Brady, Davis rekindle longstanding relationship when teams face off Thursday

Coaches pit teams in critical league game between Arkansas State, Middle Tennessee

January 21, 2009 · Athletic Communications
MURFREESBORO, Tenn. - John Brady and Kermit Davis have formed a strong, longstanding relationship that has covered more than three decades but the two highly-successful coaches will become rivals when Middle Tennessee plays host to Arkansas State Thursday.

Brady and Davis spent five years together on the staff at LSU, where Brady was head coach and Davis was his associate head coach. Thursday night they meet as coaching adversaries when Brady's Red Wolves (12-6, 4-3) face Davis' Blue Raiders (11-7, 5-2) in a pivotal Sun Belt showdown at Murphy Center. Tipoff is 7 p.m.

It's a big league game for sure but there is additional storylines to this tilt, although Davis would prefer not to play against friends if he didn't have to.

"We have a great relationship with John's family," Davis said. "You have to play friends but that's part of it. We are going to be best friends before and after the game but we are going to try to beat one another's tails for minutes. It's a big game for both teams."

Brady said it would be a major upset if Arkansas State were to beat Middle Tennessee.

"For us to win at Middle Tennessee would be an upset, no one expects us to win," said Brady, who is in his first season as Arkansas State's head coach. "Kermit has done a great job at Middle Tennessee and he has done a great job developing this team. I know Kermit's teams are going to defend, rebound, and get back defensively. He tends to be more creative and tricky than I am. We may change a few things but I think Kermit may be more creative in this game than I will."

Don't let Brady trick you. He is one of five head coaches with Final Four experience to coach against Middle Tennessee at Murphy Center, joining Hugh Durham (Georgia), Bill Guthridge (North Carolina), Roy Williams (Kansas) and Lou Henson (Final Four at Illinois and coached against Middle Tennessee while at New Mexico State).

Brady, with Davis as his top assistant, guided LSU to the SEC Championship and Sweet 16 in 2000 and he took them to the Final Four in 2006 before parting ways with LSU after the 2007-08 season.

"Usually when coaches accomplish what Coach Brady accomplished the name is hung in rafters of gyms," Davis said. "It is unfortunate what happened to John at LSU. I thought it was very unjust but it's our business and sometimes those things happen. I do know this, he's a great coach and he has done some great things in the profession. He's doing some great things at Arkansas State now."

The respected relationship between the veteran coaches actually began when Brady served as a graduate assistant for Kermit Davis Sr., at Mississippi State in 1976-77. Davis was a junior on the local high school team. A few years later Brady was an assistant coach on Bob Boyd's Mississippi State staff and Davis was a graduate assistant.

They kept in touch through the years and remained great friends and then Brady had a chance to hire Davis at LSU in 1998. Davis was in his second term as head coach at Idaho when he got the call.

"It was the most difficult decisions I ever have made in coaching," Davis said. "We had gone back to Idaho for the second time as the head coach and we really believed we were on to something there and that we were going to be good in the next couple of years. I had been back there for eight months when John called and the opportunity was there. (daughter) Ally's situation was not what we would have liked with the special needs and all and (wife) Betty thought it would be better to get Ally closer to home. It was hard to leave the players but it was a great opportunity at LSU for my family and me professionally."

Within two years Brady and Davis, along with their staff, had resurrected LSU from probabation and sanctions to the SEC Championship in 2000. They advanced to the Sweet 16 that season.

"That was a lot of fun," Davis said of the SEC championship. "It was fun understanding what we accomplished and it was great to do it with someone you consider a great friend."

Two years later Davis was named head coach at Middle Tennessee.

"And it was very well deserved," Brady said. "Middle Tennessee has a great coach in Kermit Davis. He has done a good job building the program and putting the pieces in place. I guess I will get to see it first-hand Thursday night."

And for 40 minutes Davis and Brady's teams will do what they do every night - play hard and compete.

The only difference is this time their teams will go against one another for the first time.

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