Since he was in middle school, Baltimore Catholic League and MIAA/MSA basketball has been in Josh Davalli’s blood.
“The level of passion the players have left a mark on me,” said Davalli, who watched older brother Jake star at Calvert Hall in the late 1980s.
It’s the same desire the younger Davalli played with at Cardinal Gibbons. A few years later, he transferred that energy to the sidelines at Loyola Blakefield.
After nearly a quarter century as a player and coach, Davalli has decided to step away from the private school rigors. Last week, Davalli resigned as Loyola coach after 18 seasons.
“It was a tough decision, but I’m comfortable with it for a thousand reasons,” he said. “It’s the right time.”
The Dons, who were 10th in the final Baltimore Banner/VSN Top 15, finished 11-15 this past season. Davalli went 225-269 in 18 seasons, the second longest tenure in the Baltimore Catholic League/MIAA A behind Mount St. Joseph’s Pat Clatchey (31 seasons).
“Competing in the Catholic League and MIAA A Conference is tough,” said Davalli. “A lot of good coaches, a lot of good programs…There’s definitely parts of coaching I’m going to miss, competing against some of the best programs in the country.”
Davalli’s son, Noah, will be a 6th grader in Blakefield’s middle school in the next school year. He also has a daughter who’s in first grade.
“I’m looking forward to him (son) being part of the school. The early evenings will be nice and getting him home from school. There are some logistical things that will make it a lot easier for me as a parent.”
Davalli, who starred at Gibbons under legendary coach O. Ray Mullis, and played collegiately at Towson University, came to Loyola in 2002 as the junior varsity coach and varsity assistant to Baltimore basketball legend, Jerry Savage.
“Coach Mullis and Coach Savage had different coaching styles, but they both worked. They were successful but, more importantly, better people,” said Davalli, who was a varsity assistant and junior varsity coach at Fallston prior to Loyola. “They were both great fits and I hope I was a great fit at Loyola.”
Savage, who won 607 games and five Baltimore Catholic League regular season and tournament titles, retired after the 2002-03 season.
After one-year stints from Steve Baker and Mike Hibbs, Loyola turned to Davalli in 2005. The Dons reached the BCL Tournament final in 2009.
“They took a flyer on me in my mid-20s and learning the game. The stability is what the school needed at that time and trying to figure out how to be competitive,” said Davalli, who took Loyola to four BCL Tournament semifinals. “I didn’t do anything magical…we had five, six, seven really good years when I first got there. If nothing else, I tried to build on what Coach Savage had done during his time.”
In 2019, Davalli was voted the O. Ray Mullis recipient as the BCL Coach of the Year.
It was Davalli’s junior year with Mullis at Gibbons when he decided he wanted to coach after his playing days were done.
“Gibbons was a blue collar place you had to be tough,” said Davalli, who was a two-time All-BCL first-team selection (1995 and 1996) at the now-defunct Southwest Baltimore school. “The toughness our teams played with at Loyola came from the toughness I was taught at Gibbons.”
Davalli, who started his collegiate career at UMASS-Lowell before moving to Towson, focused on teaching his players the “next level” of basketball.
“In college, you got to execute, it’s not just the best player who always wins,” said Davalli. “The execution of what you’re trying to do on the floor is so important, especially when you get to the end of games and you’re playing really good teams. We really emphasized the details on how we needed to execute on both sides of the floor to be successful.”
Davalli’s best season at Loyola was the 2018-19 season (20-13). The Dons reached the MIAA A playoffs for the first time since the 2008-09 season and snapped a 20-game losing streak to Mount St. Joseph.
His 75 victories in BCL regular season play is tied for 9th all-time.
“I have a great deal of respect for Josh’s ability as a coach. His teams were always fundamentally sound and prepared to compete,” said Clatchey, who owns nearly every BCL coaching mark, including nine tournament championships. “He brought a sense of professionalism to our league.”
Davalli joked, “I’m not that old,” when discussing his years connected to the BCL and MSA/MIAA.
He’s looking forward to coaching his kids.
“I’ve had some good coaches and great kids (at Loyola) who’ve bought into what we’ve been trying to do and done to the best of their ability, which is all you can ask at the end of day,” said Davalli, who teaches Science at Loyola’s middle school. “I wanted to win every game we played, but at the end of the game, if we played to the best of our ability, I was pretty content with that.”