Beginning of the Kermit Era

Ole Miss Rebels hire Kermit Davis as their new men’s basketball head coach.

Andy Kennedy had been on the Ole Miss campus as the men’s basketball head coach since 2006. Now another coach has taken over as the leader of the team. Kermit Davis has been hired as 21th head coach of the program.

Davis, who has spent 16 years as the head coach of Middle Tennessee State, comes to a program in need of some immediate success. The Rebel’s basketball program had become stagnant. Kennedy gave a tremendous effort, but the results weren’t what the athletic department had hoped.

Regular season success has been a strong suit for Davis. In the last seven seasons, the Blue Raiders finish first in the regular season five times. Two out of the last three seasons have ended on the second day of the NCAA Tournament.

It is easy to focus on the negatives. You could wonder why in his 25+ years of coaching he has only went to the tournament five times. Or how he isn’t as young as many would have hoped. Or questioning why was he still at MTSU in the first place.

The fact is that it all doesn’t matter now. He is here. He is the coach. Kermit Davis is the head coach of the Ole Miss Rebels. What I’ve seen, he has produced winners with less talent than many of the coaches that were available. He never had a losing conference record while with the Blue Raiders. His kids seem to want to play for him.

Davis appears to want to be here. This doesn’t look like “just a place to land” as it felt with Thad Matta. With as much pride as we have in Ole Miss, we deserve someone who WANTS to be here.

Make no mistake, he was not my first choice. However, I’m an Ole Miss Rebel. Now he is one, too. That alone makes me give him the benefit of the doubt and cheer him on to success. If he brings wins and tournament trips to Oxford, we will forget all the other names we thought we wanted in his place.

No Room For Error On Basketball Hire

The Ole Miss administration must hire the right basketball coach.

I have to admit it. I’ve been a pro-A.K. guy. Andy Kennedy has been the coach at the helm through some of the most exciting times in Ole Miss basketball history. He is the all-time winningest coach in Rebel history. I’ve watched that team seemingly do the impossible at times.

However, the lack of trips to the NCAA tournament combined with the disappointing current season ushered in the end of the A.K. regime. The change here will take some getting used to. It has been a while since we had a new face as the representation of the basketball program.

This will make the second head coaching position Athletic Director Ross Bjork has had to oversee during this athletic calendar year. Bjork made previously football interim coach Matt Luke the official head coach at the end of November.

Although football will always be the cash cow and most important part of the athletic department, this basketball head coaching vacancy is extremely important. In fact, this hire is more important than the football head coaching hire.

Stakes Are High

Ross Bjork has been spending a lot of time dealing with all the dumpster fires surrounding the football program. So the focus has been fixed on what he was going to do with the football program. However, whoever he chose was going to have a hill to climb the next couple of years. Currently there is a bowl ban still hanging over the program’s head. Reduction of scholarships and official visits have made recruiting more difficult.

So the decision to hire Matt Luke was a safe choice. It may be a homerun hire but if it is not the NCAA has provided the Ole Miss administration with an excuse. They can choose to take another direction in future and everyone would understand. No one is expected to have success in conditions like this.

The basketball coaching hire is a different story. There is nowhere to hide if this coaching hire is a disaster. Ushering out the dean of SEC coaches is a big boss move. Therefore, you must be ready to make a big boss hire. AK is well respected among the other coaches in the league, so everyone is watching to see what the Rebels will do.

The administration has to get this hire right because this coach will have access to more than any previous Ole Miss coach. This coach isn’t coming into a program shrouded in controversy. It appears Kennedy ran as clean a program as could be expected. This coach isn’t coming to a program with outdated buildings. There was no expense spared on The Pavilion at Ole Miss. This coach isn’t coming to a program devoid of talent. There are gifted players on this team.

Everything is in place for this team to succeed. This new coach needs to succeed and succeed quickly. Let’s be honest. When it comes to basketball, our fans will support a winner. Or at the very least, a team with character and a character, i.e. Marshall Henderson. If a coach can come in and build a team that gets to the NCAA tournament on a regular basis, the Ole Miss faithful will be supportive.

The administration has to get this right. Hopefully, they will allow Bjork to have a strong say on the hire. This can’t be left to the influence of boosters. This needs to be done by someone who will have to feel the consequence of the failure. If Bjork is going to take the blame, he at least should have say in the hire.

The Rebels can’t afford to fall behind in this SEC race for basketball relevance. The fans won’t stand for it. We have too many assets for the new coach to fail. The administration needs to get it right.