Andy Kennedy Named SEC Coach of the Year; Two Earn All-SEC Honors

OXFORD, Miss. -- In his debut season at Ole Miss, Andy Kennedy returned the Rebels to the top of the Southeastern Conference Western Division, and on Tuesday, was named the SEC Coach of the Year by the Associated Press.

Also gathering AP honors were senior guards Clarence Sanders and Todd Abernethy. Sanders was selected Second Team All-SEC, while Abernethy was an Honorable Mention All-SEC pick.

Kennedy guided Ole Miss, a preseason last-place pick in the West, to its first division title since 2001 and its most wins -- both overall (19) and SEC (8) -- in five years. The Rebels knocked off 18th-ranked Alabama for first its top-25 victory since 2004 and defeated current No. 22 Tennessee.

A 38-year-old native of Louisville, Miss., Kennedy came to Ole Miss after a season as interim head coach at Cincinnati, where he was labeled the Big East Coach of the Year by CBS Sportsline and the New York Post. Thrust into duty less than three months before the season, he led a shaken Bearcat program to a 21-13 record and the brink of an NCAA Tournament berth, despite the nation's fifth-toughest schedule and a roster short on staff and scholarship players.

Kennedy is the fifth Ole Miss mentor to earn SEC Coach of the Year distinction.

"I could not be more pleased the way things worked out for me," Kennedy said. "I'm a man who lives his life by faith, and I had faith that things would work out. They worked out beyond my wildest imagination.

"Honestly, I didn't know what this team was capable of. We had some success in SEC play and the guys started to believe that if we took the right approach, we could be successful, and that's a tribute to them. I've been really pleased with how receptive they've been with the change."   The balloting for coach of the year was close, with Kennedy beating Vanderbilt's Kevin Stallings 5-4. Tennesee's Bruce Pearl, Florida's Billy Donovan and Georgia's Dennis Felton received one vote each.

Sanders, a senior guard from Phenix City, Ala., tops the Rebels in scoring and ranks fifth in the SEC at 16.5 points per game. He has notched 10 20-point games this season and led game-winning, second-half rallies against Tennessee, Alabama, LSU and Auburn.

The SEC's 3-point leader in league play, Sanders established a school record for single-season 3s and is second in the conference in treys for the season. 

A three-year Team Captain, Abernethy has also taken home NABC All-District accolades this year. The Carmel, Ind., native leads the SEC in assists per game and ranks second in the NCAA in assist/turnover ratio. He averaged 12.3 points in conference play and boasts two 20-point games and a pair of double-doubles.

Abernethy was the SEC Sixth Man of the Year as a sophomore and a 2004 SEC All-Freshman Team selection. He ranks top five at Ole Miss in career assists and 3-pointers.

With a first-round bye, Ole Miss sees its first SEC Tournament action in Friday's final game against the winner of Thursday's Tennessee-LSU encounter. Game time is set for 8:45 p.m. CT at Atlanta's Georgia Dome.


 

 

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