SHERIDAN — The Sheridan College athletics department named its replacement for Frank McCarthy as the head women’s basketball coach Monday.
Ryan Davis will take over for McCarthy, who announced his retirement earlier in the fall.
Sixty people applied for the position, and the athletics department narrowed the list down to eight phone interviews and five on-campus interviews before hiring Davis.
Davis comes to Sheridan after a season as assistant coach at Casper College, where the Lady Thunderbirds finished 22-9 and took third in the Region IX North conference.
The previous season was Davis’ seventh as an assistant coach, including two stints at Sheridan College. He was an assistant for Steve Smiley and the SC men’s basketball team in 2010-11 and came back to work for McCarthy and the women’s basketball team during the 2014-15 season.
The Lady Generals finished 25-7 in Davis’ year as assistant coach and spent a couple of weeks ranked in the top-25 national standings.
“You can win at Sheridan,” Davis said. “If you want to set up a program, I don’t know if I’d pick another setting. It’s second to none to me — the friends, coworkers, beauty, small-town feel. It has the people there to support you and hopefully support the team.”
After Davis’ year with the Lady Generals, he moved on to Division II Black Hills State University. The Lady Yellow Jackets went 21-8 and played two games in the DII national tournament with Davis as assistant.
Davis also spent time assisting at the University of Texas-Permian Basin. He called his seven years as an assistant preparation for the day he’d eventually take over as a head coach.
“I’m glad I spent seven years as an assistant at these different programs,” Davis said. “It helped me form my vision. Now, I get to put that blueprint to action.”
Davis also called Sheridan his second home — behind Kansas, where he grew up and went to school at the University of Kansas. He was also a manager with the Jayhawks men’s basketball program during his time at the school.
He noted the relationships he developed in his two years in Sheridan and credited both coaches he worked under for pushing him in the direction that eventually came back around to him being hired as SC’s head coach.
“The year I probably learned the most was with (Smiley),” Davis said. “He tried to do everything, in a good way. He’s obviously a tremendous coach; I had to help take stuff off his plate and had to excel at that. And if I hadn’t gotten the opportunity from (McCarthy), I probably never would have made the jump to women’s basketball. That fits my personality. I felt the impact I could have on the girls’ lives, and it was reciprocated. I’m not sure I would have stuck with it if not for that.”
Sheridan College athletics director Jenni Winter pointed to Davis’ passion and love for Sheridan as a major component in his hiring.
“He speaks so highly of his time at Sheridan College,” Winter said. “He really just loves Sheridan; it’s where he wants to be. His passion and energy will play an important factor in where the program goes. I can’t stress that enough; it’s really exciting for us.”
Davis points to three major keys in his coaching philosophy: preparing his players in basketball, school and life. Creating lasting relationships through his expectations in those three areas, he said, is what makes women’s basketball and the opportunity at Sheridan College the most exciting for him.
Winter said that philosophy tied in with what SC expects from its coaches and athletes.
“He has the personality to instantly build rapport,” Winter said. “Every reference I contacted unanimously said he’s ready to be a head coach. They all stood behind him and what he believes in.”
Davis and Winter both know there will be challenges for the new coach, but his excitement and experience in numerous programs also open plenty of doors for where the program can go.
Winter said he just needed a chance.
“I hadn’t had a lot of experience as an athletics director,” Winter said. “Somebody gave me a chance, and I think Ryan just needed that same chance.”
“I just don’t know if it can get any better,” Ryan said of Sheridan College. “Obviously there are varying factors at other places, but overall, you can really get some stuff done as a coach at Sheridan.
“It’s 100 percent the perfect fit for me.”