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McGair: Keno ran a loose ship, and it sunk

March 12, 2011

Keno Davis let his players romp freely on and off the court and the lack of discipline (plus of aton of Big East losses) sunk the coach.

Officially, the Keno Davis Era at Providence College ended Friday, when the school severed its working relationship with the head coach, one many perceived upon his hiring three years ago was the missing link in bringing respectability to the men’s basketball program.
Technically, Davis’ fate at PC was sealed last May 18, when star player Jamine “Greedy” Peterson was expelled after an undisclosed incident in a dorm room on campus. The incidents that came before and after Peterson’s ouster were a further death knell to a situation that Davis was never able to recover from.
To tie Davis’ inglorious stay with Peterson’s foolish actions isn’t that farfetched. What transpired came under the coach’s watch, and the message that came booming across was that controlling his players was not Davis’ strong suit. That became apparently clear as Davis handed out several “slap on the wrist” punishments this season, the most baffling being the decision to not start Marshon Brooks because the senior skipped a class on gameday.
In short Davis resembled a teacher who instead of laying down ground rules and enforcing them on the first day of class watches as the students run the asylum, showing little respect for authority. It was commonplace to interview a Friar player and hear them address Davis as “Keno” instead of “Coach.” That should shed some light on just how little power Davis wielded over his team. He was simply more interested in being in charge of the Good Ship Lollipop rather than taking a firmer stance.
Despite posting consecutive 4-14 Big East seasons, Davis could have been brought back for next season had he not been buried under an avalanche of off-the-court issues. His contract wasn’t scheduled to run out for another five seasons, a lengthy stay that figured to grant him a little extra time to show that he was the correct hire. Yet as the offenses piled up, so too did the realization that Davis and PC was a bad marriage that needed to be ended for the sake of both parties.
That brings us back to Peterson, the biggest domino that led to the Friars’ freefall under Davis’ watch. On the night Davis spoke about why the high-flying forward was kicked out, he did so inside the conference room in the same suite as the men’s basketball office in Alumni Hall. Davis was made available for 1-on-1 interviews. When it came time for him to sit down with this reporter, a PC official placed a tape recorder on the table. It seemed almost bizarre, like the school’s higher-ups were in the room but they really weren’t.
Davis was now being watched like a hawk, and if any of his players were caught even jaywalking, the school would step in and mete out some form of punishment. The man who had brought these players to campus could no longer be counted on to protect the integrity of the college and its students. He could still coach the team, but the school would be monitoring him in a whole new light. That’s what happens when two of the players that you recruited are accused of attacking a PC student while a third (Peterson) is dismissed for what was branded, “an undisclosed violation of team rules.”
We stay with Peterson in relation to Davis’ downfall because Peterson was spotted behind the PC bench during several games this season. No doubt he’s still close to his former teammates, but the more hot button topic should be why was he allowed to have in-person interaction with them? Davis should have made it clear to his players to not engage in any form of communication with Peterson. Clearly he didn’t, which is another prime example of the loose ship Davis ran, and don’t think the administration didn’t take notice.
PC isn’t the only institution not immune to its student-athletes landing in hot water. Case in point, look at the mess surrounding the Ohio State football team. Jim Tressel is being flogged after failing to report his role in a memorabilia scam involving several players. Ohio State responded by suspending Tressel for two games next season. Now the public is questioning his character and ability to hold players culpable should they commit a serious infraction.
Davis can relate. Yes, he failed to produce enough wins in his short stint as Providence’s head coach. He’ll simply be remembered as a nice guy who didn’t stress the importance of being accountable for one’s actions. Otherwise he still might be on board.

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