COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - A destination flight feels more like destiny these days.
Over 20 years ago, Dave Davis was on a plane to the Final Four in Indianapolis. As fate would have it, he connected with Winthrop Eagles men’s basketball head coach Pat Kelsey up in the air.
“We sat and talked basketball for that entire flight,” smiled Davis. “Have been talking basketball back and forth ever since that time.”
Back then, Davis was the lead man at Pfeiffer. Kelsey was an assistant at Wake Forest. The pair developed a friendship that has spanned more than two decades. From time to time, Kelsey would call on Davis for advice.
“I’d give him an honest assessment of two things,” said Davis. “What I would do in that situation. And, then after hearing what he had to say, what he should do.”
Never in Davis’ wildest dreams did he envision a friendship transforming into a partnership.
In 2019 Davis wrapped up his ninth season as the head coach at Newberry College. Shortly after it ended, Davis received a text from Eagles assistant Brian Kloman.
“Out of the blue, it said would you ever consider being an associate head coach on the Division One level,” Davis added.
Coaching on that level never intrigued Davis before. He feared losing sight of his purpose if he ventured to the D-1 ranks.
“I had no interest in it,” mentioned Davis. “I was quite frankly fearful of it because I thought the pressure to win was so great, you could not love kids.”
Davis has spent his 38-year coaching career mentoring young people.
“I never thought I’d be a college basketball coach in any capacity,” Davis said. “The whole 38-year journey has been playing with house money. I’m in coaching because I love working with kids. I love basketball. We get to teach life through a game we both love.”
After a nifty recruiting pitch from Kelsey and Winthrop, Davis put aside his reservations. He signed on to coach on the D-1 level for the first time.
“I was being recruited,” chuckled Davis. “That was a pretty cool experience for an old man. I didn’t join Division One. I joined Pat Kelsey.”
In two seasons at Winthrop, the Eagles have won two regular-season and Big South Tournament titles.
“Almost every division one myth or stereotype, I have or had, is dispelled in Winthrop basketball,” Davis said. “How he [Kelsey] does things is so perfectly aligned with how I think. It’s been incredible fun.”
Destiny meets Davis and Kelsey once more in their return to Indianapolis. This time on the same team chasing lofty goals at the NCAA Tournament.
The Eagles are the No. 12 seed in the South Region and will take on No. 5 Villanova in the first round.