Team responds with playoff berth

By Dennis Knight

Mercury News 2/21/04


When the boys at Saratoga High take the basketball floor; they are playing for more than victories.  They are playing for their coach’s wife.

Kathleen Davey, 37, has been in a coma since Jan. 24, when she went into cardiac arrest while exercising at home.  Doctors have told Mike Davey that his wife’s chances of survival are slim.

“The doctors aren’t sure what happened; she doesn’t smoke, drink or have a family history of heart problems,” said Davey, whose father, Dick, is the men’s basketball coach at Santa Clara University.  “They didn’t give her any chance to live through the first night, but she keeps hanging on and beating the odds.”

After dedicating the season to her, Davey’s players won five of their next six games, including a victory over first-place Mountain View, to clinch a spot in next week’s Central Coast Section playoffs.

“We realize that we’re on of the only good things going for him right now and if we do well, it makes his life a little better,” senior guard Aron Mitsunaga said.

Mike and Kathleen, college sweethearts at SCU were married in 1992.  In 1993 Mike was named head coach at Saratoga.  The couple has two daughters: Samantha, 6, and Rachael, 4.

Since his wife became ill, Mike has missed just one game, the victory over Mountain View.  He spends most of his time at the hospital, where he sees his father nearly every day.

“Kathleen’s father died last year, and my dad has been like a father to her,” Mike Davey said.

“I never saw him cry for 35 years.  Now there’s not a day I have not seen him crying.”

“I’m not in his shoes, Dick Davey said.  ‘I’m on the outside looking in.  Mike has held up as well as can be expected.  It’s the hardest thing that any of us have ever had to live through.

“Every once in a while you go through a crisis that makes you realize that some things you take for granted and are a lot more important.  You get shocked into the reality of what life is really about. Both our families have been awakened by this. It’s hard to come up with words; it’s been devastating, but we’re trying to hang in and be supportive.”

A graduate of Cupertino High School, Kathleen Davey works for the law firm Wilson, Sonsini, Goodrich, and Rosati

Mike Davey said his wife is a fitness enthusiast who can do nine pull-ups and run five miles with ease.

“She is in better shape than a lot of guys on the team,” said Davey, 35. “She brings our daughters to weekend games and is close with all the parents. She’s the type of person who is the best friend of six people. She has that kind of spirit.”

Kathleen was at home with the girls exercising when she became ill. Samantha dialed 911, and emergency personnel were able to restart Kathleen’s heart before rushing her to the hospital.

Davey has missed most of the team’s practices to be with his wife, and assistant coach John Bennett has filled in.

“I don’t know how he is out here at all,” Bennett said. “It’s an inspiration to see him go through something like this and coach. Whenever I have tough times in my life, it’s something I can look back on and remember how he handled it.”

Davey handles it with a lot of help. Meals are brought to the home by members of the team. Former players have called and visited. Offers to babysit have come from students.

“How something like this could happen to her, I don’t have an answer for that,” Mike Davey said. “But the outpouring of support from the community has been wonderful. That has meant so much to our family and tells you everything about the Saratoga community.”

Dick Davey said he understands how his son is coping through coaching.

“I told Mike I might have missed a few games,” he said, “but his thinking is that Kathleen would want us to stay involved in what we’re doing.”

For Mike Davey, coaching relieves the tension of his daily hospital visits.

“I feel like I have so little control when I’m with her,” he said. “But when I’m with the team I feel like I have some control. You can control the effort that you put into the game, try to develop strategy and motivate your players.”

Before each game, the players, with the name “Davey” stenciled on their shoes, huddle around their coach. By the time the break, there isn’t a dry eye to be found.

“I tell them that Kathleen is fighting for her kids, her family, and her friends,” Davey said. “And if they can learn a lesson by fighting as hard as she is when they play, they can take that and apply it to the rest of their lives. It means a lot to me to see them give their best effort. I’m proud of them, and I know Kathleen would be, too.”


----- Contact Dennis Knight at or (408) 920-5899.