It might work out, but Ole Miss should have aimed higher than Kermit Davis

Ole Miss officially announced the hiring of Kermit Davis on Thursday morning, finalizing a move that’s much more conservative than it is surprising.

It’s human nature to be attracted to people who are attracted to us. But that principle shouldn’t apply to athletic directors conducting coaching searches. No, they should be much more particular.

It’s clear why Davis, a Mississippi native, wanted to go to Ole Miss. But why did the Rebels want do hire him?

First, let’s deal with Davis’ attraction to Ole Miss.

Davis has spent the last 16 seasons with Middle Tennessee State, taking the Blue Raiders to the NCAA Tournament three times. He won two tournament games in that span — both massive first-round upsets — and notched a school-record 31 wins in 2016-17.

But the tide turned this season. Davis led the program to a 25-7 record with an RPI of 33 — very respectable for a mid-major. Probably should have been a tournament team.

But it didn’t happen. The Blue Raiders fell to Southern Miss in the Conference USA Tournament, and just like that, the season’s goal was lost.

Missing out on the tournament seemingly was enough to send Davis from the program he spent the last 16 years building from scratch to the greener pastures of the SEC.

At Ole Miss, Davis should be able to recruit better talent and have a much larger margin for error when February and March roll around.

It all makes sense for Davis.

But for the Rebels, they’re replacing Andy Kennedy, the winningest coach in school history, with a 56-year-old mid-major lifer who has a hard ceiling to his potential.

Why?

This shouldn’t be surprising after Ole Miss AD Ross Bjork removed football coach Matt Luke’s interim tag in December. But somehow, hiring Davis feels even more conservative than settling for Luke.

And I get it — Ole Miss probably didn’t have the pick of the litter. On top of that, because of a number of factors, it’s not a great time to be hiring coaches right now.

But Bjork still could have played the field a little bit before settling for Davis. Did he even call Tom Crean? Or Thad Matta? Or Ron Hunter? Or maybe even take Buzz Williams’ temperature at Virginia Tech?

What about taking a page out of the playbook of Tennessee or South Carolina? Both those schools went out and got older, more experienced Power 5 coaches in Rick Barnes and Frank Martin. The result? A Final Four for the Gamecocks and a shared SEC regular-season title for the Volunteers. Not too shabby.

This hire could end up working out. On the whole, Davis  probably is a better coach and program builder than Kennedy. He did beat the Rebels like a drum in Oxford this season.

But that might not matter enough to make Davis a successful hire. With an uptick in recruiting chops at Mississippi State, Vanderbilt and LSU, being a little better than Kennedy might not translate to more wins going forward.

All three of those schools have at least one 5-star prospect in the fold for the 2018 class, and all three rank in the top-10 nationally according to 247Sports.

Add in Kentucky — also in the top 10 with two 5-star recruits — Florida and Arkansas, and you get six top-30 recruiting classes in the SEC. Even if Ole Miss weren’t in a coaching transition and recruiting above its average, that would still be bad news for the Rebels.

There’s a chance Davis ends up working out OK. But if in 12 years we look back on his time in Oxford and there’s little more than Kennedy’s 266 wins and two tournament appearances to show, will it have been worth it?

My guess is no. Perhaps that means the program was able to tread water for another decade and make some money along the way.

But to do anything more than that, Ole Miss needed to aim higher than Kermit Davis.

The post It might work out, but Ole Miss should have aimed higher than Kermit Davis appeared first on SEC Country.

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