DETROIT — Detroit has a rich history of sports tradition, and now has one of its most successful former athletes back in the mix. Detroit ISD recently hired Da’on Savage, a former standout athlete and a member of the community with deep ties, to take over as the head basketball coach of the boys varsity basketball team.
“I’ve wanted to do this since the seventh grade when I had Jimbo Chadwick as a basketball coach at Crockett Middle School — that’s what made me want to be a coach,” Savage said. “Then when I got into high school, I felt like I was kind of a player coach. I would tell Coach (Billy Mack) Steed things I would see on the court, so it was just obvious to me — it was a no-brainer.”
Savage said Detroit High School athletic director Jeff Allensworth informed him that his name came up a few times, and he eventually gave Savage a call asking if he was interested, which ultimately led to the new hire.
For Savage, Detroit basketball has close ties to he and his family. Savage played sports at a high level Detroit High School, and his family has been instrumental in more ways than just the athletic history of the area.
“You have to go back to the ’50s and ’60s before integration, where I had cousins play during that time,” Savage said. “My parents and uncles played in the ’70s and ’80s and my cousins and I played in the ’90s — Detroit basketball is synonymous with Savages. All of this coming full circle is just something that makes perfect sense, and it’s something I get teary-eyed just thinking about it — it just really does something to me.”
Along with the strong ties he and his family have to the community, Savage knows the great ones who came before him. With that, he wants to be able to follow their example to get where he wants he and the players of this program eventually want to be — back on top.
“I want to emulate Dennis Rundles, who got it started in the ’60s and ’70s,” Savage said. “Then there was Thomas Moffitt that took Detroit to regionals several times, and in the ’90s Randy Carlisle broke several scoring records. Then there was Billy Mack (Steed) who elevated the program when he was here. I just want to reach the level of greatness those guys achieved and put Detroit back on the map.”
The drive and the vision are there, and Savage isn’t just jumping into the coaching realms on dream and desire alone. He mentioned how Paris High School head football coach Steven Hohenberger allowed him to sit in on practices to see what coaching high school sports really is all about, which he said was invaluable to him. In addition to that, Savage recalls how coaches like Jerry Baker, his high school football coach, and his father Todd Savage were people who have motivated him throughout his life, including his dreams of being a coach.
Along with these individuals, there are others who see the potential in Savage as a successful coach.
Living up to greatness is a goal for Savage. While he does feel the pressure, he also is motivated by the opportunity as well.
“I’m both excited and enthusiastic about starting, but I also want to make sure so badly that we are great,” Savage said. “We’ve got two or three top-10 teams in our district, which puts a lot of pressure on us, but we will be up to the challenge.”
Savage is looking to put his stamp on the program, and while big things can come, he plans to keep his philosophy in his first season simple but effective.
“I can only guarantee two things: we’re going to play hard and we’re going to be gentlemen,” Savage said. “For myself, I just want myself and the boys to get better as we go.”
Savage was a highly accomplished basketball player during his time at Detroit High School. He posted career per-game averages of 20.8 points, 11 rebounds and 2 blocks. In total, he scored 2,160 points, pulled down 1,571 rebounds and swatted away 670 shots in his four-year career. He also collected several awards during his basketball-playing days, including All-RRV Newcomer of the Year honors as a freshman, First-Team honors in both his sophomore and junior years and was named All-RRV Most Valuable Player in his senior season. He was named the MVP of his district in his final three seasons, and was the top newcomer of the district his freshman year.
Savage is the son of Todd and Shekila Savage and has a brother, Michael Savage. His son, Kobe Savage, was a recent graduate of Paris High School who had a highly successful athletic career that he is resuming on the football field at Texas A&M-Commerce.