It didn’t take long for Larry Davis to realize that landing an assistant coaching job in college basketball is as much about who you know as what you know.
Davis, 42, had an impressive resume, but couldn’t find a college coach that was was willing to give him a shot as an assistant coach.
It wasn’t until last season that Davis was finally able to land an assistant coaching gig at Newberry College. Davis spent less than a year at Newberry before he was hired to be James Madison’s director of basketball operations.
And that offer came mainly because of his past relationship with new James Madison head coach Louis Rowe. Davis and Rowe played professionally together in Belgium.
“It’s a tough business to crack into unless you know someone,” said Davis, a former star at Denmark-Olar High School. “I’ve known Louis for probably 15 years, but we’ve always stayed in touch with each other. There’s no doubt that the relationship I had with coach Rowe helped me get this job.”
Davis returns to the Lowcountry when the Dukes will take on College of Charleston Saturday afternoon beginning at 4 p.m. at TD Arena. The game will be televised locally by MyCharleston TV.
Davis was a mythical high school basketball player in South Carolina. He averaged more than 44 points game over his final two seasons at Denmark-Olar. He still holds the state record for most points in a season with 1,162 in 1991.
Davis went on to play two seasons at North Carolina under legendary coach Dean Smith and was on the Tar Heels national championship team in 1993.
Davis transferred to South Carolina the following year and is one of only two players to score 1,000 points in just two seasons with the Gamecocks. He was a two-time All-SEC pick and helped lead the Gamecocks to 24 wins, a No. 4 national ranking and an NCAA Tournament appearance in 1997.
Davis spent nearly a decade playing professional basketball overseas and when his playing days were over came back to South Carolina in search of a coaching job.
Davis was hired in 2011 to be the head coach at Lewisville High School, a Class AA school south of Charlotte. In 2013, Davis led Lewisville to the Class AA state title.
“That was a great day for me,” Davis said. “I got to the state finals as a player, but lost, so winning as a coach was very rewarding.”
Davis’ stock was on the raise after Lewisville won a state title and he was almost immediately hired by Northwestern High School, which plays in the highest classification.
From there he moved onto Newberry.
“I’ve wanted to be a college coach for a long, long time,” Davis said. “The college level has always been the level that I’ve wanted to work at. It took me a while, but I’m here and I’m just grateful.”
He spent less than a year in Newberry before moving the Harrisonburg, Va., with the Dukes. Davis handles the day-to-day logistics of the Dukes team.
“I take care of the travel for the team, budgeting for the program and make sure we have meals for the guys on the road,” Davis said. “I’m learning about the business side of college basketball.”
While Davis can’t be involved in the coaching side, he said he’s soaking up plenty of knowledge that will help him down the road.
“I’ve learned so much from coach Rowe,” Davis said. “I'm so grateful for the opportunity that he has given me. I'm learning a lot from him. I know he gets tired of me asking him so many questions, but that’s just my nature. I’m going to keep grinding and hopefully one day, when I’m polished enough, that I can be a full-time coach at this level.”
Returning to Charleston and even watching the Dukes play at TD Arena will bring back a flood of memories, Davis said.
“I always love coming back to Charleston, it’s been a place that I have lot of great memories, even playing some pick-up basketball at College of Charleston,” Davis said. “It’ll be good to see some friends and some family. Of course, getting a win against Charleston would make the trip that much better.”