End of Andy Kennedy Era at Ole Miss a Sign of SEC Change

Posted by David Changas on February 13th, 2018

On Monday Ole Miss announced that it will part ways with longtime head coach Andy Kennedy, whose team sits at 11-14 overall (4-8 SEC) and is on a five-game losing streak. In his previous 11 seasons at the helm, Kennedy guided the Rebels to at least 20 wins a total of eight times. And with an overall record of 245-154, he is the winningest head coach in school history. Furthermore, his teams have never finished worse than sixth in SEC play, although that streak almost certainly will end this year. Despite all of that success at a school that is not known for basketball, the albatross hanging around the neck of all those numbers is that Kennedy has led the Rebels to the NCAA Tournament only twice, winning a single game while there.

Andy Kennedy is out after a dozen seasons at the helm in Oxford (Spruce Derden-USA TODAY Sports).

While Kennedy’s departure was described as a mutual decision, there is no doubt that his tenure is ending because he has not won enough. And for fans of SEC basketball — notwithstanding that Kennedy is a likable guy who has always managed to field competitive teams even with lesser talent, this should be viewed as a good thing. In a conference that has suddenly become ultra-competitive, Ole Miss brass came to the realization that regular appearances in the NIT simply were not enough. Finishing in the middle of the pack at Ole Miss is never easy, but in the past, it was acceptable. Now that the overall profile of the league has improved, not only would Kennedy have struggled to keep his program in that soft middle, but going to the Big Dance once every six years simply would not be enough.

The biggest reason that the SEC is likely to receive eight bids to the NCAA Tournament only a few years removed from receiving only three is the improvement in the quality of coaching around the league. From Bruce Pearl to Ben Howland to Cuonzo Martin to Rick Barnes to Will Wade, upgrades abound. The Ole Miss administration knows that if it wants to improve its program, standing pat with a solid coach is a chance it cannot afford to take. It remains to be seen who it can attract to Oxford to take over a program that will require someone who can do more with less. While the school certainly can do worse than it has done with Kennedy if the wrong hire is made, sticking with him is not a realistic option in the new and improved era of SEC basketball.

David Changas (157 Posts)

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