Kermit Davis has established himself as one of the program's most successful men's basketball coaches.
Davis became just the second coach in Middle Tennessee's history to begin his career with four straight winning seasons and his teams have won at a consistent rate during his Blue Raider tenure.
Since being hired as Middle Tennessee's 19th head men's basketball coach April, 2002, Davis has rekindled winning ways for a proud program that had endured a series of losing seasons. He has amassed a 118-96 mark and turned in six winning seasons, putting him in elite company when it comes to the Blue Raider hoops coaching fraternity.
Davis ranks third on the Middle Tennessee all-time wins list with 118 and he also ranks third all-time for winning percentage (55 percent). He also is among the winningest coaches in Sun Belt Conference history. He is second in all-time victories among active Sun Belt coaches with 61, trailing only Ronnie Arrow in his second stint at South Alabama. Davis is sixth overall on the all-time SBC wins list and five shy of fifth (Marty Fletcher - 66).
Middle Tennessee has averaged 17 wins per season under Davis, which is the third-highest total for any Blue Raider coach. Middle Tennessee's 100 wins during a six-year span (2002-2008) were the most of any Blue Raider coach since 1988-93.
The success is even more impressive considering Middle Tennessee had endured losing seasons in three of the four seasons prior to Davis' hiring and it was one season removed from a 5-22 campaign - the worst in school history.
To rack up wins teams must be consistent and consistency is a big trademark of Davis' teams.
For example, Middle Tennessee and Western Kentucky are the only Sun Belt Conference members to reach the league's tournament semifinals at least five times in the last seven years. Only four current league members have played in multiple championship games since 2003 (Middle Tennessee, South Alabama, Western Kentucky and Louisiana-Lafayette), and Middle Tennessee is one of three current league members (Western Kentucky, South Alabama) to reach the quarterfinals of the league's postseason tournament in each of the last seven years.
The successful head coach secured his 225th career win as a head coach when Middle Tennessee beat Denver (1/5/08). He owns 189 wins in 11 seasons at the Division I level and 66 in three years in junior college for a total of 255 victories.
The veteran coach was named Sun Belt Coach of the Year by league coaches in 2003 and he was named the Sun Belt's Coach of the Year by College Insiders in 2008 after leading the Blue Raiders into the Sun Belt Championship game.
Davis' teams also have demonstrated a knack for consistent improvement as evidenced by strong finishes. Middle Tennessee's record in the final 10 games under Davis is 42-28. Davis' teams have also been consistent winners in league play. The Blue Raiders' 72 wins against Sun Belt opponents under Davis is third for most wins in a seven-year span, and Middle Tennessee's 30 Sun Belt road wins under Davis are the third-most of any current league member during that span and two shy of the top spot.
In addition to winning on the court, Middle Tennessee student-athletes also have won big off the court under Davis. The Blue Raiders enjoyed a 2.87 team GPA during the Spring, 2007 semester - the highest for a Middle Tennessee men's basketball team in 17 years. Seventeen players Davis has coached at Middle Tennessee have earned their degree, while 20 of his players have either achieved a spot on the Sun Belt's Commissioner's List or Academic Honor Roll over the last six years.
"We want our players to take advantage of all the opportunities provided at a great school like Middle Tennessee," Davis said. "We want them to get the most out of their education and be in position to have great futures when they leave here."
Middle Tennessee has realized an attendance increase in six of Davis' seven seasons, and two have generated the highest home attendance average in the last 15 seasons. Middle Tennessee's 4,436 average attendance at home in 2005-06 is the highest since 1991-92. The Blue Raiders ranked second in the Sun Belt, behind Western Kentucky, in average home attendance with 4,126 in 2006-07, and they averaged 4,225 during 2007-08, marking the first time Middle Tennessee had averaged in excess of 4,000 in three consecutive seasons since 1986-87, 1987-88, 1988-89.
In all, Middle Tennessee has realized the largest increase of any Sun Belt member during the last seven years. Middle Tennessee realized a Sun Belt Conference high 4,843 in average attendance for league home games in 2005-06. A Murphy Center attendance record of 11,807 was set on February 26, 2004; when fans flocked to the "Glass House" to cheer Middle Tennessee to a 73-59 win against three-time defending Sun Belt champion Western Kentucky, and when 18,071 attended the Blue Raiders' game vs. Memphis at the Sommet Center in Nashville, Tenn., it marked the largest crowd ever for a regular-season men's basketball game at that venue. Middle Tennessee also drew 11,802 for its home game against Tennessee November, 2009.
The Blue Raiders reached the Sun Belt Tournament title game in 2003, their first appearance in a conference tournament championship since 1989; and they missed the chance to make it two league title games in as many years when they dropped a 70-66 decision to Louisiana-Lafayette in 2004 in the semifinals. The Blue Raiders also reached the title game in 2008 after upsetting South Alabama on its home court to end the Jaguars' 18-game home win streak. Winning is not the sole trademark that has brought fans back to Murphy Center. The style of play is as noteworthy.
"One thing our team will do is play with a great deal of energy," Davis said. "We would like to play a hard-nosed, aggressive style that our fans will enjoy night-in, night-out. We're going to share and value the basketball, rebound on both ends, and attempt to get a quality shot on each possession."
Just as he has done at previous stops, Davis has developed a program that suddenly has expectations placed on it. Even though the Blue Raider program has made great strides in a short time, Davis says the foundation doesn't change. The building process continues into Davis' eighth season.
In his first season as the Blue Raiders' head coach, Davis inherited a group of players who had never enjoyed success as members of the Sun Belt. The 2002-03 Blue Raiders were picked fourth (of five) teams in the Sun Belt's East Division, and eighth of 11 teams overall, but heading into the final week of the regular-season Middle Tennessee remained in the championship hunt. For his efforts, Davis was named the Sun Belt Conference Coach of the Year, marking the third time in five years as a Division I head coach he had been so honored.
While Davis' first team surprised many by reaching the finals of the Sun Belt Tournament and putting together the most wins for a Blue Raider squad (16) since the 1997-98 campaign, his second Blue Raider team had to be even more surprising.
Middle Tennessee entered the 2003-04 season with only one returning starter and four letter winners from Davis' initial Blue Raider team, but the proven winner molded his squad into a championship contender by mid-season. The Blue Raiders increased their number of wins and had fans coming through the turnstiles in record numbers with an exciting style of play.
Middle Tennessee went a step beyond in 2004-05 when the Blue Raiders posted a 19-win season in Davis' third season, marking the first time since 1997-98 that the team had won as many games.
Like all successful coaches, Davis has been victorious by recruiting players who fit the personality of the team and take ownership of their squad. The previous four recruiting classes have been ranked No. 1 in the Sun Belt by Hoop Scoop magazine. Three of the last four classes have been rated among the Top 25 in the nation, including a No. 11 signing class in 2004. The 2007 class was ranked No. 48 nationally. By recruiting players who value character, have a high level of toughness, and have a desire to obtain a college degree, Davis has been able to develop a winning formula not only at Middle Tennessee, but also at each of his stops.
Prior to being named the head coach at Middle Tennessee, Davis spent five seasons as the associate head coach at LSU under former head coach John Brady. Prior to Davis' arrival with Brady at LSU, the Tigers had been languishing near the bottom of the SEC.
It didn't take long for the team's fortunes to change. After two seasons of putting the pieces together, the Tigers captured the SEC title in 2000 and went on to an appearance in the NCAA Tournament's Sweet 16. The Tigers returned to the postseason in 2002 with a trip to the National Invitational Tournament. In the three years immediately preceding Davis' arrival in Murfreesboro, LSU averaged 20-plus wins per season.
Before LSU, Davis spent one season as the head coach at the University of Idaho; however, his stint with the Vandals was his second tour of duty in Moscow. He also served as the school's head coach from 1989-90. During his three years as the head coach at Idaho, Davis compiled a 63-29 record, the best three-year total in the program's history. Davis posted two of the best single-season tallies in school history during his first two seasons at Idaho as well, turning in 25-6 marks in both of those seasons (1988-89, 1989-90).
His Idaho squad won the Big Sky championship in 1989 and went on to capture the league's tournament crown and a berth into the NCAA Tournament, as well. For his efforts, Davis was named Big Sky Coach of the Year. History repeated itself in 1990 when Davis once again led the Vandals to the Big Sky title in both the regular season and tournament, garnering yet another NCAA Tournament berth.
In fact, Davis himself made history when he became the Vandals' head coach in 1988. Upon his hiring, Davis was the youngest Division I head coach in the nation at age 28. It was not the first time Davis had been the youngest head coach in the country. When he was hired as the head coach at Southwest Mississippi Junior College in 1984, he became the youngest junior college coach in the nation at age 24. His youth served him well at Southwest Mississippi, as he put together a 39-20 record in two seasons. His 1986 squad won 22 games, posting the school's first 20-win season in 17 years.
His success at the junior college level landed him a spot on Tim Floyd's staff at Idaho, where Davis served as an assistant for two years prior to being named the program's head coach.
After spending two seasons as the head coach at Idaho, Davis went on to become the head coach at Texas A&M for the 1990-91 campaign. From Texas A&M, Davis moved on to serve as associate head coach at Chipola Junior College for two seasons before ascending to the top spot for the 1993-94 campaign. During his season as the team's head coach, Chipola finished the season ranked No. 4 in the national polls and posted a 27-5 record, giving the team the second-most wins in school history.
From Chipola, Davis moved on to serve as associate head coach at Utah State from 1995-96. At Utah State, Davis coached under current Southern Mississippi coach Larry Eustachy, and the pair combined to win the Big West championship in 1995. His Utah State tenure ended with his return to Idaho as the Vandals' head coach and the rest is history.
Davis' rapid ascent up the coaching ladder is no coincidence since he grew up watching how one of the preeminent coaches in the country operated on a daily basis. Kermit Davis, Sr., was one of the most respected college coaches in the nation, and the younger Davis spent many hours around his dad in the gym and even on the bench during games.
After completing his playing career at Mississippi State, Davis began his coaching career at his alma mater as a graduate assistant on Bob Boyd's staff from 1983-84. Davis earned his bachelor's degree from Mississippi State in 1982 and then obtained his master's degree there in 1984. Davis, a native of Leakesville, Miss., and his wife, Betty, have two daughters, Ally (21) and Claire (16).