I will admit, I was a little intimidated every time I interviewed Marc Davidson.
He looked intimidating, right? Davidson was a former athlete, a 6-6 basketball player at Illinois under Lou Henson who transferred to Trinity International University in Deerfield, Ill., Where his no. 44 jersey is retired. After playing professionally in France, he transitioned his competitive fire to Strongman competitions.
Even into his 40s, Davidson – with his crew cut and stern face when coaching – looked like he could step on to the set of “Gladiator” as an extra with no problem. He was physically imposing. Powerful.
But I had no idea just how powerful Davidson was until I got to know him better the past two years. Davidson, who died Monday after a battle with cancer, was dealt a cruel hand. He and his wife, Lisa, have seven children. Davidson could have stepped away from coaching when he was diagnosed with cancer in October of 2020 – or certainly after the 2020-21 season, when he led his Blackhawk Christian team to a second state championship in three years (he was 227-70 overall in 11 seasons coaching in Indiana, including nine at Blackhawk Christian).
Stepping aside:Blackhawk Christian coach Marc Davidson steps down due to ongoing cancer battle
Stepping in:Former IU sharpshooter Matt Roth hired as Blackhawk Christian coach
We talked about his cancer in March of 2020 while sitting in the gym at Blackhawk Christian after practice. I had gotten to know him a little bit over the years, mostly covering the team when they came to the area with teams led by 2021 Mr. Basketball Caleb Furst or when the program made it to the state finals.
I think we talked about the team and Furst’s Mr. Basketball chances for a few minutes before I ventured into his health situation – and that’s when I got to know the real Marc Davidson.
“The most-frequently given command in the scriptures is ‘fear not,'” Davidson said as we sat there in the Blackhawk Christian gym. “It’s all throughout the Bible. The more I read through the scriptures, the more I understand God is with me. He’s never going to leave me. “
Davidson’s faith was unwavering. There was tension, obviously, too. He wanted more time with his wife and family. More time to coach. He felt there was more for him to do. I think that’s why Davidson continued to coach until – or really, after – he was physically able to do so.
At that point, even though he had lost 30 pounds, he still looked like the physically imposing person he always had been. But his rare form of cancer (renal epithelioid angiomyolipoma) was aggressive. There was no real way to treat it. But after the sectional game against Bluffton near the end of the 2020-21 season, Bluffton coach Karl Grau asked if it would be OK for both teams to come together to pray for Davidson.
That scene became one that replayed often as Blackhawk made its run to a state title in 2021 and this past season. Davidson would ask the opposing coach if he could share his message after games. They always agreed.
“It’s inspiring to see my dad as such an inspiration for others,” said his son, Marcus Davidson, near the end of the 2020-21 season. “He was always like Superman to me growing up. He’s still that hero to me. You realize there are hardships in life and he’s facing them head on. “
I agree with Marcus. I always walked away from an interaction with Davidson feeling like I was better for just being around him. It always amazed me he could look at his future, knowing the inevitability of what was going to happen to him, and still have that faith to pour into others like he did. It would have been easier, and understandable, to rest at home than continue to coach.
The last time I saw Davidson in person was when Blackhawk Christian traveled to Tindley for a game Feb. 5. I got there right before tipoff and ended up sitting next to his son, 11-year-old Isaiah, who was recording the game on an iPad. Davidson was physically weakened and had spent some of the bus ride lying down on the floor. But he stood almost the whole game, questioned a few calls and led his team to a hard-fought victory.
Davidson had already stepped away from his teaching duties at that point. He was hopeful a new medication would chip away at his cancer. But again, I was amazed with his honesty and his faith. He admitted he did not know if he would live to see the state tournament – just a month away. Yet here he was, riding the bus four hours round trip on a Saturday to coach a basketball game.
“I have good days and bad,” he said. “The cancer is still spreading, unfortunately. I will tell you my spirits are great. The body is falling apart. That’s kind of the reality of where it’s at right now. But you know the Lord continues to sustain me every day. One of my favorite preachers says, ‘He gives you the strength you need for the fight you have got to fight.’ It’s a fight, but He is giving me strength every day. “
I checked in with him several times after that. He always responded, as recently as Thursday. “Physically not good,” he wrote. “In the last days here. Still fighting in the power of Jesus! ” He followed it with three emojis – a fist, a flexed arm and the number “100.”
I smiled at that when I saw it Thursday and again Monday after Blackhawk Christian posted the news of his passing. Davidson deserved more time. But the little time he did have left, he used to touch as many people in the basketball community as he possibly could.
We’re all better for having known Marc Davidson.
Call Star reporter Kyle Neddenriep at (317) 444-6649.