How a phone call changed the life course of one Ole Miss assistant
OXFORD – Win Case has seen what it takes to win national championships. The current Ole Miss assistant, and long-time disciple of head coach Kermit Davis, has been on the sidelines for four of them. Now in his first year in Oxford, he’s playing his role in the turnaround of Rebel basketball.
A college point guard, Case started his coaching career in 1990 at Oklahoma City University. As an assistant, he witnessed OCU win two national titles. He took over as the head coach in 1992, coaching at OCU for 13 years, posting a 315-96 record and winning two NAIA Championships of his own in 1994 and 1996.
Case bounced around for three years, with stops at Easter Oklahoma State College and Redlands College, following his resignation from OCU. But one phone call in 2008, from Kansas head coach Bill Self, would change the direction of the next decade or more of his life.
It wasn’t all that shocking of a phone call – Case knows Bill Self very well. They were starting backcourt mates at Oklahoma State from 1983-1985, Case playing the point and Self at the two. Case’s oldest son, Jeremy, was on Bill Self’s 2008 National Championship squad at Kansas.
At the time of the phone call, Case was at Redlands College in Oklahoma, serving as both the head basketball coach and athletic director. But Kermit Davis was looking for an assistant.
“I liked being a head coach and didn’t know if I wanted to make that move. Bill called me and said ‘Win, Kermit Davis is one of the best in the business… if you get under a guy like that, you’re going to have a lot of success,’ Case said. “I thought I knew a lot about basketball before I got with coach Davis, but I didn’t. The stuff that I’ve learned from him is amazing.”
Case would take the job with Davis, joining his Middle Tennessee staff in 2009. Since that 2009 season, nearly a decade ago, the two have been tied at the hip.
The MTSU program saw unprecedented heights in the decade Davis and Case spent together in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. In ten years, MTSU won 232 games, including six years with at least 24 victories. Since 2012, the program appeared in three NCAA tournament’s twice advancing to the round of 32. In 2016, as a 15-seed, MTSU knocked off no. 2 Michigan State 90-81 in the first round.
Win Case wasn’t shy about it: he has the desire to be a head coach again. However, he says he’s learned much more than just X’s and O’s in his time with Davis. Case believes he’s truly learned how build a program. But when Kermit Davis got the Ole Miss job back in March, following his close friend to Oxford was a relatively easy decision.
“I told him then, ‘Coach, I definitely want to go with you,’ Case said. “Obviously, I want to be a head coach again at some point, but it was just one of those situations where we were winning a lot of games. I was really happy. The quality of life is really good.”
As a former college point guard, Case’s role on the Ole Miss staff primarily centers around skill development with the perimeter players. But while he spends a lot of time working with players’ shots, Case says he also tries to keep everyone upbeat and confident – he’s the epitome of a glass-half-full type of guy.
“Win is the most positive person in the world. Head coaches need that, especially after a loss,” Davis said. “He’s got a smile on his face all the time, he’s a tireless worker. He’s one of the most loyal guys I’ve ever been around… every time you look at Win, you think you won.”
Having been together over a decade now, Case and Davis have clearly become pretty close. Case said the two are have built a tight bond, that Davis’ circle has a ‘family for life,’ type of feel to it. But while the two have a great relationship on and off the court, Davis is still the basketball lifer you’d expect from a guy who’s been coaching for over 30 years.
“Our relationship, obviously we have a job to do. It’s a family-like atmosphere, but we have a job to do. There’s no gray area, we’re going to get this thing done,” Case said. “I’ve never seen this guy take a day off. But he’s a great man to work for.”
Be it grandstanding or Case’s unrelenting positivity, he honestly believes the Ole Miss basketball program is capable of winning a national championship under Kermit Davis.
Ole Miss isn’t exactly a basketball powerhouse – they have been to the NCAA tournament only twice since 2002 and won 25 games just twice this century. But Davis’ record at MTSU speaks for itself; he won 25 games or more in six of the last seven years.
Since the arrival of Davis and Case, Ole Miss simply looks different. The 2019 recruiting class is ranked in the top-25 according to Rivals.com and the 2018-19 Rebels already have a very strong win over Baylor on their resume. National championships might be a lofty goal, but this vision of a new-look, annually competitive Ole Miss basketball is certainly in play.
“A chance to, at one point win a national championship, is something I have always dreamed of,” Case said. “I truly believe in my heart that Coach Davis is going to do everything in his power to help this school and this program to win a national championship.”
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