“I just got on my knees and first thing I did was pray because God put me in this position to succeed,” remarked Anthony Davis, head coach for the Crossroads High School varsity basketball team. Davis recounted the moment he won the school’s first state basketball title since 1997 in his first year as head coach.
Davis managed a program that was dominated by the prodigy of basketball’s elite, Shareef O’Neal, son of Laker legend Shaquille O’Neal. He had the inherent pressure of coaching under the watchful eye of basketball legends as well as the intense media scrutiny, all of which rested heavily on his clipboard.
“Honestly, I haven’t felt comfortable,” Davis admitted. “It’s hard to get comfortable, your first year as head coach you have a player like Shareef O’Neal where he packs the stands every night and I just have to prove myself night in and night out to critics or whoever.”
Davis defaulted to the values instilled in him from a young age by his parents and grandparents who taught him the importance of humility and the goal of striving to devote complete efforts to your career.
“If you clean toilets, you better be the best toilet bowl cleaner you can be,” he recalled his grandparents saying. “That’s what I try to implement now, I want to be the best coach ever.”
Throughout the past season, he also relied heavily on the support of his coaching staff that included Thomas Scott, son of former Laker player and coach Byron Scott; and having Shaq as a resource from a parent and mentor perspective.
According to Davis, “The biggest piece of advice [Shaq] gave me is, ‘It’s just basketball; just have fun with it.’”
It is the same message Davis echoed to Shareef and the rest of the Crossroads’ squad. It was one that he further implemented in adjusting to his new leadership role as head coach.
“It’s more than just X’s and O’s; everyone thinks you have to have that to win,” Davis stated. “It’s really if the player trusts you, they’ll run through a wall for you and do anything for you.”
Davis gained a lot of wisdom during the seven years he spent as an assistant basketball coach at Crossroads, a Santa Monica private school that has a host of notable alumni that include Los Angeles basketball legend Baron Davis as well as entertainers/actors Kate Hudson, Michael Bay, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Jonah Hill.
Garnering the head coach position was a hard fought road for the Inglewood High School product. Crossroads passed up on him three times for the position, but Davis’ faith never wavered.
“I had a lot of opportunities elsewhere,” Davis said. “I didn’t leave though, I stuck with it because it was about the kids and that’s why it means so much to me that we won.”
With a state title and a 25-9 season in his rearview, Davis looks ahead to the next chapter without the seven seniors who played on the championship team including O’Neal who will be an incoming freshman at UCLA. Once more Davis will be forced to prove that his coaching skills and fulfilling his philosophy to positively impact student-athletes to lead to stellar results on the court.
“I love the challenge,” Davis remarked confidently. “The expectation is still high; we are still state champs and someone is going to have to take that from us.”
LeBron James signed a four-year deal with the Los Angeles Lakers in July. Shortly after, there was much speculation about where his son LeBron James Jr. nicknamed Bronny, would attend school. Most recently, it was announced that he committed to Crossroads as he enters the eighth grade.
Though Davis was tight lipped about the newest commit, it is unlikely that the program will see a reduction in attention any time soon. James Jr. will not be allowed to play varsity as an incoming eighth grader.
“It means a lot to me that I’m changing the culture here and that I have a position where I can change the whole west side of Los Angeles to be [of the] Mater Dei stature,” Davis surmised. After last season, it seems he is off to start necessary for his faithful journey towards that goal.