Providence names Davis as Welsh's replacement

Updated: April 15, 2008, 9:32 PM ET
By Andy Katz | ESPN.com

Providence has named former Drake coach Keno Davis its new head basketball coach, hoping he can replicate the success of his one season at Drake when he goes to the Big East.

[+] EnlargeKeno Davis
AP Photo/Kyle EricsonIn his only season at Drake, Keno Davis led the Bulldogs to a 28-5 record, a national ranking and their first NCAA tournament since 1971.

Davis, the 2007-08 U.S. Basketball Writers Association Coach of the Year, met with Providence officials early on Tuesday and the school announced the hiring Tuesday afternoon. He succeeds Tim Welsh, who was let go after three losing seasons in the last four years.

Davis can't guarantee he'll have the same success in his first season at Providence as he had this year at Drake, where his team won 28 games, was ranked in the Top 25 and earned an NCAA tournament bid.

But Davis promised the Friars won't be outworked on the court.

"That's all I can ask -- is our players' best effort," Davis told reporters after a news conference introducing him as coach. "How many wins that means, I don't know. I'm not going to put a number out there that we have to live up to or live down to depending on how successful we are."

The hiring completes a whirlwind year for the 36-year-old son of Dr. Tom Davis, the former Drake, Iowa, Stanford and Boston College coach. Keno Davis led Drake (28-5, 15-3 Missouri Valley) to a Top 25 ranking in his first head-coaching job as the Bulldogs reached their first NCAA tournament since 1971.

Drake lost in the first round, staging a furious comeback to force overtime with Western Kentucky before losing 101-99 on a 3-pointer at the buzzer.

Davis grew up in the Boston area while his father was coaching at Boston College. The younger Davis wasn't the first choice for the Friars. Providence previously offered the job to George Mason's Jim Larranaga, Massachusetts' Travis Ford and most recently Davidson's Bob McKillop. All three turned the job down.

Davis said he has no problems with not being the first choice.

"When you look around the country and you look at some of the unbelievably successful coaches, that doesn't mean they were the first choice when they were hired," Davis said. "It doesn't have to be the first choice, it just has to be the right one -- so I'm looking forward to proving them right."

Providence (15-16, 6-12 Big East) was riddled with injuries, notably to point guard Sharaud Curry. Curry is back next season and the team loses only one senior, Charles Burch. The Friars are expected to return seven seniors next season, putting even more pressure on Davis to produce a strong 2009 recruiting class.

"I believe Keno Davis has the knowledge, passion, commitment and ability to bring Providence College basketball to another level," athletic director Bob Driscoll said in a statement. "From the first moment I met Keno, I was impressed with his competitive nature and his desire to return Friar basketball to national prominence. His hiring is one of the many steps we have taken to improve the Friar men's basketball program."

Providence did not release terms of the contract.

Davis spoke briefly with his new team before being introduced to the public.

"I just told them I was happy to be here -- introduced myself to each one of them and told them what I was kind of going to expect," he said. "That's not necessarily the wins and losses. That's the kind of effort that we want to have the pride of playing with and see if it's good enough to win some ballgames."

Davis served as an assistant under his father at Drake from 2003 to '07. He previously served as an assistant under Bruce Pearl at Southern Indiana and under Gary Garner at Southeast Missouri State.

Davis said it was a hard decision for him to leave Drake.

"They tried to do everything in their power to keep me there," he said. "That's financially, that's conversations, that's the pep talks."

Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

Andy Katz | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com

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