Former Timberwolves player Ricky Davis finds happiness in new chapter of life: Coaching
The former NBA player spent only a brief time with Minnesota but ended up settling in the state and now is head coach of Minneapolis North's storied boys basketball program.
Ricky Davis played 117 games in a Timberwolves uniform over two seasons before being traded to Miami in 2007. His time in Minnesota was brief, and he never envisioned putting down roots here once he retired from basketball.
"Not at all," he said, chuckling. "I thought it would always be LA or Miami."
Imagine the surprise then, when Minneapolis North announced last August that it had hired Davis to be head coach of its storied boys basketball program.
The reaction within the local basketball community was universal — Huh? Ricky Davis? The guy who played for the Wolves?
Yep, him. And there he was on the visitor sideline at East Ridge last week, drawing up a play in the final minute of a game that his North team would eventually lose in overtime.
"This is the next chapter," he said afterward outside the locker room.
The apparent randomness of this chapter turned out to be not so random after all.
Davis played his 12th and final NBA season in 2010, followed by several years of international basketball at various stops that included China, Turkey and France.
He made a home in Texas for a decade after retiring from basketball. He got involved in real estate investment, started a foundation, coached some AAU ball in the summer and found ways to stay busy while raising a family. His ties to Minnesota were always present in his life, though. Quite literally.
His wife, Siobhan, is a Minneapolis North graduate. Davis met her when he played for the Wolves, and they began dating. Davis even went to a few Polars basketball games back then.
Siobhan expressed a desire in recent years to leave Texas and return to Minneapolis to be closer to her family. When they learned that North's legendary coach Larry McKenzie had retired after last season, Davis was instantly interested and applied. He flew to town for an interview and got the job.
The public's initial reaction was bewilderment. Davis heard it.
"At first it was crazy, like, 'What are you doing here?' " he said.
He was an unconventional hire as an outsider who lacked coaching experience taking over a program that has 24 state tournament appearances overall and four championships since 1997. Whoever got the job faced the unenviable assignment of following an icon in Minnesota prep basketball.
Davis wasn't deterred.
"I'm walking into a program that is already established," he said.
He got the itch to coach after attending a coaching clinic held in conjunction with a showcase event for the top 100 high school players nationally. Davis attended those clinics for six years, then began looking for coaching opportunities.
"I just fell in love with it," he said. "I fell in love with the development of the kids."
Davis tries to impart lessons he learned from his own career. He'll jump into drills when he wants to demonstrate a point in practice. It's also a reminder to his players that he's still got it at age 43.
"He dunks on us in practice," senior guard Max Wilson said.
Davis is navigating a learning curve in this new role. He was ejected from a game in Wisconsin after receiving two technical fouls, which forced him to sit out one game.
"The learning point for me is to stay calm," he said. "I can't get myself out of character, because it trickles down to them."
The Polars improved to 13-7 after Saturday's 92-83 win at Minneapolis Henry. Winning matters to him, of course, but Davis views coaching as an all-encompassing role in helping kids prepare for adult life.
"He cares about our grades and our mental health more than anything," Wilson said. "He'll do anything for us. And we'll do anything for him."
Davis calls his players frequently to check on them, and he provides rides to and from practices and games. He has scheduled a financial advisor to talk to his players about financial literacy. He took his team to an elementary school this past week to read to students.
Davis partnered with acclaimed chef David Fhima on an event that provided food at Thanksgiving and Christmas for community members in need. Fhima prepared the meals, the Polars players delivered them.
Davis enlisted Fhima's help on another life skills experience for his players last week: a dinner etiquette class.
Fhima set up a private room in the back of his downtown Minneapolis restaurant. Players sat at a long table as staff served a meal and Fhima delivered a crash course on proper dining etiquette.
Rule No. 1: Put phones away.
"Why are we here?" Fhima said, opening the discussion. "Because we love you."
Fhima's presentation included a demonstration on how to position a knife and fork to signal to the server that the diner is finished, where to place napkins, how to tip and other table manners.
Davis observed quietly from the end of the table. He smiled and nodded as Fhima spoke passionately to the Polars players about respect, and love, and the relationship between food, the dining experience and relationships.
This is why Davis wanted to coach.
"It's more than just basketball," he said.
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