A Conversation with Keno Davis - Part 3

The Providence basketball program has experienced it's biggest shakeup in ten years. Reigning National Coach of the Year Keno Davis has brought his brand of basketball to Friartown, and that means changes are on the way as far as how things are done. Coach Davis speaks about his plans for Friar hoops with ScoutFriars.com, as the exclusive interview concludes.

FI: As you know, the Big East Conference is a tough and physical conference. Will the things that worked elsewhere work here? Do you think you need to change anything in your coaching approach as you take over a program within the league?

KD: No, I really don't. I do believe the Big East is the best and most physical conference year in and year out, but with officials today, they tend to work in a lot of different conferences now. A lot of the officials I'll see this year I've had experiences with the last couple of years. I think when you see officials doing games in different conferences, you're now seeing more of the same types of calls being made in game after game. There might be some emphasis here with regard to teaching post moves or post defense that might be a little different in the Big East Conference...but in the general scope of things, I don't see a whole lot of difference.

FI: Have you been down to the Dunkin' Donuts Center recently. How do you feel about the progress being made down there?

KD: I've been down there and they are replacing all the chairs and working all over to improve things and that's exciting to see. I'm really fortunate to get here when there's a lot of change occurring. I can't take credit for that; that's just being at the right place at the right time. To be able to bring a young man on campus and to say, "Here's what we're doing here in the practice gym, and this is what our area is going to look like…" I know that's exciting for players, but it's also exciting for fans too, who can look forward to a little more comfortable seat and a new look arena.

FI: Do you find that the resources here at a Big East program really help you work more productively than you would have been able to at Drake?

KD: Nothing against the support staff you'd have at Drake or any other mid major, but I think the number one resource you have here is more people to help you out. The more people you have working, the less you have to do as a coach marketing or fundraising. Not that you don't still have to do some of that at a major conference program, but it allows you to have more time for recruiting, for practice preparation, for game planning with your team. I think that really allows teams to reach higher goals than they otherwise normally would be able to reach at a mid major program.

FI: How's the schedule shaping up? You got a late start with that.

KD: We have some contracts to fulfill, Boston College at Conte, Rhode Island here, and then there are some other contracts being worked on. There's the Anaheim Tournament, and there has been a game scheduled with George Washington, but whether it's played this year or next year is still not resolved. Some of the scheduling needs to still be cleaned up, but Providence has played some good games in the non-conference in the past and we want to keep our schedule strong as well has build our home game base. We been working around the clock trying to structure the schedule and I think you'll see our schedule improve from this year to next.

FI: Are you a believer in the school of thought that says you should be selective about your non-conference challenges with the tough Big East schedule looming, or are you a believer in testing your team a lot early in order to hit the ground running in the Big East. Or, do you just test yourself based on the experience of your team?

KD: I think it's a little of both. You need to be careful about how many tough games on the schedule that you have, but you also always want to challenge yourself in preparation for the league you are in. If you were in a smaller profile league with say one Top 25 team, versus our league with nine in the preseason, you might want to schedule as many non conference top teams as you could because you'd be looking at trying to make post season play and you're looking at your RPI., ranking numbers and exposure. But in this league, while you want to test yourself with some really good non-conference games on the schedule, at the same time you want to get some home games in, getting yourself a little momentum for when league play begins.

What you said also, you have to take into account who you've got returning. How good of a team do you have? Do you need your schedule to be a little easier to start with and then build it up, or when it gets closer to the conference schedule do you want a little bit more of a break? So, it's something that coaches have been spending a lot more time thinking about and planning for than they have in the past.

FI: Some have felt that Coach Welsh may have overscheduled at times in the past. For instance, Providence has had an overall strength of schedule in the Top 20 in three of the last five seasons, but only one NCAA appearance. Is it difficult to strike the right balance?

KD: It's easy to second guess scheduling, because when don't win enough games, you can say it was too tough after the fact, or if you win a lot but are left out of the tournament you can say it was too easy. So, it's easy to say that after the fact, but the scheduling is taking place earlier and earlier now. I feel we'll be in good shape with our schedule, if not so much this year, then the year after we'll be in pretty good shape for a long time.

FI: Have you had an opportunity to speak with any of the other head coaches in Big East recently about coming into the conference and such?

KD: I do know several of the coaches in the Big East, and I've spoken to some in passing. Coaches always call other coaches when they have guys they want hired and things like that. I like a lot of the coaches in the conference, but you really stay your distance to some degree unless you have more of a real friendship with some of those guys. It's a tough league, and there are some really good coaches.

FI: It seems like all the coaches have their own style of running their team. What works against one team doesn't necessarily work against another, and Providence's record is indicative of that.

KD: When you look around the country, fans can wonder how you always beat one team and always lose to another. Match ups and style of play have a lot to do with that, so we'll see how our style will match up with others. I think as a coach, you've got to be able to adapt a little from one team to the next. You're not going to change your overall philosophy, but there is some tweaking that has to take place from one contest to the next. With the coaches in this league, there are none better at making adjustments then the coaches you'll face each game in the Big East.

FI: Do you have an overall playing philosophy you want to implement here at Providence?

KD: We'll use an up tempo offense, we'll use some pressure defense, we'll try to spread floor on offense, and we'll try and get up and down the floor. Some of the plays, both offensively and defensively, we'll change those up some during games.

FI: Some coaches just run a motion or flex offense without a lot of set plays and others have more structure. Do you have a lot of play calls installed in your offense?

KD: I have both. I have a continuity type offense that I run, and I also have play calls that I often run. We'll go from game to game on how much we use of each, and sometimes it will be different from year to year. One year the team may be better with the play calls, and another year they might be better just running the basic offense. But what we'd like to see in each possession is to try and get up and down the court, getting some easy baskets first. At times, we'll also run our basic offense into a play call and sometimes we'll do it the other way around as well, depending on we feel gives us the best chance to be successful.

FI: As far as what you see on the court, what sort of things are you going to be charting and focusing on that would suggest the team is running good offense or playing good defense?

KD: I think the number one thing we are going to be charting is rebounding. We'll chart it in practice as well. When we're twenty minutes into practice and a player doesn't have a rebound, there's got to be a reason for it. It doesn't matter how tall you are. A lot of rebounds hit the floor, and as a guard you've got to use your quickness to your advantage and get to those balls.

One of those charts we'll focus on that you don't see a whole lot of in practice is getting to the free throw line. If we're able to get to the free throw line, it does a lot of good things. It gets the other team in foul trouble, but it also allows you to control the game late. You can put up a lot of points when you can get into the bonus and then the double bonus. That is one of the main things we'll look at, and when you combine that with rebounding the ball well, you know your team is working hard and you'll find your defense improving at the same time.

FI: At Drake, would you say that your ability to beat other teams was predicated more on outscoring them, limiting shot attempts by the other team, or a combination of scoring and getting stops? Providence was most effective last year when they combined good scoring with limiting the other team's number of shot attempts.

KD: We really focused on how sound fundamentally we could be. We focused on good team defense, but also understood that if we faced a great player or two, we sometimes would focus our attention on one or two top players, making the other players execute and make shots.

FI: How is the overall heatlh of the team right now?

KD: Our entire team was banged up after the season, but I don't think there is anything that is going on to prevent guys from having a good summer and preparing themselves for the start of practice. I'd be surprised if when school starts in the fall, we weren't in good shape for the start of practice. We're not unique, and while we may have had one or two more players who are rehabbing from an injury, every team was banged up from last season and they get healthy in the off season.

FI: Have all of the players been on campus this summer?

KD: All of our players have been here taking classes. I think it's important when you are talking about graduation rates and the like. They are going to have some opportunities to play professionally, whether it's in the NBA, or the CBA, or the NBDL, or overseas. You want to be able to complete your degree when the opportunity presents itself. Far too often, players go off and play at that next level, and then never come back to finish their degree, falling short after basketball is over. So, the summer is when you make sure you are on track if not a little ahead of schedule for graduation.

FI: I imagine the players on the team are eager to prove themselves again with a new coaching staff in place. Have you sensed that?

KD: I think the great thing for the players with any coaching change is that it is an open opportunity for every player. Players who felt that they didn't get enough minutes, or who weren't playing, or should have taken more shots, they now a get a chance for a fresh start with the new staff, and I'm going to make sure that I don't make too many decisions from just watching tape until we get out on the court together. So, I expect our first workouts with the team when school starts to very spirited, to say the least.

FI: Thanks for your time Coach, and best of luck in your first season with the Friars.

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