Six years into her time as an assistant coach at Oklahoma State, Ashley Davis was comfortable.
Sure, coaches had called before trying to lure her to their schools, but she always turned them down.
Then she got a call from UA coach Adia Barnes.
“There was just something about Arizona, and Coach Adia that I just felt like I just couldn’t turn it down,” she said. “So when I got the call from her saying that she was interested in speaking with me about her open position, I just knew if I was to get offered this job, I was taking it.”
On June 24, Davis accepted Barnes’ offer and joined the UA coaching staff. She replaces by April Phillips, who left for Texas just a few months after being hired. Davis will work with Arizona’s forwards and center after coaching guards at OSU.
Davis wasn’t an easy get. She says she’s the type of person who stays in one place for a while, most likely because of her upbringing as part of a military family. Her father, Lynwood, moved the family frequently when she was younger, finally settling in San Antonio.
Davis coached at Georgetown for four years and spent a few years as North Texas before joining the staff at Oklahoma State.
“I had pretty much the time of my life, and that was a place where I really didn’t see myself leaving for any particular reason,” Davis said. “I do like to stay places. I’m a very loyal person. I would say that I love to leave things better than I found it. Now, it’s going to be hard to top that here but, I think it’s definitely possible. I know Coach Adia’s goal is to win a national championship. So that’s going to be my goal while I’m here. I think it can really happen.”
For Davis, Arizona represents the next step in her growth as a coach. And Barnes is the best mentor she could have.
“Obviously, Adia played here, so this is a special place for her in many different ways. She always tells people that she chose Arizona twice,” Davis said. “Just knowing that there were a lot of people after her this offseason, and she said ‘no’ to them and decided to stay here. She knows that this is a special place, and she is very passionate about making Arizona women’s basketball the best it can be.
“I can see that in everything that Adia does, everything that she says. How she acts, how she treats people in her program. …It’s really special and you can tell that’s in her. I think on top of that, making it to championship game, falling short, I think that drive hasn’t been increased even more. She wants to get back there. She believes that that we could win it here, and every single day in everything that she does, it says that she wants to get back there. She believes that we could do it, and her work ethic shows it every day.”
Davis grew up watching a lot of NBA and college hoops on TV as a kid, but didn’t grow up playing the sport.
One night, her dad watched her shooting the ball and hitting left-handed layups. It wasn’t long before Davis was playing organized ball.
“I started with the YMCA, and I was the tallest, best thing out there … dominating. It just took off and I loved it,” she said.
Davis played guard and forward at TCU, where she was a two-time All-Mountain West Conference team selection. As a senior, she participated in the College Slam Dunk and Three-Point Contest at the men’s Final Four. She was on the conference’s all-academic team and an Arthur Ashe Jr. Sports Scholar her senior year.
Davis graduated from TCU in 3 1/2 years, then earned a master’s in educational administration. This allowed her to be a substitute teacher while she was still in college.
Davis was initially interested in becoming a principal before pivoting to coaching. Davis said she wanted to help student-athletes grow as players and people.
As the most recent member of the UA coaching staff, Davis is settling into life in Tucson. She is gathering Mexican restaurant recommendations, and is preparing to walk into a packed McKale Center.
She says she’s still getting used to the fact that she is an assistant coach for a team that came within one shot of winning it all last spring.
“It’s surreal,” Davis said. “We play videos of the game and I have it recorded so I go back and since I’ve been here, I’ve watched that game. I was thinking where I was when I was watching that game. Now, to be sitting in an office on campus, part of this program I think surreal is just the perfect word for that.
“I had promised myself that I’m going to take advantage of this opportunity, because there are probably thousands of other coaches who would have wanted this position, who were interested in this position. And out of all of those people, Coach Adia choose me. That is the ultimate sign of being blessed.”