Bob McKillop became Davidson basketball’s head coach in 1989. Since that time, he’s led the Wildcats to seven NCAA Tournaments with an eighth an almost certainty on Sunday, eleven regular-season conference championships including this year’s, and an Elite Eight run.
McKillop has quite the resume, but his 2014-’15 season is the well-tenured head coach’s best work yet.
So, some necessary disclosure from the outset: I voted Bob McKillop National Coach of the Year in the Today’s U. Awards. I feel some validation after the Wildcats’ come-from-behind win in Friday’s Atlantic-10 quarterfinal matchup with La Salle.
The Wildcats rallied from a game-long deficit, showing no signs of panic despite a loss to the Explorers threatening Davidson’s at-large bubble. Credit McKillop for keeping his team composed, as Jack Gibbs detailed in the postgame press conference, via ASAPSports.com:
We always think about coming out second half as momentum. We want to get the momentum of the game switch to our end. We had not had it for much of the first half. Coach tells us to run our offense and if we hit singles, we’ll get open shots, and we got open shots and we were lucky enough to make them.
Lucky? Not necessarily. Davidson ranked No. 27 nationally with a 47.6 field goal percentage coming into Friday, so this team can shoot. But defense carried it when Davidson held La Salle scoreless down the stretch.
The win gives the Wildcats a rematch with a VCU bunch Davidson blew out by 27 points on March 5. Another win should solidify McKillop’s eighth NCAA Tournament team.
And, with it rolling along unbeaten since Feb. 4, Davidson is a dangerous team on its road into the postseason.
The Wildcats may not be dangerous enough to match the program’s 2008 Elite Eight, but that does nothing to take away from this season being a signature one for Bob McKillop.
With all due respect to Tyler Kalinoski, whose driving finger-roll against a trio of La Salle defenders booked the Wildcats’ spot on Saturday’s semifinal, the 2014-’15 Davidson Wildcats don’t have a Steph Curry.
That’s hardly a knock. Seven years after Curry shot Davidson a win away from the Final Four, he’s a frontrunner for the NBA’s Most Valuable Player award.
Kalinoski is outstanding in his own right, and Bob McKillop knows that. The coach’s best decision Friday was trusting in his 16.9-point per game star, refraining from calling one of two remaining timeouts so the final shot could develop.
Kalinoski made good on his coach’s confidence by going back to one of McKillop’s lessons, the guard said.
“One thing we do in practice a lot, Coach always tell us to shoot it high, because if you shoot it high, you give it a better chance to go in the basket,” he said, courtesy of ASAPSports.com.
Likewise, the win gives the regular-season Atlantic 10 champions a chance to duplicate the feat in the tournament. Not bad for a team projected to finish ninth its first year in the conference by CBSSports.com.
Who could blame them? Davidson is defying virtually all expectations, and Bob McKillop is proving that it’s never too late for one’s best work.