Barbra Streisand filled the October air and two gray, stuffed Schnauzers — in a plush dog bed — sat near the back door to the home. Mel Davis, at a towering 6’6′wore slippers and quickly explained how Streisand and Schnauzers were two of his loves. “I love Barbra,” he said “all her music, all her movies, everything… and the Schnauzers…” he snickered, “I had two real dogs (referencing the stuffed puppies) back when I played for the Knicks — Candy and Baron — now can you please remove your shoes?”
The home was immaculate. Not a thing out of place. Every oak floor throughout gleamed with Brazilian, maple or mahogany custom etching. The kitchen boasted Viking appliances throughout with a custom tile floor and the multi tiered wood deck and spa, directly off the kitchen, ideal for hosting parties. Mel Davis, selected fourteenth overall by the New York Knicks in the 1973 NBA Draft, it would become clear, held his share of events at this home in Montebello. A delightful, classic home built purposely for entertaining, “Yes, we enjoyed entertaining a lot here,” Mel explained.
Originally from Bedford-Stuyvesant Brooklyn, Mel wanted to be a veterinarian but St. John’s University, where he began his college career in 1970, did not offer a medical degree. Mel played for the Knicks with NBA stars such as Willis Reed, Clyde Frazier, Phil Jackson and Bill Bradley. He was ranked seventh on the St. John’s University all-time rebounding list after playing just two years on the team.
The 6’6” forward played in the NBA from 1973 to 1977 spending three successful seasons with the Knicks and one with the New York Nets. Mel went on to play five more seasons of basketball, overseas. He spent time in Italy, France and Switzerland before returning to the United States.
“When I played basketball in Italy,” Mel said, “my teammates would invite me to their homes for supper. The first time, I put ketchup on my spaghetti,” he smiled, “short of killing me they told me, mostly in Italian, that they would teach me to cook. And they certainly did!”
Thereafter, Mel purchased a cookbook in every town in Europe where he played ball and tried new recipes every week when he returned home. He cooks every chance he gets and admitted that his go-to meal is still meatballs and spaghetti but always with a homemade sauce. “In Italy,” he began “the refrigerators are small, you go to the market everyday and buy what is fresh, I loved that –what a healthy way to eat and a great way to enmesh yourself in the culture.”
When Mel and his wife built this home the kitchen details were very important to them. “I have been living in Suffern for thirty-one years,” he said, “twelve years ago when we built here I walked every single lot and chose this particular one, we were the first house built besides the model.” Mel was at the construction site everyday going over every last detail with the builder. His wife’s friend, a builder in Greenwich is where they got many of their custom detail ideas.
If you live in Rockland County and your child loved basketball then you might know Mel Davis from his camp that he ran for fifteen years at Rockland Community College. “Future Stars Basketball Camp” is a legacy. Every week at the camp, Mel held a “Pro of the Week” day where names like John Starks, Willis Reed and Walt Frazier would come by for a visit. “I feel as if I have touched 90% of the families in Rockland,” he said.
Not only did Mel touch the lives of the camp kids, he is a huge advocate for Big Brothers/Big Sisters and The Boys Club (Police Athletic League). “The Boys Club kept me off the streets and kept me clean growing up and I will never forget them.” Mel remembered. Gillian E. Ballard, President and CEO of Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Rockland does an excellent job Mel said and he is delighted to volunteer his time to support Gillian and a cause close to his heart.
Mel attributes his success to being very focused and driven, being in the right place at the right time and a little luck. “I have never met a more determined person,” said his wife Joan. Being a true Scorpio he is a fierce competitor and suited to any form of business that makes a difference in the world. While playing for the NBA and in Europe there was little time for much else besides playing ball. When Mel saw “The Bucket List” the movie with Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman he knew this was a tremendous idea. His bucket list includes sailing, classic cars, dancing (especially the salsa, meringue and tango), fishing, and English style horseback riding. Mel has three grown daughters and his eyes light up when he speaks of them. The Davis’ enjoy bicycle riding and walking at Harriman State Park and have been known to get their Latin on at the Westgate in Nyack.
The Davis’ love Sutters Mill and Dino’s Diner in Suffern. “We recently tried O’Lar in Piermont as well, at the recommendation of our Realtor Noemi Morales-Barile, and the food was out of this world delicious.”
When asked if he could sit down to a meal with anyone in the world, who would it be? “President Obama,” he said without hesitation. “That would be my most memorable meal.”
The Davis’ Montebello home is on the market for sale. For more information, contact Noemi Morales-Barile at Coldwell Banker (845) 494-5015.