Davis relaxed, comfortable in return to Indiana

Updated: July 7, 2006, 8:26 PM ET
Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS -- Mike Davis seemed relaxed and at home as he worked Friday -- even if he looked out of place wearing a green sweater vest.

Davis, never one to worry about image, was content just being around basketball and evaluating some of the nation's best prep players at the Nike All-America Camp.

"It feels good, it feels great to be wearing anything," the new Alabama-Birmingham coach said, chuckling. "For me to ever be bitter would be disrespectful to all the people I met here. I'm just happy I have a job."

Davis' return to Indiana on Friday was a stark contrast to the past six years when he wielded considerable influence in one of the state's most powerful jobs -- head coach of the Hoosiers -- until his resignation in February.

He managed to slip in barely noticed and then stood in near anonymity behind a set of stands on the far court. Rather than being inundated with questions, he managed to chat with some old friends.

To Davis, it was symbolic of both a new start and the absence of the resentment, regrets or grudges some coaches take with them to their next job.

Instead, Davis reverted to his usual form -- thanking Indiana for the opportunity he had and distancing himself from the six-year roller-coaster ride during which some fans never accepted him as Bob Knight's replacement and others refused to accept the mediocre records of recent seasons.

"What I learned here was that I can run a program, that I can lead a program and do things that I couldn't do six years ago," he said. "Indiana allowed me the opportunity to get this job."

He still calls the decision to resign easy, but the nearly two-month wait that ensued was not.

As jobs opened around the nation, Davis heard his name bandied about like he was a tabloid celebrity -- an annual rite even when he was coaching in Bloomington.

Eventually, in April, Davis got the perfect offer: returning to his home state to coach the Blazers. Since then, Davis has had little contact with Indiana or his former players -- not out of spite, but out of deference.

"I have my own players now, and it's not that I don't care about them or that I don't want them to do well," Davis said. "Those guys are just kind of off limits."

The exception, of course, is swingman Robert Vaden, who later transferred to UAB.

Davis said Vaden has lost some weight, improved his shooting and is already eager to start playing again in 2007 after sitting out next season because of NCAA transfer rules.

The other extreme was Davis' support of former Big Ten freshman of the year D.J. White, who lived near Davis growing up and decided to return to Indiana next season after lamenting Davis' departure.

Now, all Davis wants to do is make a smooth transition and look toward the future.

"When you go back home, it's easy," he said. "If you go somewhere else, it would be difficult. But it's been good, very good for me."

He acknowledges there will always be part of him following the Hoosiers and looking forward to the summers when he can return to his second home -- without wearing red.

"It's good to be back, but it was something that needed to be done," he said, referring to the resignation. "But whenever you have an opportunity to take care of your family, you've got to be thankful for that."

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press