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Quotes and Reactions from Friday's Press Conference

April 12, 2002 · MT Media Relations
Athletic Director Boots Donnelly
"I particularly want to thank Dr. McPhee for his commitment to athletics, particularly bringing in this basketball coach. I also want to thank him for his total commitment to the betterment of this university. With his guidance we're going to continue to go as fast and as quickly forward as we possibly can.

"I've got to thank the committee. We had 15 people on the committee. Each and every one of them took it to heart. They interviewed all five candidates and they did an unbelievable job. I just took a straw poll, so to speak, of five or six of them, and asked them to rate the candidates. It's hard to believe that each and every one of them rated them exactly as I would have rated them.

"Dr. McPhee spoke with each candidate for 45 minutes. It was amazing at the insight on how well he had a feeling on each and every candidate. The five that we brought to campus, all five were top-quality, all five will be head coaches, and I believe they will be head coaches very quickly. We felt the background work and everything we had done on them was good. We really feel extremely excited about the one we're going to introduce to you.

"You know, we did take some time. And there were a couple of things stated or written asking, -Are we taking too long?' As an ex-football coach, you take a little bit of time if you're not real intelligent, particularly in selecting a basketball coach. Anything worthwhile is worth waiting for, and we wanted to make sure we did everything the correct way, and I think we've done that.

"I made these statements, I wanted to bring a certain person here. I wanted someone here at Middle Tennessee that wanted to be here, not just to be a head coach, but wanted to take over our basketball program. We've been able to do that. I wanted a person that believed very, very strongly in discipline, because that's the process that gets everything started. I wanted a heck of a recruiter, and I also wanted a teacher. I wanted a communicator so he could explain to his team and they would understand exactly what he was talking about. And I think we fulfilled every one of those with the gentleman we're going to introduce.

"He's been a head coach. He was the youngest junior college head coach at one time at 24 years old. He was also the youngest I-A head coach at 30 years old. So we've got a package that I'm extremely proud of. I stood in front of you five or six months ago and made a statement to you that I love this university, that I had a passion for the athletic department, and I wanted to bring a person that had a passion for basketball, and we're able to do that. And I wanted to bring an exciting person, a person who can communicate and a person who had the ability to teach the game and move our basketball program forward. It is time for us to start winning, and winning as we used to quite a few years ago, and it's time for us to get that done today."

Head Coach Kermit Davis, Jr.
"I can't tell you how excited my family and I are to be here in Murfreesboro. When the process started, my wife and little girls would jump on the internet and start trying to find out about the area. At night I would come home and my wife would talk about quality of the public schools, talk about the quality of life in the community. They were so excited when the process had started, even before we knew we were going to come to Murfreesboro and join your family.

"I'd like to thank Dr. McPhee for giving me the opportunity. I heard a lot about Dr. McPhee from Coach Donnelly and other people through the athletic and academic environments. I got a chance to have some breakfast with him, and just his enthusiastic approach to where athletics fit in with the administration part of the campus and the mission of the whole university concept was impressive. I was amazed by his energy level. I told my father that if I could make my first hire as my top recruiter, it would be [Dr. McPhee], because he would go sign the best guys in the country, I promise you. He loves the university, he feels good about where he's at, and it's going to be a pleasure for us to get a staff together and try to work under his administration here.

"Coach Donnelly has been super through the whole process. I was very impressed how he handled the process. I had a great visit. He's a guy who makes you feel very comfortable in the first five or 10 minutes that you meet him, and I think everybody in this room knows exactly how much love and care he has for the university, not only for football but all the different sports that all involved. I know he's going to give our staff and our players every opportunity to be very, very successful here at Middle Tennessee.

"You always have to thank people who mean a lot to you, and that's my family. Bill [his brother] and I were very fortunate guys. We got to grow up in a household that was just like a dream everyday. Mom would come get Bill and I from school, and the first thing she did was take us to Dad's [basketball] practices, whether it was in high school, and then he coached in the Army for a couple of years, and then he went on to be an assistant coach at Mississippi State and then the head coach at Mississippi State for seven years.

"Think about this. He would pick us up from school and we would go to Lexington, Ky., as eight or nine-year-olds and sit on the end of the bench and watch Mississippi State play the Wildcats, or go to Tennessee. We just had a lot of different things and experiences that I was really fortunate to have at an early age that I really think helped he develop my career and I owe a lot to him because I've learned a lot from him and watching him with his teams. The main thing is how he deals with people.

"Also, besides your family, as we grow in our profession, who has had an impact on you as a coach? Again, I think I've been around some guys who have impacted my career and meant a lot to me. I go back to the guy who signed me at Mississippi State, a guy named Jim Hatfield. He's now one of the assistants at Murray State. He gave me the opportunity to come and play basketball at Mississippi State. Now if I sign too many guys like myself, we'll be fired in about two years. As you get older, you start telling what kind of player you were. All of a sudden at 37 I started getting to be a little bit better player, telling a few stories. And Betty [his wife] walked up at the end of the conversation, someone asked, -What number were you?' And Betty answered, -I really don't know. You never took off your shooting shirt.' That shows you how much I played. We'll do a better job of getting a little better athletic guy to play here at Middle Tennessee.

"A guy named Bob Boyd, was the head coach at Southern Cal, gave me my first opportunity as a graduate assistant, one of the most respected basketball coaches around in the last 30 or 40 years, now retired. I went from there to work for who I think is maybe one of the brightest coaching guys in the profession, Tim Floyd, who just left the Chicago Bulls. Tim gave me my first job at Idaho, then I took Tim's place, so the things could develop from Tim because of the family. Everybody has their coaching family, and ours kind of was from Mr. Iba at Oklahoma State to Don Haskins at Texas-El Paso, to Tim Floyd who worked for Coach Haskins, and you kind of develop your philosophies and discipline and how you're going to coach and recruit the game from the people you've been around. And Tim has been an unbelievable influence on me.

"Larry Eustachy, who is at Iowa State and was the National Coach of the Year two seasons ago, I worked with Larry at Idaho and Mississippi State and had a chance to work with Larry at Utah State. He's another guy who develops his philosophy on toughness, recruiting the right student-athlete and again, Larry has been very instrumental in what I've tried to do. The last guy I worked with was a guy named John Brady, who I think is one the best college coaches in the country at LSU. For five years, we took over a program that was dead last, there was a felling of apathy in the program nobody was coming to games, limited scholarships. And for the last five years, we've had more fun trying to establish a staff, recruit some quality student-athletes to LSU. We won a conference championship in 2000 and went to the Sweet Sixteen, and the last three years have averaged 20 wins a year, and have done it under very adverse situations.

"And so you get all of these guys that you worked with, and then you try to develop a philosophy that you think is going to be the right philosophy that fits Middle Tennessee State. Again, I can't tell you how fortunate I've been to have a family like I've grown up in and the people that I've surrounded myself in this profession have given every opportunity to be very successful here.

"Just a little bit about how I feel about Middle Tennessee State. From a selfish standpoint, it's an unbelievable move for my family, and I've told Dr. McPhee this and I've told Coach Donnelly. For the quality of life for my family in this area, and I know you know it but maybe you don't get to hear it enough about what people think about your community and about our community and our university now. It's unbelievable. Everybody you talk to says Murfreesboro, -what a great place to raise you children, what a great place for your children to go to public schools.' Middle Tennessee State is a gold-mine. It's a place that went to NCAA Tournaments and NIT Tournaments on a regular basis, just haven't done it in a while. The football program, Andy and what a great job he's done, talks about Dean Hayes and the track program. The LSU track coach, Pat Henry, says, -Kermit, our guys won 23 national championships at LSU, but [Dean Hayes] needs to be the next Olympic coach.'

"So you've got people around here that have done such a fantastic job in your community, your athletic department and your school. I was talking to Mark Emmert, the LSU Chancellor, about Dr. McPhee, and about the explosion of students trying to come to the university. They say in 10 years it may be the biggest university in the state of Tennessee. A lot of people know that, and that's something we're going to take and sell to the student-athletes that we try to recruit. Not just that the arena seats 11,500. We've got a brand-new weight facility, the academic center is new and full of support. But we've got a lot of other things to sell for quality of life for a young guy to come here and go to school. There's some apathy in the program now, but I promise you in a year or two to ride down the road right in front of the arena, and there's no prettier picture, and I know you guys have seen it, when those lights are on through the windows and you see those people coming in that arena, and it's gonna happen here. We'll bring the excitement back to basketball because it's just waiting to happen.

"We've taken over programs, we went to Idaho with Tim Floyd, they finished dead last three straight years, nobody came to games, and it was the worst program in the Big Sky. We went to NCAA Tournaments and won championships. We went to Utah State, a feeling of apathy, nobody coming to games, dead last, championships and NCAA Tournaments. LSU the same way. Here what's different, I think, is you've done it in a big way before, you've got a nice nucleus of players that are in place, and if we can add two or three players, then I think maybe winning can happen here a little bit quicker that it has at other places.

"You think about how you're going to coach and what are you going to try to do to get basketball back? Three things that you really have to do everyday: you've got to recruit well, schedule smart and coach intelligently. Obviously you have to get good players. But also you've got to get players that are going to fit into the mission of the university with Dr. McPhee and his administration would like, the student-athlete that's going to represent your community. It's just like today. It's a fantastic thing what you guys are doing here with the Special Olympics and all the student-athletes are out there working with Special Olympic kids. I've done that at a lot of different places I've been. Those are great attributes. I know if I was the coach here, everyone of them would be participating in that sometime during the day to get a better grasp of how fortunate they are to have health, a great body, a great mind and be able to play basketball here.

"After you recruit well, you've got to schedule smart. At Middle Tennessee, you've got to work on scheduling everyday. You've got to try to get very high-major programs to come into your building. We'll work on that everyday. You can't be afraid to go on the road and play quality opponents. Look at Andy's schedule. I know he thanks Coach Donnelly for that schedule everyday he wakes up - Tennessee, Alabama, Kentucky, and Vandy. I know they're real good friends. But Andy doesn't shy away from that. I watched his team come into LSU in Baton Rouge and they played great, very competitive. And I know everyone is excited about what they're doing in football.

"Then you have to coach intelligently. How would you like for our teams to play? There's a thing right now how we'd love to have our teams play. We're going to play aggressive, we're going to be physical, and we're going to have a toughness and togetherness about our team that's going to be very good. We're going to share the ball and value every possession, going to rebound both ends, get back defensively, try to run and get easy opportunities offensively in transition. We'll play up-tempo, utilize the three-point line. That's good, that's what we want to do here. But when you're coaching intelligently, first of all we've got to evaluate the players we've got coming back. I've watched just very short periods of film and talked to a few people about them team. But we'll have our first team meeting today at 1 o'clock., we'll have individual meetings Sunday from 4-7 and find out exactly where everybody is academically, and Monday we're going to start with individual skill development. We'll try to find out and get an evaluation of our team and where we are.

"I'll tell you this, one thing I think we've done as a staff, whether it's Stromile Swift who plays with the Memphis Grizzlies right now, came in as this thin kid who didn't have a lot of skills, but how hard he worked at individual skills. Jabari Smith, who's now with the 76ers. We signed Kedrick Brown, who's now with the Boston Celtics. We really pride ourselves on being able to have skill development and really try to improve these guys individually, and then be able to put that into the team concept.

"We've taken over programs at Idaho and Utah State, but I'm telling you, we've got a nice nucleus coming back on this team, and it makes me feel good. We've got guys who have won games in this league. Sure, there are some things in the past, but starting our team meeting today at 1 o'clock, the slate's clean and we're not going to ever talk about the past at Middle Tennessee State. We're going to start today and talk about what we're going to do next year to be competitive. And that's just what we're going to do. I think with two or three guys we can add to go along with the guys we've got coming back that we've got a chance. Sure we've got a lot of hard work ahead of us, there's no question about that. But we've got an excellent opportunity to get competitive next year, and that makes me feel very good.

"We'll take our time with our staff and what we're going to do with our assistant coaches. We're going to go through a process that will be very careful. It's just like your businesses, you've got to surround yourself with good people, people you can trust, loyal people. And that's something that will take care of itself over the next few weeks.

"That's kind of a brief synopsis of what we're going to do at Middle Tennessee State. Like I said, we've got a lot of hard work ahead of us. But we're going to personally touch and try to get out into the community. Hopefully we'll be very accessible to everybody in the community. Give us two or three weeks. We're going to have our head down, working, trying to recruit and grind and get some quality guys in here. But then we kind of slow down when this recruiting period ends at the end of April. We'll really get a chance to go out into the community and be able to visit with people and talk about Middle Tennessee State and get people coming back to this arena to watch basketball again."

REACTIONS TO FRIDAY'S HIRING
"I was extremely impressed with the quality of the applicants much like I was with the athletic director search a few months ago. It says a lot about where we are heading that people across the country covet jobs at Middle Tennessee. All of the applicants were excellent, but Kermit Davis certainly fits the bill at Middle Tennessee. He is exciting and will do a great job. I also want to commend Boots [Donnelly] on putting together candidates of this quality for us to choose from."
-- Charlie Myatt, head of the search advisory committee

"This is extremely exciting. Coach Davis seems to be well motivated and seems to have done his homework about our University, his program, and this community. I look forward to getting to know him better."
-- Bud Moris, Middle Tennessee booster

"It sounds like he wants to play my style of game; getting out in transition and using the 3-point line. We have some good players coming back and with a few new guys I think we can have a great year."
-- John Humphrey, returning basketball player

"I am very impressed with Coach Davis' background and enthusiasm. I think that BRAA members will be excited to meet him and we look forward to providing that opportunity for them in the near future."
-- Ty Coppinger, Director of the Blue Raider Athletic Association

"Kermit said, and I always said, that it takes a combination of things to make a successful program. It starts with the administration and Dr. [Sidney] McPhee and Coach [Boots] Donnelly and it filters down to the faculty and staff, the students, and the university community. I think that Kermit is a person that can bring all of those elements together and get this program back to the level that is expected at Middle Tennessee"
-- Kermit Davis, Sr.

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