Dayton Flyers great Johnny Davis speaks to team

Johnny Davis at UD Arena on Saturday. David Jablonski/Staff

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Johnny Davis at UD Arena on Saturday. David Jablonski/Staff

Longtime NBA coach returns to UD Arena for first time in 40 years

One of the Dayton Flyers’ all-time great men’s basketball players returned to UD Arena on Saturday for the first time in 40 years.

Johnny Davis, a 6-foot-1 guard from Detroit, scored 1,562 points for UD from 1973-76. A 10-year playing career in the NBA followed, and then he moved into coaching and spent more than two decades in the NBA. He was the head coach of the Philadelphia 76ers in 1995-96 and the Orlando Magic from 2003-05. He last coached with the Los Angeles Lakers as an assistant in 2013-14 and is now semi-retired, he said, and living in Asheville, N.C.

Davis’ basketball career made it hard for him to return to UD since his playing career ended. He spoke to the team on Friday and attended the 2 p.m. game Saturday against East Tennessee State. UD Arena, which opened not long before his playing career began, didn’t look that much different.

“The floor is different,” Davis said. “We were on the tartan floor when I played. The arena looks very similar. I know there have been some changes. But the spirit of the school itself and the arena here, you can just feel it. I’ve been in a lot of gyms, been in a lot of arenas, seen a lot of fans. The fan base here at the University of Dayton is as good as I’ve seen anywhere.”

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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Johnny Davis, who played for Flyers from 1973-76, seeing a Dayton game in person for first time since his playing career.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Davis said he talked to the Flyers about “how important team chemistry is and how important it is that they stay connected and that the good teams rise above all the obstacles that are placed in front to them. They don’t do it individually. They do it collectively. They do it as a group, as a unit. As long as they stay true to that, then the sky’s the limit for them, and who knows how far they can go.”

Davis met coach Archie Miller for the first time Friday.

“I think the chemistry here is good,” Davis said. “They’re absolutely well coached. The coach understands even though you have talent, that talent has to be connected. He does a marvelous job. I watched practice yesterday. He was really good. It was a treat. He’s as good as any I’ve seen. It’s the first time getting a chance to meet and talk with him. Just his demeanor in the practices and how he conducts his practices, he is absolutely one of the best coaches I’ve seen.”

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