Davis closes in on milestone victory
CHAMPAIGN – Scott Davis, an occasional bowler, has a legitimate shot to secure a 300 today.
It won't happen at any bowling establishment, however. The veteran Champaign Central boys' basketball head coach is on the verge of his 300th career win, needing one more after Friday's 59-54 Big 12 Conference conquest of Normal West at Combes Gym.
The Maroons return to the court today (4:30 p.m.) in a shootout at Springfield's Prairie Capital Convention Center against Peoria Central.
When the next win occurs, Davis will be the second coach in school history with 300 basketball victories.
"The most amazing statistic," Davis said, "is that since 1956 Champaign has had three basketball head coaches."
Hall of Famer Lee Cabutti – who coached Davis when he played for the Maroons – set the all-time wins record (434) in his 29 seasons. He was followed by Tom Croy for seven years.
Davis almost didn't get to coach at his alma mater. After one year at the school, he was a victim of reduction-in-force after the 1980-81 school year.
"I was the young one and got laid off," he said. "There were no teaching jobs. I went to St. Louis and was in the business world for five years."
When offered a chance to return in 1986 and teach history, Davis said, "I jumped at the chance."
Coaching was not a priority then.
"I never went into teaching thinking I would be a head coach," Davis said. "I love the classroom. I love history."
He had coached for a year with Cabutti and joined Croy's basketball staff in addition to spending more than two decades with the football team.
"I tried to soak up everything," he said. "You've got to be a sponge."
One lesson has remained with him.
"I learned to keep my mouth shut and my ears and eyes open," he said.
His current team will be memorable for reasons beyond helping him reach the 300th-win pinnacle.
"I've never had a team without a senior," he said.
This season's 13-player varsity team features 12 juniors and one sophomore. Purdue recruit Jay Simpson, a 6-foot-8 junior, was the catalyst against the Wildcats (16 points, eight rebounds).
"Jay had some moments," Davis said. "We need to get Jay more moments."
Clayton Jones sunk three three-pointers and was 6 for 6 on free throws to account for his 15 points. Andrew Miller had 12 points and Noah Lessaris added eight. Miles McCarty grabbed eight rebounds.
Davis may continue coaching long enough to challenge Cabutti's all-time school-record mark for wins.
"I still feel young," the 53-year-old said, "and in terms of retirement (with a full teacher's pension), I'm looking at eight to 10 more years. I hope there will be other milestones."
Davis is a history teacher creating more history even without ever scoring a 300 when he bowled.