Bennett, Davis in high-stakes reunion
by Nicole Auerbach, USA TODAY Sports
It was the late 1980s, and a kid in his mid-20s had just gotten hired as a graduate assistant at the University of Idaho.
Randy Bennett didn’t know it then, but he was on a heck of a staff.
“Larry Eustachy was on it, and Tim Floyd was the head coach in his first year,” said Bennett, now the head coach at Saint Mary’s. “We were all young. I didn’t know anything. I had played college basketball, but I didn’t know.”
Another member of that staff? Kermit Davis, now the head coach at Middle Tennessee State – Saint Mary’s foe Tuesday night in a First Four showdown for a No. 11 seed spot and chance to play No. 6 Memphis in the round of 64.
When the matchup was announced Sunday night, both coaches thought back to their Idaho days. Davis instantly recalled that graduate assistant he knew back then. Bennett remembered the young – but not quite as young as he was – assistant who always kept an eye on the kid who was just starting out in the field.
“He was the guy I’d go to to ask questions for things, whether it was scheduling or mail-outs for recruiting,” Bennett said. “He looked after me. …At the time, I thought he had a really good basketball mind. He was a sharp guy. We had a good relationship, and we still do.”
Twenty-five years later, the coaches keep in touch, not terribly frequently but enough – a couple of times a year. “I always root for his programs from afar,” Bennett said.
Probably not up close, though, not when his Gaels are on the opposite bench. Still, there seemed to be no hostility leading up to Tuesday’s game.
“We’re going to play a tremendous Saint Mary’s team,” Davis said, jumping straight to a compliment for his old colleague.
Echoed Bennett: “We get to play a very good team, a very good program. That’s what you want in the NCAA tournament.”
What’s interesting about the matchup, Bennett said after putting himself through crash course on Middle Tennessee State over the past two days, is that he sees traces … [For more on First Four coaches Bennett, Davis in high-stakes reunion, click here.]