The years may go by but your influence remains. It does not matter if it has to do with basketball or life. Your impact is reflective upon the lives you helped change.
The column below was written in 2013, the year you passed away. It was a thank you letter for all you have done for many through basketball.
Coach Duane Davis may you rest in peace.
Some people never really understand the influence of a coach until years later.
As a player, you expect them to give you guidance and strategies to win games. However, so many coaches are more than that. Many are mentors or father figures who give you advice that go well beyond winning and losing. Some are even disciplinarians when you need it most.
Duane Davis was that coach for me. No, you have never heard of him
because he was my college coach at Mount Saint Mary College in upstate New York. Coach Davis helped me understand the game and put the passion of coaching into my heart like no one has ever done before.
Unfortunately, I never got to say Thank You.
Coach Davis passed away Monday morning after a long battle with bone cancer. He was 73 years old. His death has shaken a lot of us who played for him, especially myself.
Since I started playing sports there have been a lot of influential coaches in my life, but few made the impact Coach Davis did for me in just one year.
I played for him for one season (1995-1996). Coach Davis was a former local high school coach in the area, who was making the jump into Division III basketball. Me being a brash 20-something Junior College transfer I was skeptical, to say the least. He showed me quickly who was running the program.
During our first team meeting, I whispered an expletive comment. Coach Davis heard it and immediately called me to his office. He detailed some of my past antics after my first season at the school. This didn’t matter to him because he was going to judge me based on everything I did from that point forward. I was getting a clean slate. My respect factor went up from there with him.
We started out that season 1-9. After a 9-15 season the previous year, many of us just thought this season was headed in the same direction. Coach Davis didn’t stop believing that we were going to have a solid season. It was not until after Christmas break did things really started clicking for us as a team.
Our team went on a 15-game winning streak that propelled us to the No. 1-seed of the Eastern College Athletic Conference Division III tournament. Unfortunately, we lost in triple-overtime to Old Westbury at home. This was my last college game and it was the last time I heard Coach Davis give a speech.
However, while that locker room speech was priceless the speeches he gave me made the biggest impact on my life. Coach Davis pushed me to be a better person around campus, to my teammates and to respect the game. He made me understand basketball was a privilege not my birthright.
For example, he told me not to hang out with certain individuals on campus because they would get me in trouble. Sure enough he was correct and proceeded to bench me for a half and then other time for two games. Both incidents helped me understand not to abuse the opportunity to play basketball. He forced me to be accountable for my actions as an individual.
Sure, coach won 218 games in 14 years at The Mount. Helping the Blue Knights win two Skyline Conference titles, earn two NCAA Division III tournaments berths and was named the Skyline Conference Coach of the Year in 1996-97. As a high school basketball coach he won 187 games in 17 seasons and 330 games in 28 seasons.
The man just loved to coach, but he also enjoyed making an impact on his players lives.
“He never gave up on us. No matter what,” teammate Daniel Smith said. “His un-wavered support and believe in us to do and be better than we could be in life/sports. Coach Davis expected us to be responsible for our actions/performance and held us accountable when we failed to do so.”
Thanks for believing in all of your players and me as a person. You helped mold my passion to help others and I only hope to make the impact on them as you did in my life. There is so much more to say but I will save it for private conversations we have in prayer. Nevertheless, all who have had the opportunity to be your wife, son, daughter, friend, mentor, coach and father figure will always be better because of the impact you made in our lives.
You will be missed.
Robert Alfonso Jr.
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