Kermit Davis was comfortable. He had no reason to leave Middle Tennessee State.

He was winning, even if the Blue Raiders weren’t a given to get into the NCAA tournament, as was the case last season when they got beat in the Conference USA tournament.

 



His family loved Murfreesboro, Tennessee, and all that it offered for his 30-year old daughter, Ally, who was born with Down syndrome and had flourished in programs in the city while living at home with he and his wife Betty. His other daughter Claire is married and lives near Oxford.

“I was very comfortable,’’ said Davis, who added he would have countless conversations with Belmont’s Rick Byrd about staying put rather than chasing a higher-profile, multiple-bid league job. “My daughter had a great quality of life. And when the Ole Miss job came open, (Ole Miss AD) Ross Bjork addressed it early.’’

Bjork’s concern won over Davis immediately. And a few months into the job, Davis is thrilled with the choice he made. What Davis has learned, as he heads out on the road recruiting this month and begins practicing with his team ahead of a trip to Canada to play four games from Aug. 4-11, is that the commitment is real for men’s basketball.

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Former Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy won an SEC tournament title and was well-liked within the league and on campus. Kennedy steered the transition from the dated Tad Pad to the Pavilion in 2016.

“They are all in for basketball at the highest level,’’ Davis said. “I mean it. I said this when we played at the Pavilion while I was at Middle Tennessee State, it’s the best on-campus arena in college basketball in the country. It’s not the biggest, but it’s the best. I took my team at Middle there twice. It’s got every bell and whistle for the fan experience. And our (Sean) Tuohy Basketball Center (practice facility) is as nice as there is.’’

Davis isn’t about trashing the previous coaching staff. He knows Kennedy had long odds to make Ole Miss a consistent winner. Neither history nor facilities were on his side. Kennedy went to two NCAA tournaments (including the 2013 season when the Rebels won the SEC tournament) and five NIT appearances in 12 seasons. Davis, whose father coached at Mississippi State, took Middle Tennessee to three NCAA tournaments in 16 seasons. Davis previously was a head coach at Idaho (twice), Texas A&M and an assistant in the SEC at Mississippi State (where he played for two seasons) and LSU.

“Andy is a great friend of mine. Some of the things he had to do at the Tad was remarkable,’’ Davis said. “I think with the Pavilion, it’s now up to us to recruit to it, coach to it to be a national brand.’’

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