New Iowa women’s basketball Director of Player Development Tania Davis looks to endure relationships through trust

The former Hawkeye point guard has been reunited with head coach Lisa Bluder after graduating in 2019.


Lily Smith

Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder speaks to Iowa guard Tania Davis during the Iowa/Mercer NCAA Tournament first round women’s basketball game in Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Friday, March 22, 2019. The Hawkeyes defeated the Bears, 66-61.

Matt McGowan, Sports Reporter

Former Iowa women’s basketball player Tania Davis will never forget the words from her then-teammate Makenzie Meyer during the 2017-18 season.

“You definitely need to think about coaching because you’re really good at it,” Meyer told her.

Such simple advice clearly had an effect on Davis, who graduated from the UI in 2019 and became a graduate assistant at Clemson University.

After her time with the Clemson Tigers, Davis was named an assistant coach for the University of Nebraska — Omaha in 2021, where she enjoyed a two-year stint that included a trip to the Summit League Championship this past season.

Last month, Iowa women’s basketball announced Davis as its new Director of Player Development.

The former point guard returns to Iowa City, no longer guiding the offense on the court but instead helping players become the best versions of themselves through relationships built on trust.

Coaching and administration weren’t initially top of mind for Davis, who arrived at Iowa as a prized recruit out of Flint, Michigan. Davis was the all-time leader in points and assists at Goodrich High School and continued such production with the Hawkeyes, racking up 111 assists in 2015-16 and earning a spot on the Big Ten All-Freshman Team.

“I felt like after coming to college, I always wanted to play, whether that was in the WNBA, whether that was overseas, but I definitely always wanted to play professionally,” Davis said in an interview with The Daily Iowan. “The injuries were just always a setback for me.”

After her stellar first-year campaign with the Hawkeyes, Davis started 23 games her sophomore season before being sidelined from a right ACL tear. In a game against Northern Iowa her junior season, Davis tore her left ACL, limiting her to just 12 contests.

“After the first ACL, you know, I always kept hope alive,” Davis said. “And then the second ACL, it just became like, ‘I still want to play, don’t get me wrong, you know, but as long as I’m surrounded and in touch with the game of basketball, I’ll still be good.’”

During her time away from the court her junior season, Davis was a frequent visitor to the offices of head coach Lisa Bluder and assistant coach Jenni Fitzgerald. There, she learned the intricacies of the Hawkeye offense and Bluder’s in-game situation strategies and relayed this information to her teammates in the locker room.

Davis’ adjustment from player to coach that season was not lost on Meyer or the Hawkeye staff, who encouraged her to continue down the coaching path.

After making a quick connection with fellow Flint native and then-Clemson assistant coach Shimmy Gray-Miller, Davis wound up donning the Tiger Orange, pursuing a master’s degree in athletic leadership while on the women’s basketball staff as a graduate assistant.

Even though Davis said she provided some input during staff meetings, her role with Clemson was more confined to background work.

After being hired at Omaha, Davis said she was no longer at “the bottom of the totem pole,” but rather had an upfront role in scouting and recruiting, not to mention having to make tough choices regarding playing time.

“[My time at Omaha] taught me a lot — how to manage a team, different emotions, you know, making the right decisions for the team,” Davis said. “You know, the decision may not be the most popular decision or anything like that. But if it helps the benefit of the team, then that’s what you have to do.”

Aside from imparting her own knowledge of the game to her players, Davis learned to also take input from athletes. One of the Hawkeye athletes Davis will be directing will be graduate student and guard Kate Martin, who was teammates with Davis during the 2018-19 season. The pair stayed in contact after Davis graduated.

Another familiar face for Davis at Iowa will be Bluder, whom Davis still calls “Coach Bluder” out of habit, but also whom Davis labels as more of a listener than a talker.

“Making the transition is not as hard as I figured it would have been just because, as I said, that trust factor is there,” Davis said. “And so, if I open my mouth and I speak, whether it’s during a practice, during a meeting, or anything, she’s going to listen, trust, and hear me out just because she knows that I understand the game of basketball.”

Whether it’s with people such as Bluder or Martin, Davis wants to continue building relationships with her players that extend beyond the court and graduation.

“Just a relationship that’s just based off of, first and foremost, trust,” Davis said. “For me, the relationship that I want to build is that lifelong relationship that any of my players can call me any time of the day, now, or later on in life. We just talk just because they know that I genuinely care about them off the court way more than I care about them as a player on the court … Seeing them walk across the stage, get degrees, start new businesses, and start families, that’s something I genuinely care about.”