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Davidson's new athletics director brings global view to campus
Chris Clunie looks to build Wildcats brand
 
Published Monday, July 23, 2018 7:16 pm
by Ashley Mahoney | The Charlotte Post

DAVIDSON — Chris Clunie brings cautious ambition to Davidson athletics.

Clunie, who took over for Jim Murphy effective July 1, brings the Maryland native back to campus 12 years after his time there as a Terry Scholar and later a Watson Fellow.

“Immediately after Davidson, Chris earned a Watson Fellowship, which allowed him to travel virtually around the world, studying the impact of basketball in different cultural contexts,” Davidson President Carol Quillen said.

Clunie received a full-academic ride to the private liberal arts college, and secured a spot as a basketball walk-on. Since then, he worked as an executive in NBA international operations and 10 years and 40 countries later, he’s back in Davidson with a mission to make the entire athletics department a national brand.

“I’m big on building consensus, and empowering people,” said Clunie on Sports Charlotte, The Post’s podcast. “I want folks to feel like they have a shared equity in what we’re doing. If people aren’t bought into what we’re doing, it doesn’t make sense. They need to feel like they’re a part of this. We understand who we are, what we are at our core, what our identity is as an athletic program, but we are bold enough, and sort of cautiously ambitious enough to say, ‘hey, where do we need to be flexible? Where do we need to be adaptable? Where can we make changes that provide the value we’re looking for?’ If we sort of approach it from that perspective, we’ll be fine.”

Davidson played in the Southern Conference during Clunie’s time there as an athlete. The Wildcats moved to the Atlantic 10 Conference in 2014-15, with the basketball program winning the regular season crown and advancing to the NCAA tournament with the program’s first at-large bid. Clunie called that move a “game changer,” but emphasized that such success must spread throughout the school’s 21 sports.

“It’s continuing to provide the support and the resources to help our teams and the athletic program not just be competitive, but to win at this level,” he said. “We know we’re going to be competitive. We’ve already been successful, but in order to level the playing field to where we’re no longer in the Southern Conference, but in the Atlantic 10, and we’re no longer just local, but more national in our scope, and what we’re doing as an athletic program. Being able to provide the resources and the facilities and the investments that will recruit and retain the best coaches in the nation, recruit and retain the best student athletes in the country, and provide the opportunities here so that the student athlete experience, the coaching experience, the overall athletic program experience is second to none—that’s going to be our biggest challenge, and it’s something that we’re up to.”

Basketball coach Bob McKillop, who is heading into his 30th season, and former Wildcats guard Steph Curry embody the epitome of a player-coach national success story. While Clunie may be his former coach’s boss, McKillop’s mentorship remains constant.

“He’s always had a big influence and impact on my life when I was here, but even more so when I left,” Clunie said.

McKillop proved instrumental in helping Clunie establish contacts during the required year abroad for the Watson Fellowship.

“The standard of excellence that he demanded from his players and from me while I was here, really provided me with the discipline and the approach that I sort of continue today,” Clunie said. “He didn’t let us sacrifice anything. There were no excuses. He has all these sayings, and these witty aphorisms, ‘get better every day. TCC: trust, commitment, care. Sloppiness is a disease.’ These things, I hated them when I was here, but they just stick with you. You ask any of his former players—they stick with them. You hear them all the time. It wasn’t just about basketball. It was about life, and he prepared us for life.”

 

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