Interview with Coach Kermit Davis, MTSU's Men's Basketball Coach
During this episode of Tuesday Morning Coffee, John has the pleasure of interviewing Coach Kermit Davis, MTSU's Men's Basketball coach. Coach Davis discusses the upcoming season, players to look out for, as well as some his most memorable experiences in his coaching career thus far. Looks like we are in for a very exciting season with the Blue Raiders!
JOHN: Hey, guys. Tuesday Morning Coffee here. I’m here with the head coach, Kermit Davis, of Middle Tennessee State University. Coach, thanks for being with us today.
KERMIT: Well, I appreciate it John.
JOHN: We’re right on the eve. Actually, played our first exhibition game last week and our first home game, and we’re kind of on the cusp of a big season ahead of you. Kermit is the all-time winningest coach here at MTSU, and he’s about to into his 11th season, coming off one of the best seasons that he’s ever had. And there’s a lot of excitement in there about Blue Raider basketball. In fact, I was at the kickoff banquet a few weeks ago, and that was amazing. I couldn’t believe how many people were there.
KERMIT: It’s good, John. It’s been over 600 people at the tipoff celebration. You kind of want it to be more of an entertaining thing. You kind of want it to be more for the fans and the players. And I think it hit right nerve. Jimmy Dykes was terrific.
JOHN: Was awesome.
KERMIT: And Aaron and Thea Tippin and Marcos Knight. He play a gospel song.
KERMIT: He could play for two hours.
KERMIT: I mean, he’s terrific.
JOHN: He is good.
KERMIT: So it was just a good day to have a fun night.
JOHN: But it was awesome and a lot of excitement in there. What’s the outlook this year? I know you’re pretty excited about it. And tell a little bit about the team and ___ [01:19] coming back.
KERMIT: What I enjoy about it is that we really have a lot of fun coming in the gym every day. Because you know, John, you’ve been around athletics your whole life. When you’re around guys that are highly motivated, self-starting, they’re good people off the floor. We’ve got 11 of our top 13 back, so we’ve got a mature, experienced team, which you still have to recreate your identity no matter how many people you have coming back. So we’re in the process of that.
But we’re off to a good start. We scrimmaged Murray State, played well there. I thought we played well in our exhibition game and shot the lights out of it that night [overtalk].
JOHN: That’s right; that’s right [overtalk].
KERMIT: So it’s just been good. So we’re excited.
JOHN: Coach, tell me a little bit about any newcomers for the fans that they haven’t seen before coming in this year.
KERMIT: Yeah, yeah, John. Two of them. Trantel Knight. His nickname is Tweety. It’s Marcos Knight’s brother, and he’s a real powerful point guard who played good in the scrimmage against Murray. Had seven assists the other night, four rebounds, did well. Meko Hunter, he’s about 6’7”, 225. Can really shoot it. I think he had 10 points, eight rebounds. Led us in rebounding at Murray. So he and I had some really good depth, and both of them have really fit in real nicely with our team.
JOHN: That’s awesome. I’m going to regress a little bit. Your father was a head coach at a major college as you were growing up.
JOHN: I’m assuming you were a gym rat, in the gym every day.
KERMIT: Every day. I mean, I tell everybody, John, I live this story childhood. You know, a guy that just loved hoops. I mean, every day whether we came from the 4-year-old nursery or kindergarten, my mom picked me up and dropped us off at the gym. We rode home with dad whenever he came home, me and my brother. My brother and I are year apart. That’s all we totally knew.
We just stayed there and shot and drove the players crazy, drove him crazy when he’s trying to practice and me and my brother are fighting on the side.
So it was a fun deal, as we grew up in it, and that’s just really all I knew.
JOHN: At what age did you know that’s what you wanted to do as far as getting into coaching?
KERMIT: It’s five years old. Now my brother knew he didn’t.
JOHN: I’m sure after your NBA career, right? At five years old.
KERMIT: Yeah, I could tell at about 10 [overtalk].
JOHN: What’s your brother do now?
KERMIT: He’s in the furniture business and the livery [03:37] business. My dad, after he left coaching, John, got into the furniture business with the Mississippi National Furniture Market. And so my brother got into it. He’s done really well. He lives in Olive Branch. He comes to a ton of games. And also, I have a younger sister that is also in the fabric and furniture industry.
JOHN: Oh, okay. Now you were a pretty young age when you got your first head coaching job at a NCAA school. Idaho, correct?
JOHN: How old were you?
KERMIT: I was 28. I was the youngest Division 1 head coach in the country. When I just turned 24, I was the youngest junior college coach in the country. In fact, I think I had two players older than me. And I looked like a student [overtalk].
JOHN: What was that experience like being so young and…?
KERMIT: It was great, and I was at this little junior college at Southwest, which they gave me an unbelievable opportunity at that age. It was fun for me. I made a lot of mistakes at a young age but at a place where nobody really noticed. But it was great, and we turned around a program that just had won no games in four years to winning right around 40 games in two years.
JOHN: And you played collegiately, correct?
KERMIT: At Mississippi State.
JOHN: Mississippi State, okay.
KERMIT: I use the word play loosely.
JOHN: Okay, that’s all right.
KERMIT: But I did. I was on scholarship at Mississippi State. I told this story the other day, John. Willie Dyke [04:57], we were doing a coaches versus cancer deal and Kevin ___ [05:00] was on him about him being a bad player at Vanderbilt. And I told Willie, I said, “Willie, there’s one guy in the SEC you’re better than” and that was me. So my senior plaque. You know, they generally do all these most points and stuff. It says Kermit Davis, one of the most personable players [overtalk].
JOHN: Gotcha. That’s all right. You were out there doing it, man. Who is the best player you’ve ever coached from a talent standpoint?
KERMIT: From a talent standpoint, when I was at LSU, Stromile Swift. I was the assistant coach.
JOHN: He jumped pretty well didn’t he?
KERMIT: Oh, his talent level was off the chart. He was the second player picked in a draft, but to see Stromile—he was a great kid—and just to see him develop. He was the real kind of kid that really knew not a lot about basketball when he got there and just turned into this monster that made all kinds of money in the NBA.
JOHN: Right. Did you ever have the opportunity to meet Pete ___ [05:55]?
KERMIT: Yeah, when I was young kid. He was my idol growing up.
JOHN: Was he?
KERMIT: And I was in the gym when ____ [06:01] Sr. would do the—and Pete ___ [06:03], and he would tour around and do Converse clinics.
JOHN: Right, right.
KERMIT: I met him when he was a freshman at LSU and my dad was the assistant basketball coach at Mississippi State. The press let us stay, me and my brother, and watch Pete and those guys practice a little bit. And we were just in awe of this guy [overtalk] and doing everything that nobody ever attempted to do.
JOHN: Wow, wow. What has been your most exciting moment as a coach?
KERMIT: It would have to be that first year. I was 28 and it was 1989 and we were playing this archrival, Boise State. It was 13,000 people.
JOHN: Did they have a blue basketball court?
KERMIT: They did. They had the blue where the three point and the first time in college basketball that ever started coloring their court.
JOHN: I didn’t know that.
KERMIT: And within the three-point line, it was all blue and it was orange, the big bronco head. It was like the coolest thing any player or all of us had ever seen. So we went down. We had a great team. We’d tied ___ [07:01] Raider Championship, so it was a nationally televised game, the late game on ESPN. Whoever won went to the NCAA Tournament, and it was just a knock-down, drag-out. We won at the end to go to the NCAA Tournament, and that was a big thrill.
JOHN: Out of all your years in coaching, what has been I guess the most disappointing defeat?
KERMIT: You know, one of them was last year with the Arkansas State game because it was a game that obviously Arkansas State played well. I think I felt so bad for our players. I felt bad for our school. Not so much for me personally, but it was just for our players. And I knew what kind of team we had.
KERMIT: And we went down the stretch and missed like six straight free throws. Because sometimes those tournament games, John, you can struggle but you’ve just got to make free throws and get yourself to the next round and then you play great the next round. But we just couldn’t’ get through it. So that locker room was probably one of the most heartfelt experiences I’ve ever had for those guys.
JOHN: Well, but they regrouped and made us all very proud in the NIT with some big wins.
KERMIT: You’re right.
JOHN: It says a lot about that team.
KERMIT: It does. That’s exactly right. We got up the next morning, watched the tape at 6:00 in the morning and put it to be, go back to Murfreesboro the next day, and had one of the best weeks of practice. We knew we were going to play well, and we did. And it was a fun ride.
JOHN: I think we were on some kind of break last year. I was down in ___ [08:31] when y’all were playing UT at one of the restaurants there and was just so proud of MTSU that night.
KERMIT: That was probably here in maybe my career, that would have to rank right up with that one in Idaho years ago just because of what it meant again to the players and for the fans.
KERMIT: You know, for a Blue Raider fan, walking around the state of Tennessee knowing on national TV we’ve beaten kind of the big dog in the state and a really good team.
JOHN: Yeah, yeah. Well, coach, thank you so much. We wish you the best of luck this year. You’ll be coming back home…let’s see, you’ve got Savannah State tonight, Florida on the 18th at Florida, UCF. Then you’ll be coming back home on the 24th for Texas Southern. A couple of other key games. December 5th will be at home against UAB. December 8th, Ole Miss.
JOHN: I’m sure they’re going to have a chip on their shoulder.
KERMIT: They will; they will.
JOHN: And then of course kind of a big one coming up that ought to be a lot of fun is December 21st at Bridgestone against Vanderbilt.
KERMIT: Yes, it’s a really good home schedule, and like you said, the next opportunity will be—it’s a Saturday. We played football against Troy and then right after the football game, we start our game in Murphy Center. So a big double header on that Saturday.
JOHN: On the 18th?
KERMIT: No, the 24th of November, Texas Southern.
JOHN: Okay, gotcha. The Southern game. All right. Good deal. Well thanks a lot, coach, and we wish you the best this year and everybody come out and watch and ___ [10:01] the spirit. It’s a great product and something to be very proud of if you’re from the Murfreesboro community.
KERMIT: All right. Thanks so much, John.
JOHN: Thank you.