Sandia boys basketball coach Steve Davis (left) visits with his former high school basketball coach Jimmy Joe Robinson during Clovis’ holiday tournament in December. Davis starred for the Wildcats in the 1970s. Photo by Eric Kluth
By Eric Butler
No, it wasn’t the night he scored 37 points in a loss against Ralph Tasker’s legendary Hobbs Eagles. It wasn’t playing for national rankings at the University of New Mexico or playing with future NBA all-star Michael Cooper. Nor was it being named the Western Athletic Conference co-player of the week after New Mexico upended rival Texas El-Paso and legendary coach Don Haskins.
Former Clovis High basketball standout Steve Davis’ favorite basketball memory is as an assistant coach at Sandia — when the Matadors upset four-time Class 5A defending champion Hobbs last year at Ralph Tasker Arena in a regional playoff game.
That despite the fact he fought with sickness the entire night and that he finished the evening practically passed out from nausea over a garbage can in the Sandia locker room.
“I’ve played in The Pit, played in a lot of places, but you just don’t do that — go into Hobbs and beat them,” said Davis, head coach of the Matadors after four years as an assistant at Sandia and La Cueva.
“I never beat Hobbs (while at Clovis) in the three years — six games — that we played them.”
Former Clovis athletic director Randy Adrian graduated with Davis and remains a close friend.
“He’s an ol’ Clovis boy. I remember that in high school he lived and breathed basketball,” Adrian said. “He worked hard to develop his skills and he turned into a real good basketball player. He was real quiet growing up — but he’s out of his shell now.”
Davis graduated from Clovis High in 1974 and went on to play for the Lobos in Albuquerque. During the 1977-78 season, New Mexico was ranked as high as No. 4 in the country before being upset by Cal State-Fullerton in the NCAA tournament. Davis played mostly backup to Cooper, who would go on to star on the Los Angeles Lakers teams of the 1970s and ’80s.
In high school, then-sophomore Davis was part of coach Jimmy Joe Robinson’s first team in 1972 — a squad that included senior Dick Hunsaker, now the head coach of Utah Valley State in Orem, Utah.
Robinson also remembers the 6-foot-4 Davis as an extremely hard worker.
“He was a good ball player and a great kid. He had a great attitude; you never had to tell him to hustle — I mean, he hustled his tail off,” Robinson said.
After college, Davis went into a home construction business with former UNM assistant John Whisenant. Their successful Whiz-Davis Homes contracting company still builds around a dozen houses a year, even as Davis has gone back to his first love — basketball.
The Sandia job opened up when previous coach Ted Knauber, also the school’s athletic director, decided to scale back his activities for at least a year.
The Matadors, last year’s state runner-up in Class 5A to La Cueva, are off to a 9-2 start and ranked second in the state.
Almost always wearing a red Matadors’ jacket these days, Davis wishes Sandia was already in a district with Clovis — something that will happen next year — because it would mean another trip each year back to his hometown.
“I’m a Clovis diehard fan. It’s funny, every time they come into (Albuquerque), I go watch the game,” Davis said. “There’s a camaraderie there. If ever I need something — Randy, Jimmy Joe, (former Clovis AD) Brooks Jennings — I can call them and they’ll help out in a heartbeat.”