Tom Davis sightings have been scarce around Carver-Hawkeye Arena since he was forced to resign as the Iowa men’s basketball coach in 1999.
He made a rare appearance Wednesday, though, to talk about the legacy and the memory of former Iowa basketball player Chris Street.
Davis was interviewed by the Big Ten Network about Street, who was killed in an automobile accident 20 years ago Saturday and 15 games into his junior season with the Hawkeyes. Davis also chatted with several reporters about Street before leaving the arena.
Street’s memory will be recognized at halftime of Saturday’s game against Wisconsin at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
“Over the years, as I would speak to a tour group or something and invariably there would be a question about Chris Street,” said Davis, who coached at Iowa for 13 seasons from 1986-99. “People care, there’s no question. And you guys (in the media) have probably figured out there’s a caring there. I found myself it was hard for me to talk about it. You get choked up. You wouldn’t think that you would.
“But just thinking back as you start to think and have the memories, it’s tough. So this has been a tough week on everybody, or month as they get ready for this, everybody connected to it. But I think it’s good in the sense that it gives us a chance to reflect on somebody that was pretty special.”
Davis said he hadn’t decided as of Wednesday afternoon if he would attend Saturday’s game. He was scheduled to be out of town this weekend, but his plans have since changed.
“I’m just not sure yet,” Davis said. “We’ll just have to wait and see.”
Davis said he often gets asked about Street. Davis also has heard numerous stories from people who were so impacted by Street’s death that they still remember exactly where they were and what they were doing when they heard the news 20 years ago.
“I went down to get a newspaper today at a local place and the guy working behind the counter proceeded to tell me he was in fourth grade at the time and he told me where he went to school and what time his mother woke him up and told him about it,” Davis said. “I didn’t know the guy. But I think it impacted people.
Davis praised Street’s parents, Mike and Patty, for raising their son with the right values and work ethic. Patty and Mike, along with about 60 other members of the Street family, will attend Saturday’s game.
“The one thought I had is I don’t know if enough was ever said about what great parents Mike and Patty Street were in terms of how they raised this young guy,” Davis said. “And with the values he had and the abilities to use the talent, it was certainly God given, but he had other great coaches and good people around him in his early years that developed him into the person that he became.”
Current Iowa coach Fran McCaffery was an assistant at Notre Dame when Street was killed Jan. 19, 1993. Street was averaging 14.5 points and 9.5 rebounds per game when he was killed.
In his final game against Duke on Jan. 16, 1993, the 6-foot-8 Street, who was a multi-sport star at Indianola High School, extended his consecutive free throw streak to 34, a school record that still stands today.
“I just remember thinking how horrible it was,” McCaffery said Wednesday. “This guy in my mind, I’m being objective, he was without question a first-round draft pick and an NBA player for a long time.
“I just remember thinking what would I be thinking right now if that was one of our guys, if that was one of my teammates? And I just can’t imagine.”
Some of the Iowa players, including the five freshmen on the team, weren’t even born when Street died. So in addition to preparing for Wisconsin, McCaffery also took time this week to educate his players about Street’s legacy. McCaffery showed footage of Street to his players and he also had veteran administrative assistant Jerry Strom talk about Street.
Strom has worked for the Iowa men’s basketball program since 1981.
“It’s always been amazing to me that everybody in the state seems to know where they were when they heard the news he was gone,” McCaffery said. “I think when that (team) meeting ended yesterday they had a pretty good feeling of what he meant to this program and how he’s still very much a part of the family.”
Junior forward Melsahn Basabe grew up near New York City and hadn’t heard of Street until he became a Hawkeye.
“I’m not from Iowa, but I’m a part of the Iowa community and I embrace that,” Basabe said. “It was a very tragic thing that happened. He was part of the Iowa family.
“… I think the spirit is still alive.”
Reach Pat Harty at 339-7368 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes men's basketball