We feel for you, Blue Raider fans.
The Rebels have been searching for a coach after it was announced in mid-February that Andy Kennedy would finish out the season, but not be retained. Less than a week later, he stepped down immediately stating that he didn’t want to create a distraction for his team.
The hire ends years of high major speculation swirling around Davis, that kicked into high gear when his Blue Raiders pulled a No. 15/No. 2 upset over Michigan State in the 2016 NCAA Tournament. They would follow that season up with a tremendous 2016-17, going 31-5, winning the CUSA regular season and tournament titles and yet again winning a first round game in the NCAA Tournament (taking down Minnesota).
This season was more of the same, as MT racked up a 24-7 record and CUSA regular season title, as well as earning the first national ranking (No. 24, AP) in program history. But down the stretch they lost their regular season finale to Marshall, and then were shocked in the CUSA Tournament by Southern Miss. Coupled with just two Quadrant 1 wins, the Blue Raiders were snubbed on Selection Sunday.
They did, however, batter Vermont by 27 points in their NIT opener Tuesday night.
That may have wound up as Davis’s farewell in Murfreesboro, depending on how he arranges it with his new program. Whenever that final game comes, it will mark the end of a banner stretch for MT basketball. Davis is responsible for a third (3) of the Blue Raiders’ NCAA Tournament appearances and half (5) of their regular season titles in program history. He walks away carrying a 69 percent conference winning percentage across 16 seasons in the Sun Belt and CUSA.
His teams, especially of late, were generally tough defensively, forcing turnovers and cleaning up the defensive glass. He also excelled with transfers, turning two former SEC players (Arkansas’ JaCorey Williams, Alabama’s Nick King) into the CUSA Player of the Year over the past two seasons. Go back to the Blue Raiders Sun Belt days, and Davis snagged one-time Iowa State Cyclone LaRon Dendy and turned him into a conference player of the year. And this isn’t to mention some great four year players Davis signed and developed, including Reggie Upshaw, Giddy Potts and Shawn Jones.
MT was the rebirth of Davis’ head coaching career. He took over Texas A&M as a 30-year old in 1990, but ran into NCAA issues after improper dealings connected with a Syracuse transfer.
Davis resigned following his one and only season at Texas A&M.
His big coaching break had barely lasted one tumultuous season. Once a rising star in the coaching profession, he now bore the NCAA’s scarlet letter on his chest.
”It was 30 years ago when I got this great opportunity at Texas A&M,’’ Davis said Saturday. “I made some mistakes there. I guess it was in 1990. I’d never wish it on anybody but if you go through it, it probably makes you a better coach in appreciation. And it did.’’
After that, he would have one-year stints as head man at Chipola Junior College and Idaho, in addition to time as an assistant at LSU and Utah State.
He built MT into the premier program in CUSA, which it will now need to rely on as it searches for its next coach.