Men’s Basketball | Women’s Basketball

Men’s Basketball

Basketball team 1909
1909 Basketball Team (Quips & Cranks 1909)

Early men’s basketball at Davidson was almost entirely student run. Before intercollegiate basketball became popular, most games occurred between students with the seniors, juniors, sophomores, and freshmen fielding teams and competing for a school championship. In the year 1907, Davidson basketball began. James Wendell Rhea was both the team’s first coach and also a student at Davidson (Scott). His first team had six students: Hyder Barr, James McClintock, John Fairly, Walter Pharr, John Turner, and Benjamin James Cromartie. When intercollegiate play began in 1908 Davidson’s first varsity squad often traveled to play games.

W. T. Mann, a writer for the 1908-1909 Davidson College magazine, blamed the basketball team’s hectic travel schedule for their many losses: “Had it not been for that fact that our boys were worn out by traveling all day and playing at night . . . The result might have been quite different” (322). The Wildcat team only played seventeen games in its first four years, clearly showing that Davidson basketball was yet to become a popular sport.

Until the 1950’s, Wildcat basketball remained a nationally unknown sport because few Davidson coaches posted winning seasons. Dean Rusk, Class of 1931, played varsity basketball for Davidson, but only acquired fame after becoming Secretary of State. Norman Shepard (1937-1949) generated the most success taking Davidson to the Southern Conference Tournament five times and accumulating a 58.3 winning percentage (“Postseason History”51). Also, in 1949 George “Buddy” Cheek became the first Davidson player to achieve All-American honors (40).

Basketball 1963-4
1963-64 Basketball Team (from game program)

In 1960, Davidson basketball exploded. C. G. “Lefty” Driesell became Davidson’s basketball coach, and he was almost an instant success (51). In a notebook Driesell gave his team, he wrote: “desire and confidence are the most important prerequisite[s] of a good basketball player and basketball team. If you can
believe we can win the Championships and have the desire to work hard, WE CAN”
(Driesell). Driesell proved his commitment by immediately recruiting top players.
Among the many standouts were Terry Holland, Fred Hetzel, Dick Snider, and Mike Maloy (Rollins 7c).

In an article from The Davidsonian, Laura Craver tells us that, “In 1963, the Wildcats accomplished a 20 win season for the first time in school history . . . Davidson [had] orchestrated a Cinderella season” (5).

In fact, Davidson’s achievements advanced them all the way to the Southern Conference finals where they narrowly lost to West Virginia 79-74 (“Postseason History” 51). Under Driesell, Davidson finished in the top ten of the AP poll for the first time ever, and they were given a spread in Sports Illustrated (Giduz 17).

Driesell's playbook
From Driesell’s 1961-62 playbook (RG 8/7.1)

In addition, Davidson achieved six twenty-win seasons, entered the NCAA tournament three times, and produced three All-Americans which included Fred Hetzel (twice), Dick Synder, and Mike Maloy (twice) (“Postseason History“ 40-41). Though Driesell never led to Wildcats to a National Championship, he did succeed in putting Davidson basketball on the map. Driesell posted a seventy-three percent winning record while at Davidson, the highest in school history (51).

Terry Holland (1969-1974) followed Driesell and led Davidson to the NCAA tournament twice. In 1969, the team made it to the semifinals of the NCAA tournament, but the University of North Carolina kept Davidson from advancing by just two points.

After Holland’s departure, Davidson basketball suffered a drought. From the mid seventies till the late eighties, Davidson had mostly losing seasons (50-51). However, John Gerdy, one of Davidson best players, played at Davidson in the late seventies. He holds the record for all-time high scorer and has the second best scoring average in Davidson basketball history (48). Also, in 1986, Davidson did return
to the NCAA tournament after Gerry Born scored the game-winning shot at the buzzer to win the Southern Conference Championship game. Unfortunately, Davidson lost in the first round to Kentucky (43).

In 1989, Bob McKillop, who is the current coach, was hired by Davidson (“Bob McKillop” 4). McKillop rejuvenated Davidson basketball by returning the Wildcats to the NCAA tournament in 1998, 2002, 2006, and 2007. (“Postseason History” 50). In 2001, McKillop surpassed Lefty Driesell to become the winningest basketball coach in Davidson history (“Continuity in Coaching“ 1).

Pictures of Davidson Men’s basketball teams…
Men’s Basketball’s head coaches…
Press Releases for Men’s basketball…

Women’s Basketball

Sarah Womack mid-jump
Sarah Womack shoots over her opponent in a 1980 women’s basketball game. (4-0147)

Basketball was one of two female varsity sports teams available to the first class of women at Davidson College.  After students convinced the administration that there was enough interest to form a team, the women’s basketball team played its first competitive season during the 1973-74 school year.  The team, coached by Ann Holland and Joe Duncan, completed their first season with an outstanding record of 8-3.  Led by Captain Dea Booth ’75, the team included Katie Early ’74, Ann Bode ’75, Donna Sherrill ’76, Nancy Matheny ’77, Katherine Morton ’77, Sally Bondurant ’77, Becca Stimson ’77, Nora McNeill ’77, Laurie Dunn ’77, Renee Hester ’77, and Lynne Kenner ’77.  The young team confidently competed against teams with much more experienced players.  During their second season, with a record of 10-7, the wildcats progressed to the semi-finals at the State “B” tournament in Wilmington, NC.

For the 1976-77 season, the athletic department hired another full-time staff member, Susan Roberts, who was the first paid head coach of women’s basketball and field hockey at Davidson College. The team no longer had to rely on volunteer coaches. She served as head coach for four seasons before Deirdre Mayes took over for the 1980-81 season.

Despite the interest in basketball, Athletic Director Christopher “Kit” Morris was forced to cut women’s basketball from varsity athletics at Davidson in 1986 after losing Coach Patricia Daley. Despite the increased budget and the addition of another women’s coaching position, the varsity program was not continued due to budgetary concerns and inadequate resources for recruitment to maintain a competitive team. At the time, the NCAA required all Division 1 schools to have at least six D-1 varsity sports available to women. Davidson had seven, which included volleyball, field hockey, cross country, track and field, tennis, and golf, and which excluded basketball (“Reorganization”).

In 1992, the varsity women’s basketball program was started again with head coach John Filar, who enjoyed 10 seasons at Davidson. In 1998-99 season, the women advanced to the Southern Conference finals, only to lose to Appalachian State, 78-69. Filar retired in 2001 to be replaced by Annette Watts, who has coached the women’s basketball team to winning seasons since 2003-04.

Pictures of Davidson Women’s basketball…
Women’ Basketball’s head coaches…

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Varsity Athletics, Baseball, Basketball, Football, Soccer – Works Cited

Balestier, Bruce. “A Season to Remember”. Campus Chronicle. Athletics-History-Soccer
Davidsoniana file. Davidson College Archives, Davidson, NC.

“A Century of Baseball:
Diamonds are a ‘Cats’s Best Friend.” Davidson Journal. Spring
2002: 44-46.

Craver, Laura. “1960’s basketball a school success story: Driesell’s
squads earned
National attention”. The Davidsonian. 9 December 1997. 5.

Davidson Athletic Department. Davidson College. “Bob McKillop: Head Basketball Coach.” 2003 <> .

Davidson Athletic Department. Davidson College Press Release. “Wildcats Fall to Ohio State 70-62 in First Round of NCAA Tournament.” 17 March 2006. <>.

Davidson Athletic Department. Davidson College Press Release. “Wildcats Nearly Pull Off Upset Win in NCAA Tournament.” 14 March 2002. <>.

Davidson College. “Athletics”. 18 October 2003:

Davidson College. “’Cats Take the Field“. 18 October 2003:

Davidson College. “Coaching Staff: Head Coach Jeff Frank”. 18 October

“Davidson College’s Dick Cooke Named to Baseball’s National
Team.” Lake Norman
Times. 12 February 2003.

Davidson College. “Facility Tour”. 18 October 2003:

Davidson College Factfile 2002-2003. Prepared by the office of Planning and
Institutional Research. December. 22.

Davidson College. “John M. Belk Arena”. 18 October 2003:

Driesell, “Lefty”. Davidson College Athletics: Coaches Basketball
Handbook. 1961-
1962. RG 8/7.1. Davidson College Archives, Davidson, NC.

Garfield, Matt. “Three ESPN games highlight another challenging schedule”.
Wildcat Report. Fall 2003: 10.

Giduz, William R. “Putting the Glory Years into Perspective”. Davidson
Journal. Winter
1991: 17.

Helfrich, Tim. “Cooke Gets 200th Win as Coach.” Lake Norman Times.
28 February
2001. 6B

Howard, Hinds. “Baseball Moves into New Clubhouse.” Davidsonian.
25 April 2001.

Kenchington, Lauren. “Recently Completed Capital Projects”. 18 October

Kerr, James W. “The Start of Soccer at Davidson”. Unpublished article.
Soccer Davidsoniana file. Davidson College Archives, Davidson, NC.

Lanoka, Andy. “Slagle Marks 20 Years of Dedication to Davidson Athletics”.
Newsclipping, October 1999. Athletics-History-Soccer Davidsoniana file. Davidson
College Archives, Davidson, NC.

Madden, Erica. “’New’ players excited to hit the hardwood”.
The Wildcat Report. Fall
2003: 4-5.

Madden, Erica. Wildcat Soccer History. Davidson College Men’s Soccer Media
Guide, 2003. Athletics-History-Soccer Davidsoniana file. Davidson College Archives,
Davidson, NC.

Mann, W. T., “Athletic Notes”. Davidson College Magazine. Vol. 25,

Photograph of 1909 Basketball Team. “Athletics”. Quips and Cranks.
Vol. 14.
Davidson College, 1909.

Photograph of 1964 Basketball Team. Davidson vs. East Carolina Official Basketball
Program. February 18, 1964. 3.

Photograph of a play in “Lefty” Driesell’s Notebook. Davidson
College Athletics:
Coaches Basketball Handbook. 1961-1962. RG 8/7.1. Davidson College Archives,
Davidson, NC.

“Postseason History“. 2000-2001 Wildcat Basketball. 40,41,43,48,50,51.

“Reorganization of Women’s Sports Begins.” Campus Chronicle. Davidson: Davidson College, 14 May 1986.

A Report of the Presidential Working Group on Athletics to the Davidson College
Of Trustees. March 1992. RG 7/1.1. Admissions. Davidson College Archives.
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Rollins, Glenn. “Davidson
Faces Life as Basketball Independent”. The Charlotte
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Saik, Walker. “Baseball Field Gets Night Lights.” Davidsonian. 12
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Scott, L. R. “Athletics”. Quips and Cranks. Vol. 14. Davidson: Davidson
College, 1909.

Shaw, Cornelia. Davidson College. p.244

Storey, T. A. Letter to William J. Martin. 14 June 1920. RG 2/1.11. Presidents

William J. Martin. Davidson College Archives. Davidson, NC.

Tarr, Brian. “Alumni Association”. Davidson Journal, 1993. Athletics-History-Soccer
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Track of the Cat. “Bob Mckillop: The Only Undefeated Head Basketball Coach
Davidson History”. Summer 1989: 4.

Track of the Cat. “Continuity in Coaching: The Year of the Milestone”.
Spring 2001: 1.

“Ukrop ’92: Man among Boys”. Davidsonian. Athletics-History-Soccer
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Author: Dustin Edge, Will Whetstone, & Mark Grotjohn
Date: 2001, October 2003, 6 July 2006

Cite as: Edge, Dustin, and Mark Grotjohn and Will Whetstone.
“Basketball,” Davidson Encyclopedia, 6 July 2006 <>

Related Entries: Charles Worth Johnston Gymnasium, Varsity Athletics, The Wildcat

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