Evans Davis sits on a metal chair just to the left of the free-throw line at the far end of Alumni Arena, a notepad and a cellphone in his lap. He’s recording points scored by the young boys attending his basketball camp and resetting the stopwatch on his phone to 60 seconds.
It looks like any other year in which Davis has run his summer camp since he’s been the head coach of Armstrong State men’s basketball – championship banners are still hanging from the ceiling, and other banners sporting the Pirates logo line the walls above the goals, encouraging fans to follow the team on Twitter.
But it doesn’t feel like any other year.
“When’s all this coming down,” I ask him about the banners.
“I don’t even know,” he says.
Right now, he just wants to keep his mind focused on the kids. Not the fact that Armstrong basketball will never be played inside that gym again. Not the fact that he hasn’t found another job yet. Not the fact that he has to be out of his apartment by July 1, the same day the Armstrong State athletic department will forever cease from operation.
He just wants to enjoy the time he has left coaching inside the gym of the school that gave him his first head coaching job. Originally, Davis wanted his camp to host high school players looking to play at the college level, but too many of them were going to camps at Georgia Southern or Savannah State. As it is, the last players he gets to teach the game he loves inside this gym are between the ages of 7 and 14.
Hey, it’s either now or never. When Davis found out Armstrong State athletics would cease after the 2017 spring season as the school is absorbed by a consolidation with Georgia Southern, the men’s basketball season had been long finished.
“I thought about not doing it,” Davis says about running one final Armstrong State basketball camp, “but if I’m going to be here, I thought, why not?
“This has been an outlet for me. Now you usually start preparing for July recruiting, but this is the first time I haven’t had that on my plate.”
I doubt any Armstrong State coach or athletic department employee ever asked for or wanted this consolidation, but from a career perspective, several of them have fared pretty well in accepting positions at Georgia Southern. Athletic director Lisa Sweany is now the deputy athletic director for the Eagles. Softball coach Kim Dean, whose only season at Division II Armstrong was her first as a head coach, is now calling the shots at a Division I program. Tennis coach Sean McCaffrey also has a new job.
But for other Pirate coaches, it hasn’t worked out so easily.
Inside Davis’ office, it’s quiet, as it always is during the summer. But it’s a different kind of quiet.
“It has the feel of a normal summer, but you know it’s not,” Davis says.
He still sees baseball coach Calvain Culberson, cross country coach Michael Sergi and women’s soccer coach Eric Faulconer hanging around their offices down the hall, but they don’t talk much about what everyone already knows.
They, too, are still trying to figure out how to move on.
Davis still comes to his office for a few hours every day. He hasn’t cleaned it out. He looks at all the photos on his desk and on the walls, thinking about the student athletes he’s coached, how he came here as an assistant eight years ago, and what lies ahead for him in his coaching future.
“I’m a believer,” he says, and there isn’t a hint of doubt in his voice that the Lord will provide something.
Will he be a head coach again? He’s not too proud to look for an assistant job or even a high school coaching job. He’s had discussions – even interviewed for a few, he says – but he’s staying patient, waiting for the right fit. His ex-wife and son live in Atlanta, so he’s trying to zero in on opportunities that will move him closer to them.
It’s a reminder that the consolidation can provide opportunities to some, but not all. Not everyone was forced to uproot their lives, but many were.
Davis says he’s fine no matter where he goes, but just the fact that he’s out here, spending his last Armstrong State days teaching basketball with Savannah youths, shows this community meant something to him.
So did Armstrong State. No matter where he winds up, he’ll always remember his first head coaching job.
Nathan Deen covers Georgia Southern athletics for the Savannah Morning News. Contact him at 912-652-0353 and firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @NathanDeenSMN.