After leading Middle Tennessee to conference championships and NCAA Tournament runs, Kermit Davis is returning to his home state as the 22nd head coach of the Ole Miss basketball program, as announced Thursday by Vice Chancellor for Intercollegiate Athletics Ross Bjork.
Davis will be publicly introduced Monday, March 19 at 5:30 p.m. CT at The Pavilion at Ole Miss. Complimentary t-shirts and food will available to fans who attend. Doors will open at 5 p.m. for the event, and there will be open parking in the garage.
A native of Leakesville, Mississippi, Davis guided the Blue Raiders to league titles in seven of the last nine years, between Conference USA and the Sun Belt. Middle Tennessee 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.
“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. “Combining his brand of play and his proven ability to build a model basketball program, Coach Davis has established himself as a leader and winner in college basketball. Over the last several weeks, we consistently heard that other coaches `never want to play his team,’ and his record confirms that. Coach Davis also possesses a great sense of purpose for his program and does it the right way off the court. During the process, Coach Davis’ energy, drive, and vision for our program was unmatched, and we can’t wait to welcome him and his family back to the great state of Mississippi and into the Ole Miss family.”
An eight-time conference coach of the year, Davis is 34th among active Division I head coaches with 403 career wins, including stints 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,” said Davis. “We are extremely grateful to Chancellor Vitter and Ross for giving me the opportunity to lead such a prestigious program in the best basketball league in America. 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.”
With a 25-7 record this season, Middle Tennessee reached the 24-win mark for the sixth time in the last seven seasons, which in turn led to six postseason appearances. While shattering attendance records, he coached 25 all-conference players and five players of the year in Murfreesboro and signed five top-25 recruiting classes, including the No. 11 class in 2004.
After pulling off one of the biggest upsets in NCAA Tournament history over the second-ranked Spartans in 2016, Davis’ Blue Raiders followed up with a 31-5 record in 2017, including a 17-1 mark in Conference USA play, setting a school record for overall victories and a C-USA record for league wins. Middle Tennessee swept the conference regular-season and tourney titles on its way to a second consecutive trip to the Big Dance and a victory over the fifth-seeded Gophers.
With Davis’ emphasis on academics, Middle Tennessee was one of only six teams in 2017 and one of only seven in 2016 with a 100 percent graduation rate and also win an NCAA Tournament game that season – joining Kansas, Villanova, Duke, Notre Dame and Butler in both seasons as well as Iowa in 2016. Davis has graduated 52 consecutive MT student-athletes that exhausted their eligibility.
In 36 years as an assistant and head coach, Davis has helped lead five different programs to conference championships, including a pair of Big Sky titles at Idaho. In two tours of duty as Vandals’ head coach in 1997 and from 1989-90, Davis compiled a 63-29 record, the best three-year total in the program’s history, and earned NCAA Tournament berths in 1989 and 1990.
Before arriving at Middle Tennessee in 2002, Davis spent five seasons as the associate head coach at LSU under John Brady. With Davis assembling multiple top-five recruiting classes, the Tigers captured the SEC championship in 2000 and reached the Sweet 16 for the first time in 13 years.
Davis’ Mississippi ties extend to the junior college ranks with a head coaching stint at Southwest Mississippi, where he amassed a 39-20 record in 1985 and 1986.
The son of former Mississippi State head coach Kermit Davis Sr., the younger Davis played for the Bulldogs and graduated from MSU in 1982, before beginning his coaching career at his alma mater as a graduate assistant.