Celebrating 40 years: Rupp Arena, an ‘icon’
Anthony Epps has been a leader most of his life. Tim Davis, his head coach at Marion County High School in the early 1990s, could see a career in coaching for the future University of Kentucky star well before he could drive.
“You probably could have told that about him when he was in middle school,” Davis said. “He was such a leader with his athletics even at a young age and all through high school. He had his mind set that he was gonna be successful when he was in high school, that he was gonna get out of the rut and make something out of himself.”
Back then, it might have been harder to predict Tuesday’s announcement: Davis, the head coach at Campbellsville High School, would retire from the position and hand the reins over to Epps the same day.
Davis said that’s been the working assumption for the last few years — “I actually thought it was gonna happen a little sooner than this” — since Epps resigned from the Marion County girls’ head coaching job ahead of the 2015-16 school year to come to Campbellsville for a full-time special education teaching job. He was an assistant under Davis that first year on campus before taking the girls’ head coaching job at Campbellsville beginning in 2016-17. Epps in the last three seasons coached the girls’ team to a 40-48 overall record and its only 5th Region Tournament berth since 2002.
Things played out so that Davis, also the school’s athletics director, stayed on a little while longer. Davis last season became the 26th boys’ coach in state history to reach the 600-win mark, and he’s retiring with a record of 601-448 across his stints at Marion County and Campbellsville.
That first stop was kind to Davis. Wins were lean the first couple of seasons in the mid-80s, but at the turn of the decade came a talented group that included Epps. They led the Knights to back-to-back 5th Region titles and the 1993 Kentucky Sweet Sixteen championship. Epps signed with UK, where he eventually started for Rick Pitino as part of the the 1996 national championship team.
Davis never coached in another Sweet Sixteen — Campbellsville’s best shot of making its first trip since 1973 came in 2010, when it fell by three points to North Hardin in the 5th Region finals — but winning one so early in his career kept ring-chasing off his mind and made player — and human — development much more important.
“Maybe I wasn’t the best basketball-knowledge coach, but maybe I helped point them in the right direction, let ’em know what life’s about and helped ’em prepare for it,” Davis said.
His most famous pupil has most taken to hear Davis’ passion for learning and love for the game.
“When I was in middle school and was following the high school team at Marion County, and then when I got there, he always trying to get better as a coach, year in and year out,” Epps said. “He’s done it for 30-plus years and every year you could tell he still wanted to get better at what he does.”
Epps is eager to fill his former coach’s shoes.
“He helped teach me the game and got me to where I am now. I owe a lot to him, so, there’s gonna be a little pressure, but I like the pressure and the challenge of following in his footsteps,” Epps said. “I just hope I can do a good enough job that he can be satisfied, cause he’s got a lot of belief in me.”
Having faith in Epps has worked out well for Davis in the past. The latest play he’s drawn up for him is his favorite one yet.
“As much as he’s done for me to help my career be successful, I’m just very proud and honored to see him take over,” Davis said. “… That’s the pinnacle of my career, him being able to do that.”