PROVIDENCE - Keno Davis can't guarantee he'll have the same success in his first season at Providence as he had this year at Drake, where his team won 28 games, was ranked in the Top 25, and earned a NCAA Tournament bid.
But Davis, hired yesterday as Providence's men's basketball coach, promised the Friars won't be outworked.
"That's all I can ask - is our players' best effort," Davis told reporters after an introductory news conference. "How many wins that means, I don't know. I'm not going to put a number out there that we have to live up to or live down to depending on how successful we are."
Davis, the son of former Boston College and Iowa coach Tom Davis, was lured from Drake two weeks after being selected as the Associated Press national coach of the year. This season, Keno Davis's first as a head coach, he took Drake to its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1971, and led the Bulldogs to a 28-5 record and their first national ranking in 33 years.
Davis replaces Tim Welsh, who was fired last month after taking Providence to two NCAA Tournaments in 10 seasons but finishing with losing records in three of the last four seasons.
The hiring ends a frustrating and protracted coaching search for Providence during which George Mason's Jim Larranaga and UMass's Travis Ford turned down offers. Terms of the deal were not announced.
Davis said he has no problems with not being the first choice.
"When you look around the country and you look at some of the unbelievably successful coaches, that doesn't mean they were the first choice when they were hired," Davis said. "It doesn't have to be the first choice, it just has to be the right one - so I'm looking forward to proving them right."
Providence athletic director Bob Driscoll said the school had looked for a coach who had been successful, and someone who believed the Friars could win in the Big East.
"I don't want any more excuses," Driscoll said. "I want somebody that says, 'Hey, we can get the job done.' "
Davis inherits a team that returns its nucleus of starters, including leading scorer Jeff Xavier, but one that has struggled to stay competitive in the Big East. The Friars went 6-12 in the conference and 15-16 overall this season, playing all but one game without injured starting point guard Sharaud Curry.
Davis spoke briefly with his new team before being introduced to the public.
"I just told them I was happy to be here - introduced myself to each one of them and told them what I was kind of going to expect," he said. "That's not necessarily the wins and losses. That's the kind of effort that we want to have the pride of playing with and see if it's good enough to win some ballgames."
Davis succeeded his father, as Drake coach in March 2007. The team was picked in a preseason poll to finish ninth in the Missouri Valley Conference. Instead, the Bulldogs won their first MVC regular season title since 1971 and their first conference tournament title.
They entered the NCAA Tournament as a No. 5 seed in the West Regional, but lost to Western Kentucky, 101-99, in overtime.