On Thursday, Ole Miss announced the hiring of Middle Tennessee State head coach Kermit Davis as the 22nd head coach of the Rebels’ men’s basketball program. He will be publicly introduced Monday, March 19 at 5:30 p.m. (CT) at The Pavilion at Ole Miss.
With the selection, Ole Miss has chosen a coach with long-term viability, a coach who has won with players less talented than their peers, and a coach who gets his players to play smart and hard defense.
The stats don’t lie, as Davis has consistently had his Blue Raiders teams in the top-50 of KenPom defensive ratings.
Davis can build a consistent tournament contender by following the recruiting strategy of teams like Wisconsin, Cincinnati and Purdue: Get guys that fit the way you play, limit the amount of possessions in the game, and get your wins with defense.
If a coach can get his players to commit to defense, it doesn’t matter whether he has NBA-level talent—he can compete at the highest collegiate level.
Of course, should one look at social media, one will see a few fans who have various concerns about the Davis hire. Any qualms about Davis’ age are overstated, as he is only 56-years-old. The only way age will ever be a factor for Davis is if his tenure lasts longer than Andy Kennedy, and, quite frankly, that would be a great problem to have! Most teams would kill for a great 12-13 year coaching stint that ends in retirement. Don’t worry about Davis’ age.
Another potential concern out there is that Davis is “an older AK.” (That is strange because AK is a great coach.) That is strange, also, however, because they play completely different styles of basketball. Andy Kennedy runs a fast-paced offense that relies heavily on quick 3-point attempts, while Kermit Davis’ teams play a slower pace. Andy Kennedy’s teams were rarely defensive-oriented, while Davis’ teams are almost exclusively defensive-oriented.
Yes, Kermit and AK are great friends, but that does not mean they are the same person with the same defensive styles.
What to expect from a Davis-led Ole Miss team
So, what kind of play should you expect from a Kermit Davis-led Ole Miss team? On the defensive end, fans should expect a rambunctious 1-3-1 zone that aggressively traps in the corners and forces teams to make decisions and play smart. When the 1-3-1 is played at its highest level, as Davis-led teams often are, teams panic and commit turnovers, which leads to easy buckets on the other end.
The SEC is filled with teams that play a lot of “one-and-done” freshmen who have tons of athleticism, but who may not have the experience necessary to properly attack a well-played 1-3-1 zone. This should play to Ole Miss’ advantage should Kermit Davis accomplish what he did at Middle Tennessee.
I really wish Justas Furmanavicius had one more year of eligibility, because his quickness and athleticism is perfect for Kermit Davis’ 1-3-1 zone, which relies on quick high-motor athletes. If Davis could find more Justas-style players that fit his defensive scheme, his Ole Miss team will give opponents 40 minutes of hell.
I truly believe this is the best possible hire Ole Miss could make at this time. If the Rebels want to compete at a high level consistently, they’re are going to have to think outside the box with their recruiting and play style, and Kermit Davis is the perfect coach to fit that model. Ole Miss is in excellent hands.
The Kermit Davis file
Davis, a native of Leakesville, Mississippi, guided the Blue Raiders to league titles in seven of the last nine years, between Conference USA and the Sun Belt. MTSU made the 2013, 2016 and 2017 NCAA Tournaments and defeated No. 2 seed Michigan State and No. 5 seed Minnesota in back-to-back seasons.
Davis is an eight-time conference coach of the year who is 34th among active Division I head coaches with 403 career wins, including his time at Middle Tennessee, Idaho and Texas A&M. He ranks 10th nationally in winning percentage over the last three years and 13th over the last seven.
“I’m incredibly honored and excited to be the basketball coach at the University of Mississippi,” Davis said.
“Coming back to my home state of Mississippi to build a national brand is absolutely a dream come true for us. I am Mississippi Made and cannot wait to join the rest of the Ole Miss family.“
Kermit Davis on becoming the 22nd Ole Miss men’s basketball head coach