Given the uncomfortable circumstances, it would’ve made sense if Tom Davis had sold his house in Iowa City and moved away with his wife once the 1998-99 college basketball season ended.
Davis, 74, led the Iowa men’s basketball team to the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 that season despite knowing that it was his last season as the Iowa coach.
Bob Bowlsby, who was the Iowa Director of Athletics at the time, decided not to renew Davis’ contract, ending a 13-year reign that included nine NCAA Tournament appearances and a school-record 269 victories.
“We were both very comfortable with the people of this state,” Davis said when asked why he and his wife, Shari, decided to stay in Iowa City. “We might not have been comfortable with other things. But when you look at your friends and the people of Iowa City, as well as the people of the state of Iowa and how they approach things, it makes you feel good.
“You can find good people anywhere. I’m aware of that. You can move to other places. But I am a Midwesterner. I grew up in the Midwest. So my wife and I are both comfortable in the Midwest.”
Davis is familiar with moving to other places after having coached at schools in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and northern California before coming to Iowa.
Davis grew up in tiny Ridgeway, Wis., graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Platteville and then worked his way up the coaching ranks, first as a high school coach in Wisconsin and then as an assistant coach at Maryland from 1967-71. He landed his first college head coaching job with Lafayette, then spent five seasons as the coach at Boston College and four at Stanford before being hired at Iowa in 1986.
“We had lived in some beautiful places,” Davis said of his family, which includes son, Keno, who graduated from West High in 1991, served as a graduate assistant under his father at Iowa and is now the men’s basketball coach at Central Michigan. “So the advantage we had is we had lived elsewhere and we had experienced some great places and great people. I could never find fault with any of those places. We enjoyed them all very much. The moves all had to do with the job.”
Davis credits Bump Elliott for helping to create an ideal working environment at Iowa. Elliott served as the Iowa Director of Athletics from 1970-91 and still lives in Iowa City.
“When we met Bump and (his wife), Barb Elliott, and went through the interviewing process, we just looked at each other and we knew there was a comfort zone, not only with Bump, but with the university,” Davis said.
Davis made it clear when left his job at Iowa that he wasn’t retiring from coaching. He proved it by resurfacing at Drake, where he coached from 2003-07 before handing the program over to his son.
Davis enjoyed everything about his experience at Drake. He was comfortable living in Des Moines and he led a resurgence on the court that was capped by Keno leading Drake to a 28-5 record in his only season as head coach. Keno cashed in on his success at Drake by landing the head coaching position at Providence, where he spent three seasons as coach.
“I was shocked at what a gold mine Des Moines is, just a beautiful city,” Tom Davis said. “So I really loved living in Des Moines.”
Davis purchased a home in Des Moines, but he also kept his house in Iowa City. He has lived in the same house on the far west side of town since moving to Iowa City.
“We kind of lived out of both houses,” Davis said. “We kind of commuted back and forth. And it was a really good experience. It got us back closer with our son and we were able to interact with him on a regular basis.”
Kenyon Murray grew up in Battle Creek, Mich., and played small forward for Davis at Iowa from 1992-96. Murray has lived in eastern Iowa for most of the past two decades and currently lives in Cedar Rapids.
He admires his former college coach for staying in Iowa City despite some awkward circumstances.
“I think it says a lot that he still maintains his residency in Iowa City,” Murray said. “I think it says a lot about the community that a former coach who could live anywhere that he wanted to stayed here. You look at it like, ‘Wow, that says a lot about a town and a community that all that happened and he still holds such an opinion.’”
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes men's basketball