Racial incident from teen years inspired former Tiger student-athlete

Miah Davis

Bremerton High School basketball Coach Miah Davis '04.

 Photo by Meegan M. Reid / Kitsap Sun

Miah Davis has a three-word philosophy about life: “Win the Day.”

Davis ’04 (Communications) said his steady, every-day-is-important approach has helped him be successful in his roles as University of the Pacific student-athlete, professional basketball player, coach of his high school alma mater in Washington state, husband and father.

His focus on positivity, however, started in a most unusual place: a prison holding cell in his hometown of Bremerton, Wash., after he was wrongly accused of a drive-by shooting when he was a sophomore in high school.

“I cried when the police came to my house and arrested me, I cried all the way in the car, and I cried when I was in the holding cell,” Davis recalled. “I was exonerated. But what happened is a part of me for the rest of my life. It will never go away. But I still spend each day trying to be positive.”

Davis, now 39, said he did not share this story with many during his two years as a starting guard for University of the Pacific, where he helped lead the Tigers to a 2003-04 conference championship and a first-round NCAA Tournament victory.

Davis, his brother and a friend were on their way back from a video store when they had a minor traffic confrontation (but no vehicle impact) with another driver.

“We had our first Sega Genesis and NBA Jam had just come out so we went to Blockbuster Video to pick it up,” he said. “We went home and I didn’t really think anything about what had happened with the other driver. Then we heard a knock on the door and it was the police.”

The woman from the traffic incident, who was white, had told police that Davis, who is Black, was involved in a drive-by shooting. Police split up the three youths to question them and arrested Davis.

“I will never forget when one of the officers said ‘We got him.’ ” Davis said.

There were no eyewitnesses, or shell casings or any other evidence at the intersection.

Ultimately, the woman admitted in court that she made up the story. Her penalty: one day in prison, 80 hours of public service and a $250 fine.

“She made the whole thing up. I do think the incident was racial. But I will always remember how much community support I had in that courtroom,” Davis said. “When I was in jail, I told myself that this was a place I would never come back to. Never. It is the sort of thing that could have turned me in the other direction. I could have been upset and bitter.

“I grew up in the church. I have a strong faith. On the dollar bill it says ‘In God We Trust.’ I believe that God does not like ugly. I do not like that the incident happened. But it has made me a stronger person.”

Davis is a community leader who has spoken out against racial injustice after incidents in Minneapolis, Louisville, Kenosha, Wis., and elsewhere.

He told the Kitsap Sun newspaper: “There is nothing wrong with having uncomfortable conversations. The ugly truth is the best truth. I want to help the community realize that. Right now, there is momentum and a platform that can be used.”

At Pacific, Davis played for one of the university’s most successful teams as a senior during the 2003–04 season. He averaged 14.7 points per game for a team that finished with a 25-8 record and defeated Providence in the NCAA Tournament.

After graduating from Pacific, Davis played professional basketball in several countries including Poland, where he met his wife Sylvia. They have a son, Jalen, 12.

Davis now works as a general contractor and runs several community programs to help youth, in addition to coaching varsity basketball at Bremerton High School. Davis took his youth basketball team to Oakland for a tournament and made a side trip to Stockton to practice in the Janssen-Lagorio Gymnasium at Pacific.

“Coach (Damon) Stoudamire was so good and made them all feel at home,” Davis said. “That is the way I remember Pacific. Everyone there was so good to me during my two years—the professors, the coaches, the students. I have nothing but praise about my time there and I love to stay in touch with people.

“I am just going to keep trying to win the day.”