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Bradley Hilltopics

Spring 2010 • Volume 16, Issue 2  

Sports Scene
Grizzlies VP focuses on player development | Hoops action | Glasser chairs NCAA committee

 

Grizzlies VP focuses on player development

DANA DAVIS ’78, vice president of basketball operations and team programs for the NBA’s Memphis Grizzlies, talks with Grizzlies guard O.J. Mayo as they help with a community cleanup project in Memphis.
Photo by Joe Murphy NBAE / Getty Images.

By Benjamin Gleisser

Dana Davis '78DANA DAVIS ’78, vice president of basketball operations and team programs for the NBA’s Memphis Grizzlies, knows what he would do if any players brandished handguns in the team’s locker room, as two members of the Washington Wizards did earlier this season.

“When something like that arises, you stay calm and defuse the situation as fast as you can,” says Davis, 53. “The most important thing to do is make sure everyone’s as safe as possible. If that means I have to walk one guy out of the locker room to calm him down, I will. And after that, I’d start damage control.”

In the high-pressure, highly competitive world of professional sports, athletes can easily let their emotions get the best of them, but Davis is thankful that his Grizzlies only attack when they’re on the parquet floor.

“Sure, someone will get defiant now and then, but I’ve got a good group of kids with lots of character,” says Davis, whose duties during his 10 years with the Grizzlies have included managing the players’ personal, professional, and social development through educational programs, support services, and one-on-one mentoring. This involves everything from helping players earn their college degrees to being a father figure to an athlete with personal concerns.

Younger players

“NBA players are younger and younger,” he says. “They’re turning pro after only a year or two of college, and some of them have never had a bank account, or don’t know how to read a paycheck with tax deductions. Friends think they’re rich and now ask them, ‘Hey, man, can I borrow $5,000 from you?’ They need to learn life skills, so we schedule team awareness meetings to talk with them about issues they’ll face.”

The Grizzlies also encourage players to become community role models and to make a number of off-the-court public appearances every year. Davis sends players to local schools to read to children and to hospitals to visit children, many of whom are seriously or terminally ill.

“Players take that hard,” he says. “They connect with some of those kids and are saddened when they pass away.”

Back in Peoria

Davis is also personally committed to community activism. Every summer since 1997, he has staged the weeklong Mitchell “JJ” Anderson All-Star Basketball Camp — named after a Bradley basketball star — for underprivileged youth in Peoria. Besides playing sports, kids receive free health physicals and eye screenings, and learn about the importance of education, hygiene, and good nutrition.

“When I was growing up in Peoria, my family didn’t have a lot of money for doctors and physicals,” he says. “I want to give these kids the best physicals they could ever get. Every year we find heart murmurs and lots of asthma.”

The program was so successful that in 2004, Grizzlies’ owner Michael Heisley asked Davis to hold a similar camp in Memphis. For this work and other community efforts, Davis was inducted into the African-American Hall of Fame Museum in Peoria in 2007.

“Being born and raised here, I was honored that my peers inducted me into something that means so much,” Davis says. “It felt great to be acknowledged for my commitment to the community.”

Davis has many fond memories of Bradley. In fact, whenever he visits his hometown, he makes time to visit the campus. Besides earning his business degree at Bradley, Davis was the basketball team’s student assistant from 1976–78.

“I went to Bradley because the school has great traditions,” he says. “And the business school has an excellent reputation. I knew it was ahead of the curve and would prepare me well for the business world.”

Chris Wallace, the Grizzlies’ general manager and vice president of basketball operations, calls Davis “an integral part of our franchise. His work in player development has been frequently praised by the NBA league office. Dana is truly indispensable to our team.”

 

Grizzlies VP focuses on player development | Hoops action | Glasser chairs NCAA committee