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New Cage Coach Has Tough Act to Follow

June 18, 1987|SCOT BUTWELL

The Bob Davidson basketball era at Glendale High School begins this week with the start of summer league competition, and with it comes the end of the golden Steve Keith era--golden as in championships.

Davidson knows he has a tough act to follow. Keith, in 10 years as head coach, fashioned two CIF championships, five Pacific League titles and was involved in the playoffs for eight years.

Davidson was Keith's right-hand man and junior varsity coach for eight years. When Keith resigned to take the head basketball coaching job at Irvine High School, Davidson was elevated.

With only one losing season on the junior varsity level, during his first season, Davidson plans no major changes.

"I know coaching with Steve helped me and I will be doing the same thing he believed in," Davidson said. "The only change will be in personalities. Our basketball philosophies are similar."

Does Davidson feel pressure to continue Glendale's winning tradition?

"There are two ways to look at it," he said. "If you take over a program without tradition, there is a pressure to build a winning program. And if you take over a program with tradition, there is pressure to maintain it."

To Keith, the switching of jobs is simply a matter of changing family life styles.

"It is a nice place where we would like to raise our family. It has nothing to do with Glendale basketball," Keith said. "Glendale is becoming a metropolis. And Irvine is becoming what Glendale used to be: a working-class, quiet place to raise kids. These traditional values are a big part of me." Keith and his wife, Jan, have two children, Lauren, 6, and Brian, 4.

Keith's move came as no surprise to his colleagues. But many, like Crespi Coach Paul Muff, thought he would go to the college ranks.

"I'm surprised he hasn't moved into a collegiate coach position," Muff said. "He could easily coach with guys I've see at the small college and major college level. He knows the game and few can teach it better."

But Keith said no one has contacted him about collegiate coaching and if someone did, he would probably say his family is a higher priority.

"During a coaching career, you hit a fork in the road," Keith said. "You can become a graduate assistant at the college level and progress higher, get the hands-on college coaching experience. Or, you can become a high school coach.

"Sometimes my ego says I wish I'd taken that path (collegiate coaching)."

After playing four years of basketball at Cal State Northridge, Keith coached Hoover High's junior varsity for five years, then became Glendale's head coach.

His first team finished 6-15, his only losing season. "My eyes opened up. A little humility makes you a better coach."

His second team was league champ and in 1981 Keith coached the Nitros to the CIF 2-A championship. A 4-A championship followed in 1985 as the team went 28-0, the only Glendale area basketball team to go undefeated for a season.

"The '85 season was a dream. That's when people started to respect Glendale and we moved up to play with the big boys. We were 53-0, including summer league, but what really impressed me was that the 11 kids had a combined grade-point average of 3.3."

Rich Grande, now playing for USC, was point guard of the '85 team. Grande is one of three Keith players who have played on the college level. In other terms, Keith hasn't had ultra-talented players.

"That's what impresses me the most about Steve," Muff said. "He has the knack of making mediocre kids into a championship team."

Keith faces a new challenge at Irvine.

"You get to the point where you don't want to duplicate the past. You need a new environment to stimulate you. I'm excited about Irvine. I'll be happy to accomplish half of what I did at Glendale."

Lots of coaches in the Glendale area wish Keith the best but are not unhappy to see him go.

Count Keith's younger brother, Russ, in that category.

Russ Keith has coached Burbank to four Foothill League championships in five years but is 0-8 against his brother.

So it isn't a surprise that Russ says, "I'm glad to see him leave."

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