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A Tip For Rebel Fans: You Don’t Blow Up The Best Coach You’ve Ever Had

andy-kennedy-hands-upAndy Kennedy’s Ole Miss Rebels just can’t seem to get over the hump (or “The Hump,” considering the Rebs’ loss at Mississippi State’s Humphrey Coliseum on Saturday.)  Year after year Kennedy’s squads manage to win 20 games… and still miss out on the NCAA Tournament.  With a terrible strength of schedule number and some gut-punch losses this season (like the one to MSU), it looks like history will repeat itself once more.

But for those UM fans who feel Andy is the worst Kennedy to impact Ole Miss since Jack, a quick look across state should work as a calming tonic, as a soothing balm, and as a warning.

Rick Stansbury had led Mississippi State to 293 wins in 14 seasons as the Bulldogs’ head coach.  He’d won 20 games 10 times, including in 2011-12.  A perfect coach?  No.  His last three teams failed to reach the NCAA Tournament.  Also, the turbulence in and around his program during his final two seasons was self-created as the coach chose to sign and coddle controversial team-killer Renardo Sidney.

State fans had had enough.  Stansbury saw the writing on the wall and resigned last spring as MSU’s all-time winningest coach and the SEC’s ninth-winningest coach all-time.

Despite dreams of landing a big-name coach, the best MSU could do was hire Clemson assistant Rick Ray as Stansbury’s replacement.  Ray inherited a mess as most of the Bulldog team pulled up stakes and left as soon as their old coach stepped down.  This season has been one of misery in Starkville — an 8-20 record, a 3-13 mark in the SEC, and a 13-game losing streak that was finally snapped on Saturday.

Ray might turn out to be the best coach in history of college basketball, but it appears the rebuilding job before him will be a difficult one.  Certainly more difficult than what Stansbury would have faced had he not been pressured to resign.

If Ole Miss fans are upset that Ray finally ended his team’s long losing streak against their Rebels, that’s perfectly fair.  But they should compare the two squads’ overall records — 8-20 versus 21-8 — before dialing up a call-in show to demand Kennedy’s scalp.

Everyone around the league will tell you that when it comes to the worst basketball facility in the Southeastern Conference, Kennedy’s shackled to it.  Kentucky’s John Calipari said in January: “Would you please build the guy a new building?  I mean, the locker room we’re in, I’m like looking for squirrels in there… This is the only bad building on the whole campus.”  The 47-year-old Tad Smith Coliseum has even dealt with power outages and rain-outs in the last two years.  Yes, really.

The Tad Pad is finally scheduled to be replaced by the 2015-16 season and that could do wonders for Kennedy’s ability to lure quality players to Oxford.  Already he is Mississippi’s all-time winningest coach and he’s one of just a handful of SEC coaches to reach the 20-win mark in six of his first seven seasons as a head coach.  Might better facilities aid recruiting enough to boost the Rebels’ record by a game or two each season?  And might that be enough to propel UM into the NCAA Tournament instead of the NIT on a semi-regular basis?

There’s no question, Ole Miss’ slide from 17-2 to 21-8 has been disappointing.  Expectations were raised and now Kennedy is having to deal with fans outraged over a 4-6 skid in his team’s last 10 games.  But there’s the devil you know and the devil you don’t and 21-8 overall and 10-6 in the SEC aren’t too bad when viewed in proper perspective.

Mississippi State is dealing with the devil its fans didn’t know.  Upset by a lack of NCAA tourneys for three seasons, they’re now finding out that 20-wins and an NIT bid beats the hell — in keeping with the devil talk — out of an eight-win campaign.

Kennedy’s program is showing no signs of decline.  While there’s been a fall-off with this year’s team over the last five weeks, he’s still cranking out 20 wins per year.  As long as he’s doing so, Rebel fans should patiently await the building of UM’s new arena.  If Kennedy’s program nosedives before 2015, then make a move.  If Kennedy can’t take advantage of the new arena once it’s built and he continues to post NIT season after NIT season, then make a move.

But to jettison the school’s best-ever coach before he’s actually given better tools to work with would be extremely risky.  Kennedy’s program has an obvious ceiling that the Rebels keep bumping up against.  But a quick look across the way to Starkville should show that it’s better to be talking about a ceiling than the basement.

 


11 comments
I4Bama
I4Bama

Texas fooball fans should read and heed this as well.

 

bradking2001
bradking2001

"But for those UM fans who feel Andy is the worst Kennedy to impact Ole Miss since Jack" GGGGRRROOOOAAAAANNN...*facepalm*

Statesman
Statesman

Andy has been there 7 years and has never made the NCAAs.  The winningest coach has built his record on horrible teams, see his overall strength of schedule.  The coach before him was fired after a couple of down years, but he took the team to the tournament and did not pad his record against the 'lil sisters of the poor".  Finally when he loses to a team that has lost 13 in a row, and is down to a few scholarship players, then he should be fired.  Maybe they will need to call Bobby the Kennedy that would cut your throat.

CowbellCruiser
CowbellCruiser

Wrong, John. The majority of State fans blame this season on Stansbury's dumpster fire and are not longing to see him return.  Seems like before writing an article making such a statement, you'd have bothered to find that out.

John at MrSEC
John at MrSEC moderator

 @Statesman 

 

Rod Barnes was 141-109 and 50-78 in the SEC.  He had three 20-win seasons in eight years.

 

Andy Kennedy is 146-85 and 64-64 in the SEC.  He has had six 20-win seasons in seven years.

 

I'd choose the latter if it were me, but that's just my take.  If Ole Miss fans want a new coach, I wish them the best of luck in luring a big name to the Tad Pad.  But if they think it'll be easy to find someone who'll walk into place that just fired a guy with Kennedy's recent track record, well, I think they'll be in for a surprise.  

 

Mississippi State fans sure didn't expect Rick Ray -- who most of them had never heard of prior to his hiring -- would be the best their program could do.

 

No skin off my back either way.  I'm just trying to give the folks in Oxford a little free advice... as I did with the folks in Starkville last year.

 

Thanks for reading the site,

John

 

 

John at MrSEC
John at MrSEC moderator

 @CowbellCruiser 

 

I know that State fans aren't blaming Ray for the losses.  I didn't write that they are.  Seems that before making such a comment you'd have bothered to read what I actually wrote.

 

What I'm pointing out -- and you can judge this by the attendance in Starkville -- most Bulldog fans aren't enjoying their 8-20 season.  And if Stansbury had stayed, MSU would not be 8-20 this year.  

 

Thanks for reading the site,

John

Statesman
Statesman

 @John at MrSEC

 John  how long should Ole Miss give Kennedy to make the tournament?   There is always a risk involved when replacing a coach.  You never know if you are going to get a Buzz Peterson or a Bruce Pearl, but at some point you have to change direction.   

 

 Thanks, I enjoy the site. 

CowbellCruiser
CowbellCruiser

 @John at MrSEC 

 

We wouldn't be much better.  Ray can't help the injuries, and the only player we lost that we'd still have is the PG that went to Texas Tech.  Hood was gone, Moultrie was gone, Bost was gone.  We were losing all of last year's team regardless, so this idea that we'd be much better with Stansbury is misguided.  We'd be much better if half our team hadn't spent the season injured.  Even with 5 scholarship players and giving two terrible walk-ons significant minutes, we've got 3 SEC wins.

We were going to be bad regardless.

 

Thanks!

John at MrSEC
John at MrSEC moderator

 @Statesman 

 

This is just my take, but if he'd shown some sort of decline then I'd see a need for change.  But the guy consistently wins 20 per year, has a winning record in the SEC (so it can't all be chalked up to a poor non-conference schedule), and he's doing it while recruiting kids to play in a what amounts to an armory.  

 

The NCAA Tournament is clearly the goal in Oxford -- as it should be -- but I think Kennedy has shown that he's a pretty good coach.  A break or two and he might have been picked to make an NCAA tourney or two (let's not forget that a panel picks the teams each year).  So, if it were me, I'd give the winningest coach in school history a chance to use a new arena as a lure for players.  As I stated, if he tanks the next two years or if he fails to elevate things in the new digs, then make a move.

 

But winning 20 games every single season isn't bad.  No one else in Ole Miss history has been able to do it. 

 

Again, just my feelings on the matter.

 

Thanks again for reading,John 

buddha22
buddha22

@Statesman @John at MrSEC I'd take it as sage advice. He should get to recruit to the new facilties!

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