Johnny Davis and the art of everlasting cool

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Johnny Davis has skated.

“When I was a kid growing up in Detroit, sometimes the firemen would spray water on a spot in a park and the kids would skate on it,” he said.

It’s not hard to imagine the Raptors lead assistant gliding along the ice.

Everything Johnny Davis does, everything he touches it seems, is cool.

Johnny Davis oozes cool. Just how he does it isn’t hard to see. He listens. He smiles. He speaks deliberately with an aim not to be heard but to be understood.

These are superb faculties in human beings and often rare commodities in professional coaches. Assistant coaches, a fraternity that has included Johnny Davis almost since the day he retired as a player from his fourth NBA team 25 years ago, are teachers. Head coaches are principals.

Davis has the easy countenance of an assistant coach. He needn’t worry about being fired. A terrific track record working with young players and contacts through the league mean he need never risk unemployment. He has been a head coach in Philadelphia and Orlando. Having served that penance, he is free to work at will.

The numbers favor the assistant coach. Each team deploys at least four and while their star is linked to the head guy they often outlive him.

The Raptors will have ample need for Johnny Davis’s radiant cool. A compressed schedule means players who carry towel scars on their neck into the summer will get a real chance at meaningful work.

Games will be won or lost earlier and streaks, both the good and bad, will test the bearings of young players such as DeMar DeRozan, Jerryd Bayless and Ed Davis. A premium on defence and the arrival of accomplished defensive players, headed by ball hawking guard Anthony Carter and veteran pivot Jamaal Magloire means players whose defense has in the past been found wanting, Jose Calderon and Andrea Bargnani come to mind, could be the subject to a much more volatile version of a rotation.

All of which means Johnny Davis’ brand of earnest cool and even nature will be a hot commodity this winter.

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