August 12, 2020

After Guiding PDS Boys’ Hoops to State Prep B Title, PU Alum Davis Taking Winning Touch to Lawrenceville

SEEING RED: Doug Davis shouts out instructions in a 2019 game during his tenure as the head coach of the Princeton Day School boys’ basketball team. Davis, a former Princeton University men’s hoops star who guided PDS to its first state Prep B title this past winter, is heading down Route 206 to take the helm of the Lawrenceville School boys’ hoops program. He will be succeeding longtime Big Red coach Ron Kane. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Doug Davis knows something about winning titles.

During his career with The Hun School boys’ basketball program, sharpshooting guard Davis helped the Raiders win state Prep A and Mid-Atlantic Prep League championships in 2007.

Going across town to Princeton for college, Davis started from day one with the Tigers and provided one of the greatest highlights in program history, draining a buzzer-beater to beat Harvard an Ivy League championship playoff game in 2011 during his junior season.

Getting into coaching, Davis started at the Berkshire School (Mass.) and then returned to the area to take the helm of the Princeton Day School boys’ basketball program in 2018 and guided the Panthers to the state Prep B title this past winter.

Now, Davis is bringing his championship touch down Route 206 as he recently became the new head coach of the Lawrenceville School boys’ hoops program, succeeding longtime coach Ron Kane.

“I want to be at the top of this league again, that is definitely going to require some buy-in from the players but it is definitely doable with all of the resources that Lawrenceville has,” said Davis, reflecting on his vision for the program that posted a 6-19 record in the 2019-20 campaign.

“It is an amazing place to be. I truly believe that if we set our goals and sights on winning again, we can do it.”

Davis certainly got his PDS players to buy in last winter as a gritty Panthers squad went 14-11 on the way to earning its first Prep B crown since 2016.

“I think of the growth of the players from my first year to the second year, there was a jump that a lot of guys had to make,” said Davis, whose squad defeated the Doane Academy 64-50 in a hard-fought championship game in February.

“I am thinking of Jaylin [Champion-Adams], I am thinking of Jomar [Meekins], I am thinking of Dameon [Samuels]. Bringing Ethan [Garita] into the fold was huge. Doing all of those things never imagining something like this would happen but those guys definitely played their tails off in those two years.”

Over his two seasons at PDS, Davis grew as a coach. “I am looking at where I started at the Berkshire School, that was my first coaching gig, and then moving from Berkshire to PDS, and now from PDS to Lawrenceville,” said Davis.

“I think the things that I have learned in my experience are just how to deal with different players. I learned how to coach each player differently, which was really cool. It is coaching that system but tailoring it to your players.”

Learning that there might be an opening at Lawrenceville, Davis thought that would be a cool opportunity.

“When I heard that Ron stepped down, I wanted to make sure that it was real,” said Davis.

“I knew that he was there for 30 years and was this just a rumor and when they said it wasn’t, then it was alright well then maybe there is some interest on my part. I didn’t know where they were in the process. Then it was just loose conversations back and forth, making it and finalizing it.”

In July, Lawrenceville announced that Davis had gotten the job.

“Our selection of Doug is the culmination of a search process in which several highly qualified candidates were considered,” said Lawrenceville Athletic Director Tripp Welborne in a statement on the school’s website.

“In choosing the next head coach, in addition to a proven track record, competitive spirit, integrity, and winning attitude; we were looking for a person who understands the unique culture and experience of the current basketball landscape within boarding schools. We are confident that Doug embodies all of these characteristics.”

In reflecting on coming to Lawrenceville, where he will also be teaching history and working in admissions in addition to coaching, Davis knows a fair amount about the school’s culture.

“I have been playing against Lawrenceville since I was a freshman in high school,” said Davis.

“I have played against Joakim Noah (a former Lawrenceville star who went on to help Florida win two NCAA titles and then play in the NBA). I have seen these guys play so I am very familiar with the program and familiar with the league. I will be working at admissions too and the running joke is how well can you sell Lawrenceville as a Hun guy. I will be able to figure something out, there is too much here.”

While the Big Red struggled last winter, Davis sees potential in the returning players.

“There is still a good core group of guys coming back,” said Davis, whose PDS squad posted a 63-42 win over Lawrenceville in early January.

“I am starting to build those relationships, talking to them and their parents. It is developing those relationships all over again with a different group and try to get them to play at 110 percent every time. It has been mostly emails and text messages and some phone calls. We are working on adding Zoom chats.”

Having built a special relationship over the years with his Hun coach, Jon Stone, Davis is primed for more chances to battle Stone, particularly after PDS fell 53-52 on a buzzer beater to the Raiders in February.

“That is going to be fun, we talked about that PDS game right after it,” said Davis.

“One thing I will say about coach Stone is that he is a great coach and mentor for me. Every time we get out there, it has been fun for me to coach against him. We are definitely going to try to get wins this time.”

Looking ahead, Davis is hoping to get a lot of wins for Lawrenceville.

“I see this being a chance to get my feet down and get really settled,” said Davis.

“This is something we are going to try to build out for a while. I don’t know if it will be 30 years like Ron.”