Jon Teitel continues our season preview series by chatting with Davidson assistant coach Jim Fox about bouncing back from a 1-PT loss in last year’s NCAA tourney.
You are starting your 12th season at Davidson with Coach Bob McKillop (the winningest coach in Southern Conference history). What makes him such a great coach, and what is the most important thing that you ever learned from him? He teaches you how to be a head coach and prepares you to run a program. He has been doing it forever and allows you to voice your opinion and be a major part of the program (budget, recruiting, practice, etc.): that is why his former assistants have gone on to become successful coaches themselves. He drives his players and staff to be the best: I have been here for a long time but I have never felt complacent.
Your non-conference road schedule includes trips to Duke, North Carolina, and Wichita State. Which of these three games do you feel will present your biggest test? You have to throw in Virginia and Charlotte as well: our schedule is very aggressive. We challenge our players by putting them on a stage to get some exposure for them. Coach has instilled in us that we should only be worried about tomorrow’s practice and hope that we get better.
You lost three of your starters from last year, how will you be able to fill the void left by the departure of those three seniors? We also lost our 1st guy off the bench, but we are very confident in the guys we have coming back who are ready to step into different roles. We got to play six games in Italy this summer so we are further ahead than we were at this time last year. We are not a one-hit wonder: the younger guys are ready to step in and teach our freshmen.
What are your expectations for the upcoming season? We want to be playing our best basketball in March. Coach has high expectations every year, and we love that. We lost seven or eight seniors from our 2006 team and everyone thought we would not be that good…but we went out and won 29 games in each of the following two years.
As head coach of the freshman team at St. Dominic High School you went 55-1 and won four straight Catholic High School championships. How close did you come to a perfect 56-0? I know we lost a road game at St. Anthony’s, but I do not remember a lot about the game.
You were also coach of the Long Island Lightning AAU Basketball Club, where one of your players was your colleague Matt McKillop. What was Matt like as a player, and what is he like as a coach? Matt was a very heady player who played physical and was very coachable. He was a leader who could shoot the ball, so he fit in very well with the team we had. He is doing a great job as a coach, takes initiative, and speaks his mind. He went through what our current players are going through, so our players can lean on him and talk to him.
In the 2008 NCAA tourney Stephen Curry scored a tourney-school-record 40 points (including eight three pointers) and had five steals in a six-point win over Gonzaga in Raleigh (the school’s 1st tourney win in almost 40 years). Was it just one of those scenarios where every shot he put up seemed to go in because he was “in the zone”? His shots were not really falling for him in the first half, but he scored 30 in the second half. If there is a zone, he was in it in the second half.
Curry scored 30 points in a four point win over #2-seed Georgetown and 33 points in a win over #3-seed Wisconsin. Did you start to feel like you were leading a team of destiny? I guess so. Everyone was playing so well, but we got some lucky breaks and were able to capitalize on them.
Curry scored 25 points but Jason Richards missed a 25-footer at the buzzer in a two-point loss to eventual champion Kansas that snapped your 25-game win streak. Did you think Richards’ shot was going in, and what was the feeling like in your locker room afterward? Kansas did a good job of preventing Steph from taking the last shot. I really thought Jason’s shot was going in, although it was an extremely tough shot. We were just devastated in the locker room: everyone was really upset because we had an incredible opportunity to go to the Final 4 after starting off the season very poorly. It hurt for a long time, but now I can look back on our run and enjoy it.
In the 2012 SoCon tourney title game Jake Cohen had 17 points and seven blocks in a two-point, two-overtime win over Western Carolina. How on earth did you not win in regulation after leading by 13 points with under three minutes to go?! I wish I knew! Jake hit a three off of a set play and we kind of felt that it was over, but give credit to Western for making several great plays and sending it into OT. De’Mon Brooks’ shot at the end of the first OT was 99.9% of the way down, but somehow did not go in. It was almost as intense as an NCAA tourney game: most teams do not come back after blowing a big lead like that in a pressure-filled situation.
In the 2013 NCAA tourney Vander Blue scored 16 points and made a layup with one second left in a one-point loss to Marquette. Where does that rank among the most devastating losses of your career? It was probably the most devastating, or at least right up there with the Kansas game in 2008. Everyone said we would be just another program after Steph left, but our seniors had a lot to do with us getting back to the tourney. Marquette made some incredible shots and we had the ball bounce the wrong way on us this time. We did not make many mistakes, and if we had completed the final pass then we would have won the game.