Chester Davis likes to spin a little humor into many of the things he says.
When asked why he has coached girls basketball at five different schools in Sussex County, he said, “My dad told me, ‘If you keep moving, they don’t get a good shot at you.’”
But he has reached a winning milestone at each stop. His 100th career victory came at Laurel. Win No. 200 came at Seaford. He reached 300 victories at Epworth Christian. Then 400 at Seaford Christian.
Davis has been coaching at Sussex Tech the last six seasons, and on Jan. 24 the 76-year-old got career win No. 500 with a 61-38 victory at Smyrna.
“It’s been 36 years,” Davis said with a chuckle. “It was a long, uphill battle.”
The Ravens are having their best year in Davis’ tenure, standing at 11-4 overall and 6-4 in the Henlopen North going into Thursday night’s game at Cape Henlopen.
“This year, we have a tremendous group of young ladies,” said Davis, who now owns a 504-273 career record. “Saturday mornings are volunteer [practices], they’re there. On a holiday, if we want to practice from 4 to 6, they’re there. They’re a committed crew.”
Sussex Tech has a balanced attack, with senior guard Rukiya Davis, junior guard Jayla Mullen, sophomore forwards Janiya Stevens and Mi’Cah Shelton and senior forward Kara Hignutt all capable of leading the team in scoring on any given night.
The highlight of the season so far came on Jan. 27. The Ravens had lost 47-36 at Sussex Central on Dec. 9, but turned the tables with a 52-42 home victory to break an 11-game losing streak against the crosstown rival Golden Knights.
“It was a great moment for us,” Davis said.
Sussex Central coach Ron Dukes said Davis’ teams are always difficult to play.
“They’re definitely going to be tough and aggressive on defense,” Dukes said. “They’re not going to be a team that’s going to give up. They’re going to come and fight for four quarters, no matter what the score is.”
Davis’ son, Justin, has been an assistant coach on his father’s staff the last 18 years, along with James Gschwandtner and John Street. Julia Tovar and Nikki Meredith played for Chester and have been assistants for the past five years.
But really, Justin’s coaching relationship with his father goes back much further.
“I’ve been in gyms with him, going to practice, since I was old enough to dribble,” Justin said. “The coaching part has been great. It’s been an excuse to hang out with my dad six days a week during the season, and we go year round during the summer.”
Chester has said this will be his final season as head coach, and Justin has transitioned to handling more responsibility over the last three years. He has gradually changed the Ravens’ attack.
“He has transformed us from a walk it up, three or four passes before you shoot offense to a man to man, run and gun,” Chester said. “We believe in playing quick.”
But Chester still has plenty of passion, sometimes directed to those wearing the striped shirts.
“If things aren’t going his way, they will call timeout,” Dukes said. “His son will talk to the girls, and he sits there and stares at the officials the entire timeout. And they won’t even look at him anymore. They kind of look at each other and look away, because they know he’s staring at them. It just becomes comical.”
Chester has enjoyed six 20-win seasons and six conference championships over the years. Justin will take over as the Ravens’ head coach next year, and he hopes to keep the coaching staff in place. Including a man with more than 500 wins under his belt.
“I don’t ever want him to leave, as long as I’m there,” Justin said. “And I don’t think it’s in him to not be in the gym. Whatever say I will have next year, he’s going to have whatever role he wants. We definitely want him around. The kids do, the coaching staff sure does.”
Contact Brad Myers at email@example.com. Follow on Twitter: @BradMyersTNJ.