Ex-Vanderbilt star Davis adapting to life as head coach at USN

Sunday, January 8, 2012 at 8:25pm

From the time she was young, Dee Davis always has been a bundle of energy and a non-stop dynamo on the basketball court.

Nearing the mid-point of her fourth season as University School of Nashville girls’ coach, the former Vanderbilt standout assessed where she is as a coach and how her personality extends to how she motivates her players.

“I’m still trying,” Davis said during a break last week at USN. “When I was playing, all I knew was going all-out all the time. Not everyone is like that.

“I get frustrated when we work so hard to get a seven or eight-point lead, then we don’t play smart down the stretch.”

Davis, who finished as an All-SEC player and was Vanderbilt’s all-time assists leader, was referencing a tough three-point loss to Division II power Ezell-Harding a night earlier. USN led most of the way.

“I get very caught up in games sometimes and frustrated when things don’t go quite right, there’s times I have to tone it down sometimes,” she said. “I have to accept that not everyone is like myself. I have to stay focused at all times.”

Asked about coaching her first game at USN, Davis said, “I was sitting on pins and needles. I found out you only have a certain talent level and that there’s only so much you can do as a coach.”

Davis was recruited out of Princeton High of Cincinnati by several major schools but said it came down to Vanderbilt and Connecticut.

“Both were great places, but I felt I could make more of an early impact at Vanderbilt. Plus, I had some relatives who lived nearby in Clarksville.”

Her 2002 summer AAU team went 36-0 and won three national tournaments.

“We had some great players on that team. It gave me a little extra exposure.”

Drafted in the second round (14th overall) in the 2007 WNBA draft by the Houston Comets, Davis made the team – initially.

“I beat out seven other point guards there,’’ she said.

But she was cut seven games into the season.

“A numbers game,’’ said Davis, who is generously listed as 5-foot-7 in media guides.

She then played in Bosnia where she had her best professional season (14 points, 5 assists and 3.3 rebounds per game). She lived there for eight months.

“I had a coach who said, just take 3s whenever you’re open,” she said, laughing. “I had one game where I scored 34 points and made eight 3s.”

Her last WNBA attempt came when she signed a training camp contract with the San Antonio Silver Stars in April, 2010. She was waived just days before the season started in early May.

Asked how she got the USN job, Davis said, “I worked a number of camps with USN girls, and parents were calling me left and right, asking me to apply to be the coach.”

In her first three seasons, USN reached the sectionals in 2009, the region in 2010 and then got close to the DII state tournament last March before falling to Harding Academy on the road in the sectionals final.

“We lost by three points – we were four points away from getting to state for the first time in a very long time,” she said.

Davis may have her best team this season.

The Tigers are 7-7 after a loss to defending DII state champion FRA on Friday. They have played a very challenging schedule against the likes of Brentwood Academy. JPII, Lipscomb and Hillsboro.

“I really like the makeup of our team,” Davis said. “We only have one senior, Lindsey Khim, who is our leader and also a very good 3-point shooter. We have three junior starters. And we have a sophomore in Sarah Elliott who works her tail off. She told me before the season she wanted to play college ball, and she’s working hard to attain that goal.

“And we have a 6-2 freshman post in Brianna Porter who is already attracting a lot of [college] interest. My assistants Michelle Booker, a top player at Austin Peay, and Sam Jackson have worked with the post players mainly. I work quite a bit with the guards.

“We’ve had a good outlook. I wish we could have done better so far.’

USN went 2-1 in the recent Overton Christmas tournament. It lost its opener, then won two games to finish fifth.

Davis, who literally works right across the street from her alma mater, frequently goes to Vanderbilt practice and jumps into scrimmages for coach Melanie Balcomb, who recruited her to Vanderbilt.
“I have to go over and beat up on them some,” she said, with a laugh.

She also has a good relationship with boys coach Adam Sonn.

“We constantly bounce ideas off each other,’’ she said. “He even asked me to sit with him as his assistant at the Overton tournament.”

Davis still hasn’t given up on continuing her pro career. The WNBA plays during the summer and wouldn’t conflict with her coaching.

“That’s still in the picture, something I haven’t given up on,” she said, then referenced a setback which occurred last spring.

“I suffered a back injury right off I-24 on May 24 when a car rear-ended mine. I had a stiff neck and had whiplash right after that. I underwent some physical therapy, and I’m just getting back to full strength,’ she said.

Which for Davis is high energy.

• In other USN news, Patty Diehl has been named girls’ tennis coach of the middle school girls team by MS athletic director Doug Brown.

She was a four-year letterman at USN and has competed in several national senior team tournaments. Russell Buchi is the head varsity coach of both boys and girls.