The new athletics director at Davidson College landed a shot to get on the school’s basketball team in a pickup game, thinks the football program will improve this season, and had the seating chart at his wedding reception set up like an NCAA basketball tournament bracket.
Chris Clunie also gets advice when he visits The Egg at Davidson cafe, wants to improve the college’s football facilities, and – mostly – says he is excited to “tell the story” of Davidson College.
Clunie, 34, was introduced Monday to some of the faculty, administration, athletes and supporters in a campus gathering.
In that crowd were the school’s president, Carol Quillen; its most famous coach, basketball’s Bob McKillop; the former athletic director, Jim Murphy, who retired earlier this summer after nearly 25 years on the job; and Clunie’s wife of nearly two years, Lauren.
Clunie is a 2006 Davidson graduate who was a walk-on with McKillop’s basketball team. He played pro ball briefly, worked for a year with the San Antonio Spurs, then landed a position with the NBA. Most recently, he was the NBA’s director for international basketball operations.
“It’s been quite a ride,” Clunie said Monday. “But something that never left me was a gnawing feeling of getting back to Davidson. This school has a great story to tell.”
He was a Terry Scholar at Davidson and said he loves the college’s emphasis on both academics and athletics.
“He lives a life of leadership and service,” Quillen said. “He knows what matters at Davidson.”
So here’s a little about the man who now oversees the 21 athletic teams at Davidson College:
Football: Wildcat football has struggled in recent years, but Clunie said he is excited with new head coach Scott Abell. “The way he has approached the season, the way he works with his players makes it clear to me that Coach Abell is a great person,” Clunie said. “I know we’ll be successful.”
When asked Monday by a school supporter about the aging football stadium, Clunie responded, “That’s high on our radar.”
Getting advice: Clunie said he is listening to everyone and trying to engage the Davidson community in creative thinking. He said a patron at the The Egg at Davidson asked him Monday morning about possible improvements to athletic facilities. “I want everyone to be involved,” he said.
His spot on the basketball team: “I was really a Division 3 player, but when I got the (academic) scholarship to Davidson, I decided to take a shot,” he said. He went to a pickup game where team members were playing, and former Wildcat standout Logan Kosmalski gave him his spot in a game. Clunie played well enough to be invited to a tryout, where he impressed McKillop.
“He was one of those guys scrapping it out every day, working to help make everybody better,” associate athletic director Scott Applegate recalled.
That tournament “bracket”: Clunie laughed when the subject was raised Monday. “We wanted to incorporate our life interests into our wedding,” he said. “Basketball is one of mine.” Clunie said he still has that seating chart/bracket.
Another bit of trivia from his wedding. “I played a Wedding Day pickup game here (Davidson),” Clunie said. “I had a 10-foot radius around me, because I didn’t want to get hurt on my wedding day.” He and his wife were married in Mooresville.
Steve Lyttle on Twitter: @slyttle