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A history of bad SEC starts: Ole Miss men’s basketball

Yet another Kermit Davis team is off to a bad start in league play, joining a host of others.

NCAA Basketball Tournament - First Round - Columbia Photo by Grant Halverson/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

If you’ve been paying attention to the Ole Miss men’s basketball team, and judging by the crowd shots on TV at home games, you haven’t, Kermit Davis’ squad is off to an 0-5 start in the SEC schedule.

In fact, they kicked off the 0-5 SEC start by losing to North Alabama in their last non-conference game of 2022 prior to beginning league action*. Yes, that would be the same North Alabama team that is 9-10 in the Atlantic Sun Conference and ranked 322nd (out of 363 teams) in KenPom.

*Perhaps it was an homage to the 2021-22 season when Davis lost to Samford at home in the final non-conference tune-up before SEC games.

This is Davis’ fifth season in charge of the men’s program, and it’s his second season in which he’s gotten off to an 0-5 start in conference play. If you’re going the math there, that’s 40 percent of his seasons at Ole Miss (the 2019-20 season saw an 0-5 start), which, some are saying, is not good.

After last year’s 13-19 (4-14 SEC) disaster, which saw the team go 2-9 from February 1st until the end of the season, it was obvious Davis needed to work the transfer portal and find shooters who could help stretch the floor and stress defenses. Instead, he doubled down on his maximum defense and rebounding approach and added guys who have little to no offensive skill, creating the same problems he had last year.

This season was doomed before it started, and Davis’ choices are why we’re looking at other bad starts throughout Ole Miss’ history instead of a competitive basketball team. Because until COACHING SEARCH SZN starts, there is nothing interesting to write about Ole Miss men’s basketball.

Now, let’s take a look at the history of crap SEC starts (at least an 0-5 record) from all Ole Miss coaches throughout the less-than-ideal existence of the program.

Charles Jaskwhich (1939-40)

  • 0-6 SEC start
  • 9-10 overall (3-8)
  • 33.3 percent of his SEC seasons started 0-5 or worse

CHARLES. JASKWHICH. Lots of Jaskwhiches in the Saltillo area, I believe.

[puts hand to ear]

Actually, I’m being told we have no idea if that’s true. Until then, all hail the Jaskwiches of Saltillo.

In Jaskwich’s defense, there was a little something called World War II going on, so he probably should get a pass.

BRIEF ASIDE: Jaskwhich was replaced by Edwin Hale, who, in 1944-45, went 2-0 against the Como POW camp. Like against actual Germans or their guards? Enquiring minds need to know!

Buster Poole (1945-46)

  • 0-6 SEC start
  • 8-11 overall (2-8)
  • 100 percent of his SEC seasons started 0-5 or worse

Starts 0-6, then closes it out with a .500 record over the last 4 conference games! That was good enough to not have the job the following year.

B.L. “Country” Graham (1949-50)

  • 0-5 SEC start
  • 8-17 overall (4-13)
  • 7.7 percent of his SEC seasons started 0-5 or worse

This man coached Ole Miss basketball for 13 seasons BEFORE the Tad Pad existed. He deserved the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Eddie Crawford (1962-63)

  • 0-5 SEC start
  • 7-17 overall (4-10)

Eddie Crawford (1964-65)

  • 0-7 SEC start
  • 4-21 overall (1-15; YIKES)

Eddie Crawford (1967-68)

  • 0-9 SEC start
  • 7-17 overall (4-14)
  • 50 percent of his SEC seasons started 0-5 or worse

I have no way to prove it, but I’m certain the Ole Miss athletic department budget for all sports that were not football, from the beginning of time until like 1992, was $21 a year.

Cob Jarvis (1974-75)

  • 0-9 SEC start
  • 8-18 overall (4-14)

If you’re scoring at home, that’s two 0-9 SEC starts in 7 years. Really strong work.

Cob Jarvis (1975-76)

  • 0-15 SEC start
  • 6-21 overall (2-16)
  • 25 percent of his SEC seasons started 0-5 or worse

Your boy Cob was out there just 2 games away from a perfect 0-18 season and seeing the face of God. But Cob, taking a lesson from the Book of Houston Nuttisms, told his team, “They remember March.”

Following that fiery speech, his team went 2-1 in the month. However, thanks in part to that legendary 0-15 SEC start, Jarvis was not retained after nearly running the table in March.

Lee Hunt (1983-84)

  • 0-9 SEC start
  • 8-20 overall (3-15)

Of note, Hunt became the third Ole Miss coach ever to lose 20 games in a season, joining the aforementioned Eddie Crawford (21) and Cob Jarvis (21).

Lee Hunt (1984-85)

  • 0-5 SEC start
  • 11-17 overall (5-13)
  • 50 percent of his SEC seasons started 0-5 or worse

After going 8-28 in SEC play in his second and third years, the powers that be decided maybe Hunt needed another year before he turns things around. The 1985-86 season saw Ole Miss go 4-14 in SEC play.

Ed Murphy (1990-91)

  • 0-7 SEC start
  • 9-19 overall (3-15)
  • 16.7 percent of his SEC seasons started 0-5 or worse

Kicking off a new decade in Ole Miss basketball with an 0-7 start in league play feels right. Ed Murphy honored those who went before him.

Rob Evans (1995-96)

  • 0-5 SEC start
  • 12-15 overall (6-10)
  • 16.7 percent of his SEC seasons started 0-5 or worse

This was the season prior to Evans’ team winning back-to-back SEC West titles, and it was kind of a miracle* he got the chance to coach. Coming into the ‘95-’96 season, Evans had a 14-34 SEC record in 3 years (1 winning season overall).

*By miracle, I mean delicious apathy from the athletic department about men’s basketball.

After ‘95-’96 season, he was 20-44 in the SEC and probably should’ve been looking for employment elsewhere. Instead, he got one more shot and promptly went 23-9 in league play (42-16 overall) and earned two NCAA Tournament appearances.

Of note, the second NCAA Tournament experience saw Ole Miss play and lose to some team called Valparaiso. Surely that was a normal, non-painful loss!

Rod Barnes (1999-2000)

  • 0-5 SEC start
  • 19-14 overall (5-11)
  • 12.5 percent of his SEC seasons started 0-5 or worse

Mostly thanks to a 12-1 non-conference record, Barnes managed to get this team to the NIT after a terrible start to SEC play. With the 0-5 start behind them, the team went 5-6 over the rest of the conference schedule, which is right in the meaty part of the Ole Miss basketball curve.

And for the historical records and Google searches, I would like to once again note that over his last 4 seasons at Ole Miss, Barnes went 17-47 in the SEC. Apparently, a 13-35 SEC record prior to his last year was enough to bring him back so he could go 4-12 in the league one final time.

Kermit Davis (2019-20)

  • 0-5 SEC start
  • 15-17 overall (6-12)

After making the NCAA Tournament in his first year, Davis knew there was no need to be a flashy basketball program and make it a second year. Gotta stay in your historical lane and such.

In doing the research for this post, I saw this team lost to Oklahoma State 78-37 in late November, and I vaguely remember watching it. Ole Miss shot 15-58 (!!!!; 25.9 percent) from the floor and 1-20 from three (5 percent). A GLIMPSE INTO THE FUTURE OF THE KERMIT DAVIS ERA.

Is it bad when your two leading scorers both have 7 points?

Kermit Davis (2022-23)

  • 0-5 SEC start
  • 8-9 overall (0-5)
  • 40 percent of his SEC seasons started 0-5 or worse

And here we are at present day. Each game is more evidence of how wrong Davis was in the way he chose to add to this roster. They can’t shoot and consistently generating good looks is an endless struggle.

To Davis’ credit, the team still plays hard for him. Unfortunately, they’re a terribly flawed basketball team that can’t win on effort.

As long as they maintain their level of effort, it’s possible Davis sees the end of the season as head coach. However, if things start to spiral down into our boy Cob Jarvis’ territory, an in-season change has to be made.