In the past four years, new Central Michigan head coach Keno Davis has endured both success and failure.
He earned national coach of the year honors after leading Drake to a Missouri Valley tourney title and an NCAA tournament appearance in 2008. Those accolades led him to the Big East, where he tried to reboot Providence.
But three years later, it was over. He lost that gig in 2011.
That moment, however, turned Davis’ career.
He took a typical path to the TV studio -- he was an analyst for the Big Ten Network last season -- and the new role helped him learn more about the profession.
Although he didn’t have a coaching job, each night he prepped with the same meticulous approach he’d always employed throughout his career.
“I think you have to, you have to be in it completely. I treated working on the broadcasting side in color commentary just like I would for coaching,” Davis told ESPN.com. “I was breaking down tape each day like I was getting prepared for a scouting report. It was like I was getting ready for a game. As the game was going on, I was trying to see it as a coach. ‘Well, how would you adjust to this, what they’re doing, how would you adjust to that?”
Davis loved the broadcasting opportunity enough to consider a career in TV. Yet, the itch remained as he pondered a return to coaching. But only if he could find the right job.
A conversation with Central Michigan brass during the Final Four sold him on the school and the vision, he said.
“It fit exactly the way that I would like to be able to build,” he said. “We were on the same page. And I really enjoyed my time last year working for the Big Ten Network and HDNet. I enjoyed doing television, I really did. And I saw that as a possibility of something [in the future]. I could stay on that side of the bench. But I knew if there was an opportunity at the right program with the right fit, that I still had that love for coaching and still wanted to look for opportunities.”
He’s not naïve about the rebuilding effort he’s embraced.
Central Michigan went 11-21 and 5-11 in the Mid-American Conference last season.
The team’s best player, Trey Ziegler, transferred to Pitt after his father, former Chippewas head coach Ernie Ziegler, was fired this year. Central Michigan was ranked No. 270 in Ken Pomeroy’s overall ratings last season.
This is a young team that could struggle again as Davis begins the rebuilding process. But Davis said he intends to use his team’s disadvantages as positives.
The Chippewas, who have not been to the NCAA tournament since 2003, aren’t big. So they’ll run the floor.
On offense, Davis said, they’ll move players around the court so they’re difficult to defend.
“We’re going to get up and down, we’re going to run,” Davis said. “We’re going to be tough for defenses to prepare against, because we’re going to spread the court. … We’ve got to be able to be a tough team defensively.”
He used the same principles at Drake and Providence. But Davis says he isn’t the same coach.
His time as an analyst gave him a chance to step back and re-think his approach to the game. He talked to coaches. He attended practices. He analyzed his success and his failures as a coach.
And through that reflection, he evolved.
“You’re so consumed by what you do as a coach you don’t have enough time. It’s every day of the year, there’s no offseason for us as a coach,” he said. “So you don’t get a chance to really go back and evaluate other programs. You don’t get a chance [to], as much as you would like to, look at what you do and how you do it. … And I think [TV] was really beneficial for me to be able to see so many coaches, so many teams in games and practices talking to other coaches about what they do, how they do it. The mistakes that they’ve learned from, and I think it’s made me a better coach as I reflected on some things that were successful for me and some things that weren’t.”