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Vol. 57, No. 1 November 2019 .pdf version
McKillop is worthy Dean Smith Award winner
While nearly every coach at least preaches the importance of academics, none has backed up that talk quite like the latest winner of the USBWA's Dean Smith Award.
Bob McKillop proved that two summers ago, when Davidson was eligible to take its quadrennial foreign tour and get in those 10 extra practices that every coach craves. McKillop instead took the Wildcats on a 48-hour tour of the Auschwitz/Birkenau concentration camp in Poland, with a Holocaust survivor as their guide, never touching a basketball during the entire trip.
That certainly wasn't a one-time thing for McKillop, entering his 31st season as Davidson's head coach. Every one of his seniors at Davidson has graduated. His teams have had a perfect Academic Progress Rate of 1,000 each year since the NCAA began tracking it in 2003.
"He's always been seen as a hidden gem," said Davidson athletic director Chris Clunie, a former walk-on who played for McKillop from 2002-05. "This award speaks to a long period of success and doing things the right way."
McKillop said he was humbled to be joining a list of past winners that includes John Thompson, Tom Izzo, Don Donoher and Fran Dunphy. The Dean Smith Award honors an individual in college basketball who embodies the spirit and values of Coach Smith, the long-time Hall of Fame coach at North Carolina.
"This is special because there's tremendous history in it," McKillop said. "The people who have won it are icons in the world of basketball. And the people who have been long-term members of the (USBWA) are some of the most outstanding journalists in this country. We see how journalism is changing, but those guys are the bedrock, the foundation of what is truly great journalism."
Youngsters might be surprised to learn that Davidson enjoyed basketball success before the arrival of future two-time NBA MVP Steph Curry. McKillop's teams won eight Southern Conference division or tournament Bob McKillop titles before Curry's arrival, from 1996- 2006. McKillop's 230 SoCon victories are the most of any coach in the history of the nation's oldest conference.
Curry's presence, of course, lifted the Wildcats to another level, coming within a 3-pointer of beating Kansas and reaching the 2008 Final Four that was won by the Jayhawks.
Seven seasons later, Davidson made the move from the SoCon to the Atlantic 10 Conference, a leap matched in recent seasons only by Butler's two-part move from the Horizon League to the A-10 to the Big East Conference.
The Wildcats were picked to finish 12th among 14 teams in that first 2014-15 season, seemingly for good reason. Instead, they finished first.
McKillop has built a global program at Davidson, recruiting 41 players from 23 countries, including Iceland native and returning A-10 player of the year Jon Axel Gudmundsson. The current roster includes six players from outside the United States.
"There's no more of a diverse group of guys than at Davidson," McKillop said at the team's media day. "This country could learn something from Davidson basketball."
Beyond Curry, Davidson's many successful basketball alums include Bryant Barr, president of Curry's SC30 Inc.; Jouni Eho, mayor of the Finnish town of Pyhtää; Andrew Lovedale, founder of the non-profit organization Access to Success; and Clunie, who at 35 among the nation's youngest ADs.
"We want to be examples of what can be good in this world," McKillop has said. "I'm convinced that we can change the world. I'm absolutely convinced."
McKillop lives right across the street from the Wildcats' Belk Arena, and it is his tradition to walk to and from each of Davidson's home games. He goes to work each day at the $13.3 million Harry L. Vance Athletic Center, which opened in 2015.
"I've seen the growth," McKillop said. "I walk into the building each day and say, 'My goodness.'"
McKillop survived some lean years going 4-24, 10-19 and 11-17 in his first three seasons at Davidson while building a culture and a program.
"What I think is really neat about Bob: His dream job was at Davidson," said Tennessee coach Rick Barnes, McKillop's close friend. "He truly fell in love with the North Carolina, Davidson area, and that's where he wanted to be."
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