When Tim Davis became the football coach at West in 2009, he was all about winning. You might even say obsessed.
He was coming off a state championship season in which the 25-year-old offensive coordinator filled in for the head coach at the state title game and led his alma mater Service to a 22-14 win over Juneau after the Cougars rallied in the second half on the strength of his decision to ditch the running game and air it out.
Davis was brash when arrived at West and expected to make history. The Eagles had never won a state title and he was convinced he would be the one to lead them to the promise land.
“Early on, there was more ego involved,” he said Saturday after his team’s 47-6 victory over Bartlett. “I carried a chip on my shoulder and didn’t always handle myself in the most professional way.”
Looking back, he may cringe at his bullish bravado, but West won a state championship in his second season in 2010. It was just the beginning as he took the Eagles to the First National Bowl a record six straight years from 2013 to 2018, winning two more titles.
The secret to his success is preparation, something he learned as a teacher.
“My thing is it’s just like a classroom and if I don’t show up with a lesson plan, the kids aren’t going to learn,” said Davis, who teaches World History and Alaska Studies at West.
“I gotta get ‘em ready for the test. Anything less and I don’t sleep the night before a game because I know they aren’t prepared well.”
Davis must get lots of Zs because his teams have posted lots of Ws.
In fact, last weekend’s win over Bartlett marked his 100th career win, making him the first Cook Inlet Conference coach since Bruce Shearer in 1996 to reach the century mark milestone.
Shearer ranks fifth all-time with 130 career wins, including a CIC record 111 victories – 38 at East and 73 at Chugiak.
AK CENTURY CLUB
|150||Galen Brantley Jr.||Soldotna||17|
|150||Buck Nystrom||North Pole, Eielson||31|
|130||Bruce Shearer||Chugiak, East, Kenai||21|
|105||Bob Boudreaux||Soldotna, Kenai||22|
“Most of the time you win a game it’s because your kids are pretty darn good,” Davis said.
He’s had some good ones, most notably Conor Feckley, one of Alaska’s all-time great quarterbacks, who threw for 7,099 yards and accounted for 87 TDs between 2010 and 2012.
There were other star signal callers like Sean Duffy, Justin Kauffman and Josh Stolz as well as playmakers Dharen Montalbo, Turek Taylor and Shanai Leon on offense and Caadyn Stephen and Lui Fa’amasino on defense among others.
Davis believes his legacy is still taking shape and so it’s not something he thinks about.
“Ask me tomorrow,” he said with a laugh. “The moment we begin looking backwards and drawing from that to look forward, that can be dangerous in this sport.”
Right now his focus is on Friday night’s road game against league-leading East, not previous accomplishments.
“Here’s the thing,” Davis said. “This year’s group doesn’t care what the 2013 group did and this year’s freshmen could care less about what happened 15 years ago. They don’t care. They’re here for the experience now.”
And he’s determined to give them his full attention.
Connecting with players has always been a top priority for Davis, but somewhere along the way his mindset evolved, and he wanted to create a culture where his players succeeded off the field even if the team didn’t. This is where he credits his assistant coaches for buying into the motto of person, student, player.
“I don’t want to make too big a deal of it because it’s a game, but at the same time it’s a game that challenges these kids emotionally to a point where they are going to face real-life stuff from the low of lows to the high of highs,” Davis said.
“The wins are fun, and you pursue those and yeah, I love the game, but the scoreboard turns off and then there is good news and bad news, days when you win and days when you lose, and at the end of the day my goal is to provide a football experience that these guys never forget.”
Davis was a player himself back in the day at Service, where graduated in 2001. He said called himself a scrappy player – all bark, no bite.
“I wasn’t a dawg,” he said. “I don’t know if I crack the starting lineup here at West.”
Today, the 40-year-old Davis brings just as much enthusiasm to the field as he did 15 years ago, if not when he was in high school. It’s become his trademark.
As his win total has grown over the years, so has the size of his family with the addition of 6-year-old daughter Rowan and 4-year-old son Arlow. Having kids has affected how he views coaching and the role he plays in the lives of his players.
“I see things totally different,” Davis admitted. “Being a dad, I am now like, ‘Yo, I am coaching people’s kids, and I knew that before, but like, now it feels different.”
It hits different when your kids tackle you on the field after a game, which was how he was greeted after Saturday’s victory. Little did they know it was their old man’s 100th win, a magical number that puts him among the giants of the game in Alaska.
“They run onto the field and tackle me and knock me over,” Davis said. “If you would have told me 15 years ago that that would have brought me so much joy, that would have annoyed the hell out of 25-year-old Tim Davis.”
“It’s kind of the coolest thing to see them wearing little orange and black outfits,” he said.