LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - After giving considerable thought to the future of the University of Louisville men's basketball program, I have reached the conclusion that the best plan for the foreseeable future is to bring in Scotty Davenport as coach.
I realize this idea will be rejected immediately by that vocal segment of the fan base who want the university to hire a "name" coach who will set off fireworks across the nation because of his charisma and proven ability to win big at the highest level.
I get that. It's how fans come to feel when they grow accustomed to having a Hall of Fame coach on their bench.
But Davenport was as assistant to both Denny Crum and Rick Pitino, and he will bring a little of each with him, not to mention his own remarkable success as the coach at Bellarmine, which he has turned into a powerhouse in NCAA Division II.
One of Davenport's most ardent fans is Jerry Jones, who was Crum's right-hand man through most of his 29-year career at UofL. Jones is a fixture at Bellarmine games and frequently attends practices.
"Scotty is a great teacher," Jones says, "and he knows how to get his players to buy into his system and perform at a high level."
The case for Davenport begins with the fact that he grew up as a UofL fan in Louisville's South End. He attended the university and has two UofL degrees to his credit.
He won the 1988 State High School Tournament at Ballard High with Allen Houston as his star player, and his 2012 D-II championship at Bellarmine made him the only Louisville native to coach an NCAA national championship basketball team.
I have reason to believe that he would agree to a four-year contract at $1 million per year. The contract would have no performance bonus provisions because, as Davenport has said many times, "Why should you get a bonus for doing what you're paid to do?"
This kind of contract would make him a bargain in today's market, and that could be important to a university that is tightening its belt across the board. If either Pitino or former athletics director Tom Jurich were to win a lawsuit against UofL, the drain on the budget would be dramatic.
Davenport would agree to keep David Padgett as his associate head coach. Although Padgett has done a remarkable job this winter for a guy who had never been a head coach at any level, he stills needs some experience in recruiting, game management, and other areas.
Perhaps Davenport doesn't have the star power to fill the KFC Yum! Center every game. Perhaps nobody does. But his enthusiasm for UofL and basketball is infectious, and he will tirelessly work the community to rekindle hope, raise money, and put a new polish on UofL's tarnished image.
He's such a believer in academics that the new president, whomever he or she may be, and the faculty should love him. He will be accessible to everyone in the university community, and encourage students to be proud and supportive of the team that represents them.
Davenport may not sign a lot of top-25 prospects, but he will find young men who can play and who want to be at UofL at this time. He will depend on his own ability to identify talent instead of relying on the recruiting services.
But most importantly, he will not roll in the muck with spurious AAU "coaches" and nefarious "agents." He simply won't cheat and he won't hire assistants who have their own agenda.
Under Davenport, the Cards would be entertaining. They would fast-break when possible, use a half-court "motion" offense that relies on passing and cutting to get the best shots possible, and play man-to-man defense like demons.
In other words, they would do more than rely on the slam dunk, the three-point shot, and sheer athleticism.
The year Bellarmine won the D-II title, Bob Knight came to Louisville to work a Cards' game for ESPN. I picked him up at the airport and brought him to Bellarmine to talk to the team. I told him it was too bad he didn't get to stay for a game because he would love how hard the players worked on both ends of the floor.
As a Louisville native, Scotty would be widely accepted in every part of the community. Alums should be excited that their team is finally being coached by one of their own (Peck Hickman went to Western Kentucky, Crum to UCLA, and Pitino to UMass).
At 62, Davenport probably would be happy to step aside and turn the program over to Padgett, or somebody else, when his four-year contract expires – unless, of course, he enjoys enough success to make the university want to keep him longer.
To me, hiring Davenport makes up in common sense what it may lack in dazzle. Why not give it a try?
Billy Reed is a longtime sportswriter who contributes regular columns to WAVE3.com.