By Mike Max

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Tommy Davis loves to teach basketball, much the same way he loved to play it when he arrived in Minnesota from Baltimore in 1981.

He played here, left here, and now he’s back for a high school opportunity in the city.

Thirty-six years ago, he was making his name as a Gopher.

“That’s probably some of the best years of my life,” he said. “I met friends for life.”

One of those friends was the person he backed up as a freshman — a first-round pick named Trent Tucker.

“He played a lot of minutes for us, because back then Jim Dutcher would go to three guards,” Tucker said. “When he came in, we just knew that he was going to be a terrific player.”

It brings this story full circle — Trent moves on to become the Minneapolis Public Schools athletic director and helps Washburn athletic director Reggie Perkins land Davis as the boys’ basketball coach.

“We’re excited to have him as our coach,” Perkins said. “I know our kids really respond to him well, they love having him, so we’re excited.”

And that admiration on the team goes both ways.

“These kids work hard, they just need structure, just like a lot of the teens. They just need a lot of structure, a lot of discipline,” Davis said.

After 30 years in France as a player and coach, he came back to Minnesota at the urging of his son. He’s in his element — trying to build a basketball program in the city he left, though it never left him.

“I love it, I really do,” Davis said. “I don’t know if I’ll ever leave again. I knew that Minneapolis would be the place I’d come back to, and how can you not love Minneapolis?”

He’s been a professional coach, so this is a new level — or, as he sees it, a new challenge.

“I’m not here just for wins and losses, I’m here to try and help create men,” Davis said.

He’s back with a teammate who is still his role model.

“He’s the one that I always wanted to be like, because he was in my position,” Davis said. “Definitely my mentor.”

He’s here with a purpose beyond basketball.

“A good coach makes a difference in games, a great coach makes a difference in life, and that’s what I want to do,” Davis said. “I want them to win games, but after that I want them to go out into the world and say, “Coach Davis made a difference in our life.'”

He’s back coaching for an athletic director in Perkins that was a great player himself, and he’s back coaching for his mentor — Trent Tucker.

He’s even conjuring up images of his own silky-smooth jump shot, which leaves only one question: Who, of the three of them, still has the best game?

“For sure, me!” Tucker said.

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