&M and Mid-Valley State Teachers College. Those opponents do NOT prepare the Hawkeyes for their Big Ten competition.

"Please click onto the link below which shows the future schedules for the USC Trojans. You will note that USC has scheduled home and home non-conference games against Arkansas, Nebraska, and Ohio State, and plays its annual home-and-home games against Notre Dame.

"In recent years, USC has played home and home non-conference games against Auburn [won both], Kansas State [lost both], Colorado [won both] and BYU [won both].

"For Iowa to schedule a non-conference game against Montana is exactly what the Hawkeyes don't need to prepare for the Ohio State game on Sept. 30, 2005."

[RON MALY'S COMMENTS: Schallau was reacting after he read in this column yesterday that Iowa has scheduled Division I-AA opponent Montana as its first opponent next Sept. 2 in the renovated Kinnick Stadium. I know I'd go for an Iowa-USC home-and-home series, but I doubt Kirk Ferentz would. Here's Iowa's 2006 schedule:

Sept. 2 -- Montana

Sept. 9 -- at Syracuse

Sept. 16 -- Iowa State

Sept. 23 -- at Illinois

Sept. 30 -- Ohio State

Oct. 7 -- Purdue [homecoming]

Oct. 14 -- at Indiana

Oct. 21 -- at Michigan

Oct. 28 -- Northern Illinois

Nov. 4 -- Northwestern

Nov. 11 -- Wisconsin

Nov. 18 -- at Minnesota]


Barry Crist of West Des Moines writes:

"Peyton Manning [of the Indianapolis Colts] commented at least twice in the interview after the playoff loss [to Pittsburgh] that their 'protection broke down.' In effect, he was calling out his offensive linemen.

"That's why Manning is just a great qurterback while Tom Brady is a great LEADER, as evidenced by his three rings.

"Why am I also thinking about how the Manning family held up the NFL when Eli was drafted?"

[RON MALY'S COMMENTS: I guess if I were Peyton Manning, I'd watch which sidewalks I walked on these days. He wouldn't want to run into any of his offensive linemen. That wouldn't be a pretty picture].