OXFORD, MS – The Davis era has begun.
Ole Miss officially introduced Kermit Davis as the new men’s head basketball coach Monday night in The Pavilion after naming him the head coach last Thursday.
Davis, the 22nd coach in program history, comes to Oxford after spending the last 16 years as the head coach at Middle Tennessee State where he accumulated a record of 332-138.
After a 25-day nationwide search, Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter and Athletic Director Ross Bjork hired Davis following Andy Kennedy’s resignation on February 18.
“I asked Ross [Bjork] to find a coach who has three key traits,” Vitter said.
“First of all, a proven track record of building a successful and lasting program, second is really understanding the basketball landscape of the Southeastern Conference and third is the leadership ability to model the core values and creed of this great flagship university.”
Chancellor Vitter on the traits he requested AD Bjork to find
Davis has been named a conference coach of the year three separate times–in three separate conferences. He’s appeared in the NCAA Tournament five times, including back to back appearances in the ‘15-’16 and ‘16’-17 seasons. He has also won four conference championships, most recently in ‘16-’17 and ‘17-’18 with the Blue Raiders.
“We were able to assess the entire landscape, speak to basketball experts across the country and determine who would be the best fit for Ole Miss basketball,” Athletic Director Ross Bjork said. They added that they wanted to hire someone who was as basketball obsessed as the players and fans that put so much time into basketball and even play Fantasy Basketball (https://www.fanduel.com/fantasy-basketball) in their spare time because they love it so much. Finding the perfect man for the job was important.
“Every time we turned around, the answer was consistent and matter-of-fact. Kermit Davis is the best coach to take our program to the next level.”
Ross Bjork on hiring Kermit Davis
Kermit Davis: ‘I think it just fit’
Davis made it clear he had not been looking for another job; however, the Ole Miss head coaching position was simply perfect for the native Mississippian.
“I felt great where I was, I felt comfortable,” Davis said, of his time at MTSU. “However, when this opportunity happened here, I just think it just fit.”
Davis, who has won over 25 games in each of his last three seasons, is excited about the opportunity at Ole Miss. He also appeared to be happy about the chance to return to Mississippi, a place where he grew up and where most of his family still lives.
“I knew it was the right place for me, I wanted to align myself with leadership that I trust, aggressive thinking leadership and obviously a leadership that is all in on Ole Miss basketball…it was a perfect fit for me.”
Kermit Davis on Ole Miss
Davis raved about the facilities, the people, the town and the culture that surrounds the university as primary tools for building a successful program.
“I told our players: ‘Guys how lucky we all are that we’re right here? We get to come to work or go to school at this place every single day,’” Davis said. “We’re going to try to take advantage of it every single day that we can.”
Davis could end up being the perfect coach for the Rebels following a disappointing 2017-18 season. Andy Kennedy brought the Rebels’ program up from the abyss, and now Davis will be tasked with elevating Ole Miss basketball to a household name after doing so at MTSU.
“The strength of returning players, we’ve got to improve those guys, there’s talent in that room. We’ve got to individually get their development to go up,” Davis said. “We have a system of play, its a system of play that we know how to recruit to, we think we know exactly what Ole Miss needs to be in this system of play. I just think with this product to sell we’re going to get good players.”
What to expect from a Davis-led team
Kermit Davis is known for playing an exciting and high-tempo style of basketball. It will be much easier for him to recruit at Ole Miss, a power-five conference school, than Middle Tennessee which is considered a mid-major school.
“[Ole Miss basketball] is gonna be relentless, athletic and explosive,” Davis said.
“We’re going to be a team that’s gonna be unselfish. We’re going to play fast and smart in transition…going to try to get easy baskets…gonna try to play with great body language. We’re going to be a team that respects the flag and the national anthem.”
Davis on recruiting
Recruiting shouldn’t be a problem for Davis, as he has recruited in the southeast for most of his coaching career. He expressed the importance of having the Rebel faithful support the team and create a unique atmosphere in the Pavilion.
“When you bring in recruits and they see this place rocking, then you start directly affecting recruiting,” Davis said.
“When a national fanbase can affect wins and they start affecting recruiting, now everybody is in it together and that’s what we’re trying to do.”
Davis wants to beat his alma mater
At the conclusion of Davis’ introduction, he was presented with a red Ole Miss blazer from Ross Bjork, one the new coach said he would wear proudly. Davis, an alumnus of Mississippi State, minced no words about his feelings towards his alma mater.
“There’s a lot of great Ole Miss people in this room,” Davis said. “But nobody wants to beat Mississippi State’s tail more than Kermit Davis.”
(Video credit: Jake Evans, The Rebel Walk)