By Shannon Ryan Tribune reporter
March 26, 2008
As a basketball player from Queens, Bob McKillop developed the tenacity required to stay on a court long after he should have been knocked off.
"I'm a park guy," the Davidson coach said. "If you don't win, you sit for 30 minutes. You develop a stay-on mentality."
Davidson has adopted its coach's New York-bred doggedness, refusing to leave the NCAA tournament early.
The 10th-seeded Wildcats already upset No. 7 Gonzaga and No. 2 Georgetown in the opening rounds and will face No. 3 seed Wisconsin in the Midwest regional at Detroit on Friday. It's their first Sweet 16 appearance since 1969, when Lefty Driesell was their coach.
The meeting pits two former high school coaches who have worked up the coaching ladder, although McKillop said Wisconsin's Bo Ryan is at least a rung higher on the pay scale.
McKillop arrived at Davidson 19 years ago after an apprenticeship at Long Island's Holy Trinity High, where he coached former North Carolina player Matt Doherty, and Long Island Lutheran, where he coached former Bulls center Bill Wennington to a state title.
McKillop considered it a quick stop on the way to greatness.
But his first three seasons there, Davidson went 4-24, 10-19 and 11-17.
"I believed I could wave my magic wand of X's and O's and blend in love and discipline and then move on to the Big East," he said.
Then he started incorporating former Notre Dame coach Lou Holtz's mantra of "care, commitment and trust."
"I got it," McKillop said.
Some say he hasn't changed much.
"He taught me to work hard and that I could work harder," Wennington said. "He made me realize I was a lot stronger than I thought."
McKillop has interviewed for jobs elsewhere a few times, such as an opening at St. John's, but said he is committed to Davidson.
He has led the Wildcats to four straight 20-win seasons and three straight NCAA tournaments. There's no doubt this is the best one, though.
"We're immersed in this right now," McKillop said. "I have an incredibly disciplined group of guys."