Conversation with Keno Part II

In Part II of our conversation with Coach Keno Davis, ScoutFriars addresses some of the problems of the past year, and inquires how fans should expect improvement next season both on and off the court. Coach Davis goes on to discusses how he believes the next edition of the Friars will show more leadership, defense, and chemistry.

SH: Last year, you had a lot of youth and a lot of question marks, and some of those players just didn't work out at Providence. Was it a lack of leadership that was missing last year? Is it possible that the problem continues this year?

KD: Hopefully with our class coming in this year, the experienced players on our roster will be helpful to our young guys starting out at this level. Making the transition from high school or prep school to college you have to look to the young men who are already in the program ahead of you to lead the way and guide them in right direction.

Take Ray Hall, he's a guy who's been here longer than anybody, and I think he's going to set an example for us and help us direct the new players as they transition into college with all the responsibilities that come with that both on and off the court.

SH: Can a coach really make a leader if someone wasn't one in the past?

I think every good to great team has needs someone who stands out as a leader. I don't have any problem as a coach designating a leader or captain, but usually a leader will standout and everyone will know who that person is. I think we have a couple of young men who have that capability to lead this year and that would differentiate our team this coming season from last year.

SH: Given the difficult spring, and there's no other way to put it, have you had enough time now to consider how to change your approach to get the results that you and the college want so that some of the recent problems will be less likely to reoccur?

KD: With our program, what has made Providence College stand out over the years is that we have always tried to be a program that does its best to do things the right way. So when we faced some difficult decisions recently, we made decisions that were in the best interests the program for the long term success of the program.

The decisions we made were also good for the program in the short term as well. In fact, I'm not worried about our talent level or skill level on our current roster because of players we've lost. I think overall this team will be just as talented if not more going forward. I also think we're going to have better chemistry because of some the new players we now have in our program. We expect a lot out of our student athletes, and I wouldn't want it any other way.

SH: There's no question the college acted swiftly and assertively to address the problems that were at hand this spring. However, are there things that you as a staff have changed in how you manage the program? Are there proactive changes being put in place?

KD: I think no matter what organization you work for, when there are instances that don't represent the institution as a whole, you're going to see changes. Now that doesn't mean the changes you make were the cause of the problems, but you can't go on with business as usual. You've got to make changes and be proactive. I believe we've done that and we'll be better for it.

SH: Assuming you've already instituted some of these changes, how is the team reacting to these changes?

KD: I think every year that I've coached, whether as an assistant or head coach, we've made some changes every year. You do it both as a team and with players as individuals whether they need to improve with better academics, athletic performance, or in something like personal responsibility.

We have a great atmosphere right now with our young men, and they really want to show how good they can be in every area. They think very highly of what we can do at Providence as a program, and I think there is very good chemistry on our team right now.

SH: You spoke earlier how with added front court depth, you expect it will translate into better defense next season. Obviously the biggest knock on Providence whenever the Friars were on TV this past year was a case of some harsh criticism of the defense. The Friars were putting up plenty of points, but it got to a point where Jay Bilas was calling you Keno Avis, because he felt your team played no defense at all.

KD: If he had said we couldn't shoot, I think then that would have been something I would have rather listened to coming from Jay Bilas. But there's no question defense wasn't our strength. We had guys who were not good defensive players. I don't think it was anything in our defensive strategy. It was just the fact that the individuals on our team that were our best players, they were much better offensive players than defensive players. We've got to change that in our recruiting and we've got to make sure that we have two way players.

We also have to make sure we have better depth so that if we have a player who is not doing the job on both ends of the court, we're able to put somebody else in that is. I think when you're trying to become an upper level team in the Big East, usually you have a few parts, or one end of the court covered but maybe not the other. I think we're doing a better job addressing those things now but it takes some time to turn things around in an area that needs a lot of improvement. That means getting better in practices, but also on the recruiting side of things.

SH: Is stopping dribble penetration this year going to be a focus to keep players like Bilal Dixon out of foul trouble?

KD: You have to make teams make shots, whether it be a fade away jumper, can live with that, but you can't continue to let people drive to the basket on your team. Our on the ball defense was deficient, but we also had problems with our weak side help defense for instance, so there were plenty of reasons to explain our defensive problems. But just with the personnel changes we had, I think we've improved defensively both on the perimeter and on interior defensively and I would be shocked if our numbers don't improve dramatically this coming season. That doesn't mean we're going to move from the bottom of the conference to the top, but I think we'll show more improvement than anyone in that area.

SH: Most fans would probably be happy to see Providence move into the Top 10 in the Big East in team defense.

KD: I think a top half finish in defense in the Big East would be our goal. I think when you play 80 or 90 point games, some of your numbers are going to stand out. We could have avoided some of the criticism from Jay Bilas and the like if we had lost some games 60-40 which a lot of teams do and our bad defensive stats wouldn't have stood out as much but that wouldn't have changed things. Just because you slow down the game and play a slow pace, it doesn't necessarily give you any better chance to win, and I didn't think it was our team's best chance to win games.

For our program, we need to recruit the best student athletes we possibly can, and one way we are going to do that is by playing a high tempo pace. So when a young man has a chance to decide between a program like Providence that puts up 90 points a game versus another program that likes to play 50 point games, I think that type of comparative situation is one that we can really stand out favorably in the recruiting battles. ------- Look for Part III of our interview coming soon.

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