Joe Davis says he came up with the nickname "Old School" for Coach Brian Young, who ran the Kerrville Independent School District roundball program for 29 years before retiring. Now Davis is stepping into Young's shoes as the head boys basketball coach.
"Everywhere I've coached, I've been the youngest," he says. "I've learned a lot of core principles from all the other coaches I've worked with, and I'll be applying those lessons, with a little twist of my own."
Davis says being in charge of the KISD basketball program involves wearing many hats, mentor, counselor, teacher, father-figure, leader, listener, and others most people wouldn't think of. He will be teaching physical education, coaching the varsity basketball team, and managing the middle school programs that are the foundation on which Tivy basketball is built.
"We graduated a team of fine young men in 2020," he says. "I had the privilege of watching them grow and develop from the fifth grade on. We wanted to help each one to be the best version of himself. As they grew, we wanted them to learn to care for themselves and for others, and to develop a level of character so they are respected in the community. I think we succeeded."
He says, "We want players to understand that the game is about the team, not about themselves. It's about having the attitude of champions, of truth-tellers, even when the truth is hard to tell. That's how great teams win games, but it's also how boys grow into great men. It's a parallel to life, when they grow up to form their own 'teams.' Like when you get married and start a family, you and your spouse work as a team, not for yourself."
The example of family comes easily to Davis. He and his wife, Liberty, have their own team of three children to raise. Their son, Jordan, is six, and will be starting to Starkey Elementary in the fall. Daughters Jaylee, four, and Journey, two, round out their "squad."
"I take them everywhere," he says. "They're growing into gym rats, and the players treat them great. But what's interesting is that I can tell the difference between students who are used to being big brothers, and those who are the youngest in their family."
Davis gives a lot of credit to his own big brother. "I grew up with a single mother, but Michael Davis was seven years older, and he was my first mentor. He joined the Army after high school, walking off the stage at graduation right to the recruiter's office, but even when he couldn't be there for my high school games and other events, we wrote back and forth."
Davis says he was born in Dallas, and lived there for his first 10 years. Then his mother, Cynthia Washington, went blind. They moved to Temple, partially to care for Davis' grandmother.
He says another mentor was the basketball coach at Temple High School, Bruce Etheridge. Davis played basketball for Etheridge, and worked basketball camps under him. "I enjoyed working with younger kids, and coaching, and that's when I decided I wanted a career doing it."
When Davis was getting ready to graduate, in 2000, he says Etheridge told him about the perfect school for him; a family place, which would keep him focused on his studies. It was Ethridge's alma mater, Schreiner University.
Davis says Etheridge had played at SU with Thirman Dimery, a Tivy grad, who was then the SU basketball coach. "I remember when Bruce drove me down, and we got into the Hill Country, I saw my first deer. I was like, 'Look at that!' He said I'd get used to them."
"Schreiner did keep me focused," Davis says. "My freshman year I didn't have a car, so I couldn't go home. My mother didn't cut me any slack, either. She'd say, 'I get up every morning and cook and clean. If you want something, earn it.' She believed in the scripture from Philippians, 'I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.' So when my uncle, Ronnie Washington, had a car he was willing to sell, I worked all summer to buy it from him, before my sophomore year."
That was also the year Liberty Liesmann became a freshman at Schreiner, playing for the Mountaineers Women's Basketball Team, and they became friends.
Davis says while at SU he earned his bachelor of arts in exercise science, and teaching certification. Part of his teaching curriculum involved practice teaching and working at Tivy High School, under Young.
He says, "Getting ready to graduate college is scary, trying to think about what's next. Then Coach Young invited me to coach at Tivy. I asked him when I had to interview, and he taught me a lesson. 'Whatever you're doing, you're always interviewing.' He'd been watching me all along. So I accepted, and in 2006 started coaching football, basketball and track at Hal Peterson Middle School."
Four years later, in 2010, Greg Bagby was promoted to athletic director at Van Vleck High School in Matagorda County. He called and offered Davis a head basketball coach position. Davis says, "I talked it over with Coach Young, and he told me I had to go for a head coach position."
Davis says his love-of-basketball relationship with Liberty, who was teaching at HPMS and B.T. Wilson, had matured into another love, so they were burning up the 250 miles back and forth between his games, and camps he was teaching in Kerrville. In 2013 Davis returned to Kerrville and KISD, and they married on July 31.
Now Davis is taking over the Tivy basketball court, ready to teach his players a lesson he has learned. "It's good to be a great basketball player, but it's far better to be the greatest man you can be."