Newly hired Kermit Davis says Ole Miss will 'be a team that respects the flag'

Kermit Davis Jr., center, is introduced as Mississippi’s new men’s basketball coach in Oxford, Miss., Monday, March 19, 2018. (Bruce Newman, Oxford Eagle via AP)

In the middle of his inaugural speech introducing himself to his new school on Monday, recently hired Ole Miss men’s basketball coach Kermit Davis veered off in an unexpected direction.

Unprompted, he listed standing at attention during the national anthem as one of the core qualities he expects to be synonymous with his program.

“What is Ole Miss Basketball going to look like?” Davis asked rhetorically. “It’s going to be relentless, athletic, explosive, a team that you’re going to have to play on and on and on to beat. It’s going to be a team that’s going to be unselfish. We’re going to play fast and smart in transition. We’re going to try to get easy baskets.

“We’re going to try to play with great body language. We’re going to be a team that respects the flag and the National Anthem. All those things from culture is what we’re about. It’s who we’re going to be.”

Davis was clearly alluding to the movement sparked two years ago by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Following Kaepernick’s example, dozens of NFL players have kneeled during the national anthem the past two seasons as a way of protesting racial inequality and police brutality.

What’s strange about Davis’ decision to reference it in his opening statement is there’s no history of athletes taking a knee during the national anthem either at Ole Miss specifically or across college basketball in general. Ole Miss did not immediately return a message from Yahoo Sports asking if Davis would be interested in speaking further about the subject.

Davis, a native of Leakesville, Mississippi, spent the past 16 years at Middle Tennessee, compiling a 332-188 overall record, capturing five league titles in the past seven seasons and winning first-round NCAA tournament games in 2016 and 2017. The 58-year-old was hired to replace longtime Rebels coach Andy Kennedy, who won 20 or more games nine times in 12 seasons but reached the NCAA tournament only twice.

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Jeff Eisenberg is a college basketball writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!