Ole Miss Announces Hiring Of Andy Kennedy As Head Basketball Coach
March 23, 2006
JACKSON, Miss. (AP) -- Andy Kennedy isn't nagged by that "interim" tag anymore.
The former Mississippi high school star struggled through a difficult season as Cincinnati's fill-in coach before returning to his home state Friday to rebuild Ole Miss' struggling program.
"Who says you can't go home?" Kennedy said Friday at an introductory news conference. "This is like a homecoming for me. ... There's been a lot of great players, a lot of great moments here and it is my charge, it is my duty, to bring that back."
No longer is Kennedy's job status a question, as it had been since August when Bob Huggins resigned at Cincinnati and he was promoted to replace the veteran coach on an interim basis.
Moments after the Bearcats' 21-13 season ended with a loss in the NIT, Cincinnati named Murray State's Mick Cronin as the permanent coach and Ole Miss snatched up Kennedy to replace Rod Barnes.
"I've had the opportunity to run a Top 20 program - amid less than ideal circumstances, granted, but I was given that opportunity," Kennedy said. "And I knew once the opportunity was afforded that (Ole Miss) was best for me."
Ole Miss officials interviewed four candidates in two days before hiring Kennedy, and all that's left now is for the 38-year-old coach to sign his contract.
Athletic director Pete Boone said they've agreed in principle on a four-year deal worth approximately $600,000 each year, and expects Kennedy to sign in the coming weeks.
"Andy was passionately talking about being at Ole Miss, and (senior associate AD for finance) John Hartwell handed him my compensation list, and he said `I'm not interested in that' and turned it over. I liked that," Boone quipped.
Kennedy grew up in Louisville, Miss., a city of 6,774 located 100 miles southeast of Oxford but situated much closer to rival Mississippi State's campus.
The state's prep player of the year in 1986, Kennedy was recruited by Ole Miss but picked North Carolina State and played one season for Jim Valvano before transferring to UAB.
"I spent all my childhood years trying to get out (of Mississippi), and I've spent all my adult years trying to get back," Kennedy said. "It was one of those situations where I was looking for the bigger, better deal. ... I was like every 18-year-old hotshot. I had all the answers."
Ironically, now his job is to prevent future Andy Kennedys from leaving the state. After stints on the staffs at South Alabama and UAB, he was hired by Cincinnati in 2001 and was Huggins' recruiting coordinator for four seasons.
"Recruiting is like shaving - you had better do it every day, or you will eventually end up looking like a bum," Kennedy said.
"We've got to make sure we become a very viable entity not only within the state of Mississippi, but throughout the Southeast," he added.
Barnes was told three weeks ago that he would not return for a ninth season as coach at his alma mater. He led Ole Miss to the NCAA tournament in three of his first four seasons, but was out after the Rebels finished 14-16 - their fourth straight losing season.
Kennedy said he planned to meet with the remaining assistants before choosing his staff.
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