Kermit Davis admits he was quite comfortable at Middle Tennessee State.
Davis had been in charge of the Blue Raiders’ basketball team for 16 years and believed that he might end his career coaching in Murfreesboro.
But a phone call and a visit to Ole Miss in March changed those plans as the former Mississippi State guard and son of a former MSU coach became the new head honcho for the Rebels.
“From my first conversation, I was impressed with their total buy in and commitment to try to win in college basketball at Ole Miss,” Davis said Thursday during an SEC teleconference. “From the Tuohy Practice Facility to The Pavilion, there’s none better in college basketball. I know there’s commitment and the reception has been great so far. I think we’ll break all the records for tickets sold this year. There’s a lot of excitement.”
Davis enjoyed his share of success at MTSU and had the Blue Raiders in the postseason in seven of the last nine years. However, only three of those appearances were in the NCAA Tournament and the appeal of returning to a Power Five conference like the SEC also helped lure Davis to Oxford.
“We’ve gone to the NCAA Tournament but there were two or three years where we got left out in Conference USA and the Sun Belt,” Davis said. “That’s frustrating at times. But to be in a league where there’s maybe 8-10 teams that’ll have a chance to go to the tournament is really appealing.”
At Ole Miss, Davis will have four of the top six scorers returning including guards Terence Davis, who led the Rebels with 13.8 points, and Breein Tyree (10.8).
“I’ve been really impressed with Breein and TD,” Davis said. “There’s a lot of outstanding guards in this league with combined experience and talent but I think those guys can be as good as any backcourt in the SEC.”
Ole Miss already has signees Blake Henson, Carlos Curry and Brian Halums on campus and had Luis Rodriguez enroll and begin classes on Thursday. The remaining class of KJ Buffen and Franco Miller Jr. are expected to start on Friday.
Davis hopes to have his full team together by July 5 when Dominik Olejniczak returns from playing for the Poland national team. The Rebels will have 10 extra days to practice to prepare for a four-game exhibition tour throughout Canada in August.
“I think they’re all going to be competitive games on the road in opposing team’s gyms and arenas,” Davis said. “I think it’s great.”
Davis believes that experience will help his team bond under a first-year coaching staff and adapt to the new system he and his staff are implementing.