There's no masking the disappointment.
On the biggest night of Mike Davis Sr.'s professional life it's there, etched across his face, his expression an explanation. Moments earlier, the 41-year-old had taken Indiana University to the precipice of glory, only to watch Maryland claim the 2002 national championship. Twenty years later, as he examines the photo of the father holding his boy, he wonders who's coaching whom.
"I think about a son that, at that moment, loves his dad. Is comforting his dad. He was always that way," says the 61-year-old Davis, now the head coach at Detroit Mercy, before pivoting. "When they get older they separate themselves a bit, but [back then] I wasn't pushing him hard all the time. Back then I was just loving him."
The son is now a 22-year-old young man and star guard who plays for his dad at Detroit Mercy. On Wednesday night, in a road win at Robert Morris, Antoine Davis exploded for 26 points -- his 11th 20-point game this season -- inching his scoring average to 23.4 points per game, best in all of Division I.
"It would mean something to me," admits Antoine, on the subject of leading the nation in scoring, but only after being pressed. Antoine's stepbrother, Mike Davis Jr., an assistant coach at Detroit Mercy, is more direct. "[Antoine] is an elite shooter and scorer. He can get it on his own and without the ball. Most can't do both."
The trio -- dad Mike Sr. on his fourth head-coaching stop; son Mike Jr., his protégé; and son Antoine, a 6-foot-1, 165-pound human tornado -- finds itself chasing the same vision of success, perhaps with differing definition, but all done the Davis way.
The family business of basketball began with Mike Sr.'s career as a player. "Mr. Basketball" in the state of Alabama in 1979, Davis played four seasons for the Crimson Tide under C.M. Newton and Wimp Sanderson. A self-admitted "defense and hustle guy," Davis smiles when contemplating the comparison between his game and his youngest son's. "Not even close. But I'll never tell him that."
Following a six-year pro career, Davis took up coaching and eventually landed a job on the bench next to Bob Knight at Indiana. Three seasons into his tenure with the Hoosiers, Knight was dismissed. Davis was promoted to interim coach for the 2000-01 season, then formally named head coach in March of 2001. Thirteen months later he nearly won a national title.
Unable to replicate his early success, Davis saw his tenure at IU end following the 2005-06 season. Less than a month later he was hired at UAB. Mike Jr. joined his dad as a redshirt sophomore and went on to appear in 76 games with the Blazers over his final three seasons. Antoine's time in Birmingham was not as prolific.
"My earliest memories of 'Toine, as a player, are from my summer camps [at UAB]. He didn't care about basketball at all," Davis jokes. "He just wanted to work in the camp store." Antoine, who was cut from his seventh-grade team in Birmingham, admits "I was still trying to figure out what I wanted to do with life."
That changed dramatically in 2012, when Davis was fired by UAB following a 15-16 season. Five months later the Texas Southern job opened and a move to Houston followed.
It's here we should introduce John Lucas, one of the most significant success stories in the history of the game. A two-time All-American at Maryland, Lucas spent 14 seasons in the NBA before becoming an assistant and ultimately head coach of the Spurs, 76ers and Cavaliers. Renowned for his work with athletes recovering from substance abuse, Lucas became the dean of Houston-area basketball, and connected with Davis and Antoine during the summer of 2012.
"I came along in 'Toine's life when everybody needs a grandfather," recalls Lucas. "It's hard for a dad to be a father and a coach and 'Toine needed both."
"We owe everything to Coach Lucas," says Davis. "He's very, very demanding and can say and do things that most parents want to say. He took Antoine under his wing."
Sessions with Lucas were intense and grueling ... and those were just the morning workouts. Three times a day, six days a week Antoine grinded, routinely putting up 5,000 shots in a day, 30,000 shots in a week.
"The competitiveness started with me," recalls Lucas. "I saw Antoine wanted to compete and wanted to be good and I could give him the foundation Mike couldn't. The player he's become today though has been the work of Mike and Mike Jr."
"We worked so hard," says Davis, "because I wanted him to be the best version of him." Mike Jr. puts it more bluntly: "We built him in a lab."
Home-schooled for most of his high school years, Antoine was a challenge to evaluate and thus garnered only three stars from recruiting services. All three Davises would ultimately pack their bags in June of 2018 when Mike Sr., who had taken Texas Southern to four NCAA tournaments in six seasons, was named head coach at Detroit Mercy. All the while, the workouts continued. Three times a day. Six days a week. 5,000 shots a day. The lab experiment was becoming scientific fact.
"The process of seeing myself develop was amazing," says Antoine. "When I first moved to Houston, people doubted me. Making those people regret what they said fueled me."
"I would always have him play against older, bigger kids," says Lucas. "When you're on the smaller size, you've got to be the toughest SOB in the game. 'Toine is tough."
Part of one of 29 father-son combinations in D-I this season, Antoine has posted individual achievements that compare favorably with those of the legends of the game. In 2018-19, Antoine broke Steph Curry's single-season D-I freshman record for made 3-pointers. Earlier this season, he became the all-time leading scorer at Detroit Mercy, while also establishing the school and Horizon League records for career 3-pointers made. He finished in the top five in scoring in Division I as a freshman, sophomore and junior, and should he do so again this year, he would be the first player ever to do so in four consecutive seasons. And perhaps most impressively, Wednesday, Antoine joined Pete Maravich, Doug McDermott and Allan Houston in becoming just the fourth player to score 2,500 career points under his father as head coach.
"We have a better understanding of one another now," says Antoine of his relationship with his dad. "It's always been there, but it's like we're really bonding more than ever."
"You have to put the work in and he's put the work in," says Davis, who acknowledges his demanding style once came at a cost. "It drove a wedge in our relationship, to be honest. But [Antoine] eventually realized Mike Davis and John Lucas weren't crazy. They were pushing [him] to be great."
Other mid-major mastery:
• Bryant junior Charles Pride established a new D-I school record Thursday when he scored 44 points (31 in the second half) in the Bulldogs' win at St. Francis (Pa.). It's the second-highest-scoring game this season behind the 48 put up by Liberty's Darius McGhee at Florida Gulf Coast on Jan. 15.
• FGCU senior Tavian Dunn-Martin erupted for 34 points and 10 assists Thursday in an OT win at Central Arkansas. It was Dunn-Martin's second 30+ point, 10+ assist game this season. Over the past 10 seasons only Trae Young and Ja Morant have posted multiple 30/10 games in a single season.
• Saint Peter's senior KC Ndefo became the 34th player in program history to reach 1,000 career points Friday in a win over Quinnipiac. Ndefo also set the Peacocks' single-game record with 11 blocks in the win, tied for the most in a D-I game this season with Auburn's Walker Kessler (vs. LSU on Dec. 29).
• Southern Indiana (USI) has accepted an invitation to join the Ohio Valley Conference. The Eagles will begin OVC play in men's basketball next season.
KC's Mid-Major Top 10 for this week:
1. Murray State Racers (Ohio Valley)
Last week: 1
Absolutely no KC's Top 10 curse for coach Matt McMahon's men, who maintain their spot atop the mid-major mountain. The Racers used a 28-15 run to close out the first half en route to a 12-point win at Austin Peay on Thursday. On Saturday, MSU led by as many as 28 in a 79-59 gallop past SIU-Edwardsville. Johnson Arena in Morehead, Kentucky, will be a hornets' nest when the nation's real No. 1 comes to town on Saturday.
Next up: at Tennessee State (Thursday)
2. Wyoming Cowboys (Mountain West)
Last week: 9
It's one thing to earn a seat at the table in this great chamber. It's quite another to validate it with one of the most significant seven-day stretches in Wyoming basketball history. The Cowboys followed up late January wins over Air Force and Colorado State with the biggest win ever inside the "Dome of Doom" Thursday night. Sophomore Graham Ike posted a career-high 33 points (and 10 rebounds) in a 72-65 victory over Boise State, giving the Pokes a season split with the Broncos. On Sunday, coach Jeff Linder's club squeaked out a gigantic 61-59 Quad 1 win at Fresno State, before getting 28 and 12 from Ike in Tuesday's OT victory against Utah State. A program that plays at 7,200 feet of elevation has never been higher.
Next up: at San Jose State (Saturday)
3. UAB Blazers (Conference USA)
Last week: 6
When Jordan "Jelly" Walker takes over an NCAA tournament game next month, remember "Swaggy KC" told ya it would happen. On Saturday the Blazers star pumped in a career-high 42 points (8-of-16 from 3) in a 97-75 rout of Middle Tennessee. Walker also established a new program record, eclipsing the 41 points his coach, Andy Kennedy, scored back in 1991 (Robert Vaden scored 41 for UAB as well in 2008). Turn in your mid-major fan club membership card if you miss the Feb. 19 game vs. North Texas.
Next up: vs. Southern Miss (Thursday)
4. Davidson Wildcats (Atlantic 10)
Last week: 5
Like a classic Tom Collins, the Wildcats' week was both straightforward and refreshing. Luka Brajkovic erupted for a career-high 30 points in Saturday's win at George Washington, Davidson's eighth straight on the road. Then on Wednesday, coach Bob McKillop's bunch needed overtime, but handled St. Joe's 73-67. Family has already been alerted -- any attempt to contact Committee members during the Wildcats' Feb. 19 meeting with Saint Louis will result in excommunication.
Next up: at Rhode Island (Saturday)
5. Boise State Broncos (Mountain West)
Last week: 2
The Broncos saw their program-record 14-game win streak snapped Thursday -- a 72-65 road loss at Wyoming -- but one hiccup to a fellow top-10 member is not an impeachable offense. On Saturday, coach Leon Rice's squad bounced back with a 76-60 win over San Jose State behind 23 points from Mountain West Freshman of the Year candidate Tyson Degenhart. Boise State is 5-1 in Quad 1 games, owning the most Quad 1 wins among mid-majors.
Next up: vs. UNLV (Friday)
6. Saint Mary's Gaels (WCC)
Last week: 3
Saint Mary's "A-lister" status in the Studio 54 of mid-major polls continues, but the drop from No. 3 is warranted. The Gaels' win streak reached seven following wins at Portland (Thursday) and against Loyola Marymount (Saturday), but Wednesday's road loss to a surging Santa Clara squad was an upset nonetheless. Coach Randy Bennett's bunch will face San Diego twice (gulp), San Francisco and BYU in Moraga (GULP, GULP) and Gonzaga twice (GULP!!!!!!!!!) over the next 17 days. Buckle up.
Next up: vs. San Diego (Thursday)
7. North Texas Mean Green (Conference USA)
Last week: 10
The Mean Green (17-4) have lost one game since Feast Week in November. Let that sink in. Coach Grant McCasland's men compartmentalized the euphoria of their first KC's mid-major Top 10 appearance last week with a pair of resounding wins this past week. On Saturday UNT spanked UTSA by 24, then Monday outpaced UTEP 66-58. Land mines await, including a visit to UAB and a home date with Louisiana Tech later this month but, for now, it's easy being green.
Next up: at Rice (Saturday)
8. Loyola Chicago Ramblers (Missouri Valley)
Last week: 4
The Ramblers avenged a 10-point home loss to Missouri State on Jan. 22nd with a 71-62 statement win on Sunday in Springfield. Senior guard Lucas Williamson went for 19 points and Loyola held Bears star Isiaih Mosley to just 12 points (Mosley went for 40 in the win in Chicago.) Problem is, Wednesday night in Peoria, Bradley dumped Loyola 68-61, giving AJ Green and Northern Iowa a half-game lead atop the Missouri Valley. UNI and Loyola meet twice over the next 16 days beginning Sunday at 4 p.m. ET on ESPN 2.
Next up: vs. Northern Iowa (Sunday)
9. Saint Louis Billikens (Atlantic 10)
Last week: Unranked
The Committee's "Kardashianesque" relationship with the Billikens is back on after wins over Dayton (Saturday) and at La Salle (Tuesday). Six straight victories, and nine of 11, vault SLU into the poll of record, but the Billikens will have to work to stay here. Metaphoric Pete Davidsons on the schedule await in the form of St. Bonaventure (Feb. 11 and Feb. 14) and a road showdown at Davidson (Feb. 19), but for the time being we're smitten with coach Travis Ford's group.
Next up: vs. St. Bonaventure (Friday)
10. Vermont Catamounts (America East)
Last week: Unranked
Snowy Vermont. Frosty windows. A warm fireplace. Cozy blanket. You've set the mood. Now tell them you love them this Valentine's Day weekend the best way you know how -- with a spot inside KC's Top 10. The Committee figuratively swiped right on the Catamounts for the first time this season, after coach John Becker's team extended its win streak to 13 in a row. Eleven consecutive victories have come by double figures and Vermont's average margin of victory of 18.4 PPG in conference play ranks third in D-I behind only Gonzaga and Murray State.
Next up: at Albany (Saturday)
Others receiving votes: Utah State, San Francisco, Colorado State, Belmont
Dropped out: BYU (No. 7), Iona (No. 8)
ESPN Stats & Information researcher Jared Berson contributed to this article.