Eric Crawford’s story in the Courier-Journal this morning was a nice piece about Bellarmine basketball. Scotty Davenport’s job as head coach, however, is more impressive. After several years of mediocrity, Davenport has not only lifted the image of Bellarmine basketball, but the school as a whole.
I’ve been on those early-morning bus rides Crawford spoke of. Traveling anywhere in the Great Lakes Valley Conference is so different than when I played Division I at St. Louis University. There are no planes. There are no nice hotels. There are no manager’s grabbing your bags and taking them to your room. A lot of times after late games there were no places to eat, just a promise to stop at the the nearest Arby’s. I traveleld with the University of Louisville for ten years and I can promise you those athletes never went without. I often wondered what I was thinking when I transferred to
Bellarmine to play for coach Joe Reibel. But when Reibel told me if school and practice/games ever crossed paths, I needed to concentrate on school. What a surprise that was, especially when I had just left an environment where coaches were only about the W, despite what they, the school and the NCAA ponitificate.
Bellarmine should be extremely pleased with what Davenport has done. Many coaches came and went after Reibel, but none could figure out what it took to win. Davenport’s magic formula — basically, is no different than Reibel’s: recruit players from Louisville and some outlying regions and make sure they are willing to work hard on the floor and in the classroom. Every player I played with at Bellarmine had a degree. I bet that hasn’t changed.
But Bellarmine can do more. Even though now it seems far-fetched, the school can compete in Division I. I should know, I played at both levels, and the only difference as far as talent is concerned is the depth you have on your bench. Even though its gym, Knights Hall, is a crackerbox, I played in similar ones at Florida State and Tulane. Now I know both of those schools have gone on to bigger arenas over the years, but they started small. And so can Bellarmine. If Davenport and his team had the right kind of internal support, the sky is the limit: Bellarmine is a great school, has tons of alumni in the area, and could take potential television money and a strong, proactive fundraising apporach to build that new arena.
So instead of a new NBA team that will drain pocketbooks and patience, get out and support a coach, school and program that is doing it the right way..the way the NCAA likes to think all its other members do it.