On Feb. 27 inside the Schottenstein Center, Ohio State men’s basketball video coordinator Kyle Davis made the final preparations needed for the next day’s game at Penn State. The day’s practice was scheduled for 3 p.m., and less than three hours later, the entire staff and team would board a bus routed for the airport, then fly to State College, Pennsylvania.
At 1 p.m. Davis was approached by associate head coach Dave Dickerson. He asked Davis to compile an organized database that lists every game remaining, through the state championship, for each high-school prospect OSU is recruiting.
“When do you need it?” Davis asked.
Dickerson answered, by the end of practice.
So Davis grabbed graduate assistant Chris Logsdon, who helps with the bulk of the video responsibilities, and the two sat in the video room inside the practice gym and compiled the database for the next four hours. Logsdon found all matchups for the in-state recruits the program is looking at and Davis covered the rest of the recruits. The spreadsheet, which included nearly 70 prospective recruits, was done by 5 p.m.
“That’s what you got to do, though,” Davis said.
After sifting through complicated state tourney brackets, Davis spearheaded a project that enabled the coaching staff to know who they can visit on certain days and who to send messages of encouragement to on their game days.
“There’s no one that can spoonfeed you this information,” Davis said. “This information is out there, but it’s in 17 different places. Every college basketball program needs someone that is capable of finding all this information, putting it together and making sense of it in a way for your whole staff to understand.”
For OSU’s program, that someone is Davis, who has been with the organization for seven seasons — four as a student manager, two as a graduate assistant and one in his current role. The three video coordinators before Davis are all current assistant coaches. Kevin Kuwik is at Dayton, Greg Paulus is an assistant at OSU and Jake Diebler just finished his first season as an assistant at Vanderbilt.
Davis doesn’t have the coaching experience or playing experience that those in the role before him had, so the path to becoming video coordinator was even more difficult. For six years, his only income was per diem for road trips and holiday breaks as he continued to rack up student loans from undergraduate and graduate school. He spent 30-40 hours each week for four years and 60-plus hours per week for two years at the Schott. But becoming an official member of the OSU coaching staff was always the end goal.
Davis’ career has been defined by doing the jobs few would want to do.
Davis’ passion for coaching began during his sophomore at nearby Hilliard Darby High School when he needed volunteer hours for a class he was taking. He reached out to a local recreational league to help with a sixth-grade team. Then, two weeks before the season, he suddenly became the head coach.
The original coach quit and left 16-year-old Davis with a group of kids and parents he had never met.
“I loved it. But my team stunk,” he said. “Ironically enough, the guy who was the coach of my team, no one really liked him. So the commissioner of the league purposefully gave him the worst kids in the league. We weren’t very good. I think we won one game all year.”
The losses didn’t matter. Davis couldn’t get enough.
So when the commissioner asked him back as a coach, he agreed. That next season, Davis said his team of sixth graders was undefeated. However, some of the parents voiced concern regarding his coaching style after Davis ran a zone that resulted in allowing just two points.
Davis said that’s when he learned he was a little too competitive for that league.
But before he left, Davis made a valuable connection with OSU’s strength and conditioning coach Dave Richardson; Richardson’s son was on Davis’ team. He also met then-OSU assistant coach — now the team’s director of recruiting and player development — Alan Major, who was watching Richardson’s son play.
“I’ll never forget Alan Major, I talked to him after the game and he said, ‘Well, if you’re not a player, you can come be a manager if you want to get involved with coaching,’” Davis said. “From that day forward I thought that would be a pretty cool thing to do.”
But he wasn’t done coaching just yet. He still had two more years of high school.
At the time, Davis’ brother was in seventh grade and 6-foot-4. Davis knew a few of his brother’s friends and knew them to be pretty good athletes for their age. So, that spring after he concluded coaching in rec league, he began to recruit some of them and other kids at his brother’s middle school and founded an AAU team — at age 17. The 13-and-under Ohio Havoc played their first games that summer.
“I’m sitting there and I had like $11,000 in my hand (for team fees),” he said. “I’m just thinking like, I’m 17 years old. I have $11,000 in my hand to spend on uniforms, travel, tournament fees and all that. What am I doing with my life? This isn’t something a 17-year-old gets to do.”
That summer and the next, Davis took his team to compete in tournaments throughout Ohio and in nearby states like Indiana — some of which his team won. He also coached at nationals.
Through that experience, watching the competition at that level and finding a passion for coaching, Davis took Major’s advice and became a student manager at OSU when he enrolled Fall 2010.
Freshmen managers are given the duties not sought after by anyone else. Carrying towels and water, mopping up puddles of sweat, dragging Gilman dummies from the main court to the upstairs court along with the cart full of other practice necessities, and staying late to rebound for players are the basic on-paper duties they have.
Being a basketball manager is a fraternity with a rite of passage — one where respect isn’t easily earned. There’s not a lot of glory that goes with it either. It’s not a paid position. Managers still have to go to class, then it is right to the Schottenstein Center six days a week for at least three hours (in the preseason, it’s more like four hours). On game days, managers have to be there dressed and ready to hit the floor five hours before tip for shootaround. Managers receive stylish team-issued gear, including a pair of Lebron-brand shoes, but when adding all of it with two games per week, it gets to be roughly 30-40 hours a week outside of the classroom.
“No one asked us to do this. This is just something that over the years I learned how to do it, I thought it could be a cool thing. I thought it could be more efficient and it allowed me to extend myself to do other things.” – Kyle Davis
But that didn’t matter to Davis. Being a part of the men’s basketball program at OSU was a title he held with pride. After all, Davis had higher aspirations. From the first day, Davis would do anything possible to become the video coordinator at OSU.
OK, well, the second day.
The first day, then-senior manager Bryce Crawford, now-assistant coach at Division I University of Maryland Baltimore County, told Davis and each freshman manager privately, “Listen, I don’t like any of you. You haven’t done spit for this program, and I’m not going to like any one of you until you can prove you can do something around here.”
“I loved that he did that because it created the most amazing work ethic in us,” Davis said. “And we all thought Bryce was this biggest (jerk) in the world … but it was really cool because we were like, ‘Man, this guy’s legit.’”
Kuwik, the Dayton assistant, was the video coordinator when Davis joined the program. Davis walked into the video room inside the practice gym and asked Kuwik to help with the video responsibilites, which is work normally reserved to the senior managers and graduate assistants.
In the room were four DVRs the staff used to record every game of any team that OSU would play against that year. Kuwik told Davis his tasks involved recording all of those games, which required him to know the TV schedules of those games, find the channels and tape them. Then, he would transfer it to a DVD, catalog it and store it.
Kuwik left for Dayton after Davis’ freshman year — when OSU lost to Kentucky as the No. 1 overall seed in the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Tournament — and Paulus entered the role. That same year, OSU hired Chris Jent, a former NBA assistant, for a similar role.
Davis continued to work around the video department with Paulus at the helm. After that first season, Jent requested to change from the DVSport video software to Sportcode, which he used in the NBA.
With the addition of Sportcode, Davis and the entire video team were able to finish video work in half the time.
It’s as if they traded in a 1989 Honda Civic for a NASA space shuttle, Davis said.
Through his four years as a manager, Davis became the low-level busybody member in the organization that the staff would turn to when things needed to be done. As senior manager, he spent more time in the film room and was in charge of a staff of a dozen or so managers. He was the main point of contact between the staff’s needs and making sure there were managers at the gym for rebounding, opposing team shootarounds and any other task — often with less than two hours notice. Davis helped coordinate official visits, assisted in setting up the team tailgate before football games. He even helped change a tire on State Route 315 on the vehicle of former OSU guard Lenzelle Smith Jr. to ensure he would be on time for practice.
Davis made it his job to do any menial task possible to be recognized as a reliable member of the program.
“He was always around. He was very adamant about getting involved and tried to figure things out,” Crawford said of Davis. “He was just very locked in and it was very clear that he wanted to get into the business.”
Following Davis’ final season in 2014 as a manager, he and then-graduate assistant Weston Strayer made it a mission of theirs to memorize the Sportscode manual from cover to cover.
Now, after two years, Davis said he and Strayer designed 16-20 different programs on the Sportscode software to use and relay information to the coaches.
“No one asked us to do this,” he said. “This is just something that over the years I learned how to do it, I thought it could be a cool thing. I thought it could be more efficient and it allowed me to extend myself to do other things.”
Davis continued to work on these programs through Diebler’s final two years with OSU, which made the video department even more valuable.
“It’s so hard to do your job to the best of your abilities as video coordinator if you’re doing it by yourself,” Diebler said. “You need great, great help and those guys were the best in the country, in my opinion at what they did.”
Outside of games is when Davis does most of his work, finding new trends that can help coaches make educated decisions for on-court personnel. During road trips, Davis had to have the entire game with individual stats coded by the time the plane landed, which led to Davis frequently being told by flight attendants to turn his laptop off. In game, Davis designed programs that can give OSU its best small and big lineup in the middle of a game. He also charted each shot a player takes on particular plays and paired it with live video that is being coded in the team locker room, and has that ready for coaches to view at halftime and end of the game.
“The money didn’t matter, the title didn’t matter, but to know that I had a future within our staff just meant the world to me. I told everyone from the beginning, I’m here for Ohio State basketball. Whether that means I’m wiping the floor, cutting video or recruiting, just whatever it is, I’m happy to be here.” – Kyle Davis
He said sometimes information on paper can be misleading and cannot accurately tell the staff why the team was shooting poorly from a particular spot on the floor. Therefore, he linked all of the stats to video for evidence that can help with development.
“I’m not really an analytics guy. I’m more of an analytics ‘make you look at things in a different way’ sort of guy,” he said. “Numbers are great but until you can actually see why those numbers came to be about, it really doesn’t help you as a coach. You can’t coach numbers. You have to coach basketball things. That’s what this allows you to do.”
In the 2015-16 season, Davis was the chief graduate assistant receiving some much needed help in the video room from walk-on-turned-graduate assistant Andrew Goldstein, team videographer David Aaron, head manager Robbie Rucki and others. Diebler, still the video coordinator at the time, was often in the video room compiling anything the staff needed at the last minute, but also knew Davis was available at a moment’s notice and had the assurance that Davis and Goldstein were getting the work completed well ahead of time. With that belief in Davis, Diebler was able to spend more time on the court with the staff and players, and Davis was able to do much of the video coordinator role before he was promoted.
Davis, who estimated he worked 75-88 hours per week in his last year as a graduate assistant, said Diebler was the greatest thing to have happened to his development in the way he empowered the video staff.
“He’s got a great feel for what’s necessary in that area of preparation and things like that,” Diebler said of Davis. “I thought it was very valuable to help me do my job and (he) worked really hard, spent long hours, wasn’t afraid to stay up late or get up early.”
On top of the strides he made in the video room, Davis took on some, if not all, of the responsibilities dealt to the role of recruiting and operations coordinator, which was vacant during the 2015-16 season after Christopher Spartz left the program.
“When he left — not like I was going for his job or anything, but it was around this time last year … and I was like, well, someone has to do some of the stuff he was doing,” Davis said. “And I wasn’t sure what we were doing or who we were going to hire so I just started sitting at his desk and doing his job, and nobody said otherwise.”
Davis began handling logistics for official visits, helping coordinate prospects with faculty advisors, coaching staff and touring the campus. He also prepared recruiting packets and any other task the program needed done.
He wasn’t instructed to do more work than he was given as a graduate assistant, but as was the case as a manager, Davis never shied away from the opportunities available, which were mostly the undesirable tasks that someone had to perform.
Through all of that effort came an unexpected moment.
On Feb. 28, 2016, OSU hosted No. 8 Iowa as a last-chance effort to back itself into the NCAA Tournament. Dickerson walked over to Davis during the under-eight media timeout while the team was down five and asked for the team’s best small lineup throughout the season. Davis had the info and gave it to him. The lineup, which Davis can’t explicitly remember, went into the game halfway through the second half and cut into the Hawkeyes lead.
The Buckeyes earned their second top-10 victory that season, 68-64 over Iowa.
It was trial by fire for the work Davis had put in for the past year and a half.
“That was so frickin’ scary because if something went bad, (Dickerson) was never going to trust me again,” he said. “It was the stress test. This wasn’t the last minute or last possession, this was towards the end of the game but it was one of those things where it was really cool for me to see that I put all these hours into something, not knowing if it was ever going to be used or not, and it got used.”
That hard work, however, nearly didn’t earn him a job on the staff. Davis had a decision to make about his future with the program.
As mentioned before, managers and graduate assistants aren’t paid and there isn’t time for a second job if you want to advance to be a coach. On top of that, the basketball program does not pay for tuition of graduate school.
For Davis’ second year as a graduate assistant, he didn’t have the funds to pay for housing around campus, so he was forced to move back in with his parents in Hilliard. Sometimes, he would even sleep at the Schott if he was there late and needed to be there early the next morning.
“It got to the point where I realized I’m 24 years old. I have a lot of student debt. I’m living at home with my parents. I’m chasing this coaching dream, and I love it,” Davis said. “But ultimately, the programs I have built on a platform called Sports Tech … they were rapidly expanding.”
Patrick Ford, a former manager and Davis’ friend, worked at Sports Tech’s headquarters in Lincoln, Nebraska, and set Davis up with an interview. Sports Tech, the company that bought the popular football video service Hudl, was looking for people who already knew the software; Davis fit the bill.
A year before, Davis saw Strayer struggle to get into coaching before Strayer took a job at Lake Superior State in Michigan, which left doubt in Davis’ mind about his chances. Coaching was Davis’ dream but maybe it wasn’t meant to be. After all, he had to start making money.
Davis said he once sat down and calculated how much money he would have made if he were paid minimum wage for every hour he worked through his six years with the program. The number after taxes: $111,973.23.
“It made me want to f—ing puke,” he said.
In the middle of the 2015-16 season, all Davis had to do in order to accept the Sports Tech job was make a trip to Nebraska. However, by mid-April, Diebler left the program for Vanderbilt, which resulted in Davis taking on his responsibilities.
Davis was about to make a call to Sports Tech to schedule his visit when David Egelhoff, the director of basketball operations, tapped Davis on his shoulder and asked to meet with him in his office. Davis asked to make the phone call first, but Egelhoff told him that’s why he needed to talk to him.
Egelhoff offered Davis his first paid position on staff as the recruiting coordinator. He started to run through the details of the offer and the job, but Davis accepted before Egelhoff could finish.
“That’s what I had always wanted,” Davis said. “The moment that presented itself, I was all in. Everyone on the staff knows I’m a two-feet-in guy. I’ve given everything I’ve had to this program for six years. It hasn’t always been the work on the front page. It’s been the work behind closed doors, and I’m cool with that.”
“The money didn’t matter, the title didn’t matter, but to know that I had a future within our staff just meant the world to me. I told everyone from the beginning, I’m here for Ohio State basketball. Whether that means I’m wiping the floor, cutting video or recruiting, just whatever it is, I’m happy to be here.”
Less than three months later, OSU hired Alan Major — the one who first planted the idea of being a coach at OSU into Davis’ mind — as coordinator of recruiting and player development, and Davis was promoted to video coordinator.
One of the first things Davis did as video coordinator was call his mentor, Diebler. Davis told Diebler that when he took the job at Vanderbilt, that was one of the best things that could have happened to Davis. Davis said he was able to prove his worth to the staff with Diebler’s absence, which contributed to his promotion.
Davis was in charge of the entire official visit of now-junior point guard C.J. Jackson, who will likely be the starting point guard in the 2017-18 season.
“I think he’s got a bright future in coaching because he works hard, he cares about the guys on the team and wants to see them succeed,” Diebler said. “I think he’s going to be a good coach and I’m excited to have worked with him for three years and excited to see what the future holds for him.”
The job he wants to do
Since taking over as video coordinator, Davis has taken on projects that he saw needing improvement and has applied lessons from Diebler on staff management.
Davis began to reshape the team’s social media presence this season with the help of David Aaron, the team’s videographer, and Joe Gemma, who works as a graphic designer for the men’s and women’s basketball programs.
Davis has also become more involved in official visits. He coordinates how the recruit is getting to Columbus, how is he going to be picked up, when is he arriving for practice, when will he meet with the Student Athlete Support Service Office (SASSO) and what the presentation will entail.
“All the little things from golf carts to making sure you can get a private room at a dinner. All those little things, that’s my life,” he said. “The coaches are going to deal with the nitty gritty stuff, but I’m trying to provide the examples with my academic career and my career around the program, how they can relate to kids too.”
He also has taken on some operations functions to allow Egelhoff to focus on big picture items for the program.
And video — he still does plenty of that.
Davis no longer counts the hours he works at home because he understands it’s the nature of the job.
“What makes the video coordinator job so tough is that when you go home — you may take a breather to make some dinner — there’s more film to watch,” Diebler said. “That’s like the video coordinator’s nightmare is that you didn’t do enough preparation going into a game to where there’s a surprise. Only way to do that is to make sure you watch all the available film.”
Davis had been doing that well before he was named the team’s video coordinator.
The only difference now is Davis is performing in the role he has always wanted to.
“I love Kyle just from the standpoint of where he started and he’s worked his way up,” OSU coach Thad Matta said. “He’s one of those guys that the technology portion of his position is so important. What he can do in terms of how quick he can get the edits done and he’s spot on with everything. He’s figured me out in terms of what I like and what I don’t like.
“He’s a guy that when we lose, he’s as sad as anybody in our program, and when we win, he’s as happy (as anyone). He’s a Buckeye.”
So, was the journey worth it?
“Absolutely. There’s no question,” Davis said. “If you would’ve asked me six years ago, what’s the realistic dream, I would have told you: to be the video coordinator of Ohio State basketball.”