Monday, March 19, 2018
Kermit Davis turned Middle Tennessee into one of the best mid-major programs in the country during his 16 seasons at the school.
Mississippi believes he can have the same kind of success in the Southeastern Conference.
University officials announced Thursday the 58-year-old Davis will be the next Rebels men's basketball coach and he'll be officially introduced on campus Monday. The coach will continue to lead Middle Tennessee this month during the NIT and the Blue Raiders' second-round game at Louisville is on Sunday.
"I'm incredibly honored and excited to be the basketball coach at the University of Mississippi," Davis said in a statement. "We are extremely grateful to Chancellor Vitter and (athletic director Ross Bjork) for giving me the opportunity to lead such a prestigious program in the best basketball league in America."
Davis has coached at Middle Tennessee since 2002 and led the program to the NCAA Tournament in 2013, 2016 and 2017, scoring upset wins over Michigan State in 2016 and Minnesota in 2017. The Mississippi native also led the Blue Raiders to league titles in seven of the last nine seasons during time in Conference USA and the Sun Belt.
Davis has also coached at Idaho and Texas A&M. He resigned in 1991 after just one season at Texas A&M because of an NCAA investigation into recruiting violations. The program was eventually given two years of probation and a one-year postseason ban.
But there were no similar problems at Middle Tennessee, and he slowly built a powerhouse program.
Middle Tennessee won the Conference USA regular-season championship this season, but lost to Southern Miss in the conference tournament and had to settle for the NIT instead of a fourth NCAA Tournament appearance.
Davis thanked Middle Tennessee in a statement, including a "special appreciation to all of our former players, assistant coaches and support staff that put forth so much sweat equity into Middle Tennessee Basketball throughout our 16 years!"
Davis will take over an Ole Miss program that finished with a 12-20 record this season, including a 5-13 mark in the Southeastern Conference.
He replaces Andy Kennedy, who resigned in February after nearly 12 years leading the Rebels.
Ole Miss was often competitive under Kennedy but made the NCAA Tournament just twice during his tenure.
That level of success was acceptable when the Rebels played games at Tad Smith Coliseum, which was considered one of the SEC's worst facilities. But Ole Miss built a $100 million arena a few years ago called The Pavilion and expectations soared.
Instead of improving, Ole Miss regressed, and now Davis will get a chance to try to push the Rebels toward the top of the SEC.
"After assessing the entire landscape of college basketball and speaking to basketball experts across the country to determine the greatest fit for Ole Miss Basketball, the answer was clear — Kermit Davis is the best coach and best leader to take our program to the next level in the SEC and NCAA," Bjork said.