Sunday, April 2, 2023

Andy Kennedy Says Rebels on Track for Successful Season

Andy Kennedy is the winningest basketball coach in Ole Miss history. All photos courtesy of UM Athletics.

The Vassallo Interviews — Steve Vassallo is a contributor who interviews Oxford’s and our region’s leading personalities.
Steve said, “Andy Kennedy is the winningest Head Basketball Coach in Ole Miss history! In his eight seasons here, the Rebels have averaged 21.4 wins per year. In the 90 years before AK arrived, we had only three seasons in which we won 21 or more games. I had the recent pleasure to discuss the upcoming page of Rebel basketball as well as a few other topics.” — Coach, before we get into the Q&A, I believe it is very appropriate to congratulate you on becoming the winningest coach ever here.
Andy Kennedy — I have not taken the time to reflect on the totality of my eight-year tenure as my job here is all consuming. I’ll leave looking at the BIG picture for another day. — The previous two seasons Marshall was “our go to guy” for scoring. Who will this role fall to this coming season or will it be allocated to committee?
Andy Kennedy — Jarvis Summers was our MVP last year averaging over 17 points a game and he is the most experienced and productive player returning in the SEC. He will obviously be a big key. However, I’m excited about returning seven  of our top eight and the five newcomers we’ve added, four of which are upperclassmen. — We understand recruiting has once again gone well. Can you mention any players that we should be looking for to make a significant contribution this season?
He says his emotional demeanor indicates his passion for the game.

Andy Kennedy — The 2 post-grads we signed should be poised to make an immediate impact — Terrence Smith who is a 6-4 guard out of UT Martin led the OVC in 3-point percentage and M.J. Rhett, a 6-9 245-pound forward from Tennessee State led the OVC in double doubles. Two jucos that will contribute are Stefan Moody who was the Sun Belt Conference freshman of the year in 2013 and Rod Lawrence. He is an athletic wing who is coming out of the same junior college as Marshall. We are also excited about our lone incoming freshman Marcanvis Hymon. — Looking at the SEC as of right now, which teams are going to consist of the upper echelon in talent returning?
Andy Kennedy — Kentucky will be the consensus No.1 in the country. Florida is an established national power and should continue to be so. This could be the best Arkansas team under their Mike Anderson, and LSU and Georgia have solid teams returning. — The core fan base really enjoys your intensity during a game. Is this, however, good for your health?
Andy Kennedy — (LOL) I see myself on tape and certainly look stroke worthy. I believe there is one emotion you cannot fake and that’s passion. — As a coach, would you rather have a kid strong in fundamentals and weak in experience or vice versa? Which type is easier to teach and coach?
2013 Andy Kennedy Family Photos
Coach Kennedy and his family love Oxford.

Andy Kennedy — In the perfect world you want a talented and experienced player. Having a solid foundation in the basic fundamentals is important. — Getting to the “big dance” seems more difficult each and every year. Is there a magic number of wins necessary to assure an automatic entry?
Andy Kennedy — No “magic number” It’s more difficult due to the number of games televised involving nontraditional football schools/leagues. Entry to the NCAA tournament is more dependent upon the collective body of work, but with the exposure that TV is presenting, the quote-unquote “mid-majors,” we all need to WIN games ! — The recently formed SEC Network is going to alter our schedule somewhat due to the added midweek games. How do you anticipate this challenge from a coaching perspective?
Andy Kennedy — It will not be any more challenging than before. I don’t get caught up in concerning myself with things outside of my control. All games are hard and we play them as they come. — You and your family have truly adapted well here in Oxford. Would you like to stay here for your entire career or would we be asking too much of you to consider this?
Andy Kennedy — It’s hard for me to believe that I’m now beginning my ninth season. I’m only behind Billy Donovan and Kevin Stallings in tenure in the league. The SEC is an ultra-competitive league and this is a very volatile business which dictates taking one season at a time, but my family and I do love Ole Miss !! — How much will the new coliseum aid us in recruiting?
Andy Kennedy — We are very excited about the Pavilion at Ole Miss. I think many underestimate the impact this will have on our program. Once completed, we will then have a facility on par w/the other sports on this campus. — Could you name the three most difficult places in the SEC to win on the road?
Coach thinks he has the players to be successful without Marshall Henderson.

Andy Kennedy — Kentucky would be first and foremost primarily because of the number of talented players. Florida and the O’Connell Center would follow next with the Bud Walton Arena (Arkansas), where we have actually won four out of the last five there, included among the top three. — What have you enjoyed most about being the head basketball coach at Ole Miss?
Andy Kennedy — I am a native Mississippian having grown up a hundred miles south of here in Louisville. I was raised following the SEC and so this is truly a “dream come true” for me to coach in this league. — Are our starters set yet for the upcoming season or is it still a work in progress?
Andy Kennedy — It’s still very much a work in progress. We are returning one all league player plus a number of experienced players. The ten practices in the Bahamas helped us learn a great deal about our group. — Looking at the schedule, there are some interesting non-conference games. Your thoughts?
Andy Kennedy — We will be playing five NCAA teams including Dayton, Creighton, Cincy, and Oregon. Coming to Oxford are TCU, Austin Peay and Western Kentucky. This level of competition will prepare us better for the rigors of league play. — If you had to predict at this time who would be our most improved player for the upcoming season, does anyone stand out?
Andy Kennedy — You normally improve the greatest between your first and second year. Dwight Coleby and Sebastian Saiz played major roles as freshmen and now have the experience and understanding necessary to take that next step. — It is apparent to those who have watched you closely over the years that your passion for the game and winning are enormous. Because of this is it easier for you to bring talent here like Marshall and others?
Andy Kennedy — Recruiting is the lifeblood of any program. We want to put young men into situations where they are prepared for the challenges that inevitably lie ahead. At the same time, we want to create memories that last a lifetime.  — With so many players now staying only a year or two (nationwide) and then jumping to the pros, how has this impacted coaching?
Andy Kennedy — I would like to be more involved in this situation because that means you’re getting Very Good Players! We have had one player (Terrico White) who left after his sophomore season and was the 36th pick of the Detroit Pistons. — There are those who say that a winning basketball team at Ole Miss is an uphill battle. You have already proven that wrong to a great degree. Your thoughts?
Andy Kennedy — The only fair way to judge/evaluate a program is against history. We have won a All-time Best 171 Games in 8 seasons (21.4 per year avg.) In five of the past eight seasons we have been .500 or better in the SEC while winning a total of 25 SEC games over the last two seasons. Prior to 2006, going .500 or better in the SEC occurred less than 20 percent of the time here. We have brought an SEC Championship back to campus and advanced in the NCAA Tournament so we have proven that you can have success here! — Can we expect any significant rules changes in the foreseeable future?
Andy Kennedy — There is ongoing talk about shot clock changes and widening the lanes to more resemble the international scene. Many believe the game is too physical. There is always dialogue about ways to improve our game.
Andy Kennedy, or “AK” as he is affectionately known at Ole Miss and in basketball circles, has definitely made his “mark” on this sport. He brings a level of excitement and theatre to the game that is refreshing. If you have not ordered your tickets yet for the final season in the Tad Pad, don’t get left out! If the past few years are any indication, the 2014-15 season is going to be a wild one — and in all likelihood a most successful one!
Steve Vassallo is a contributor. Steve writes on Ole Miss athletics, Oxford business, politics and other Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communicationssubjects. He is an Ole Miss grad and former radio announcer for the basketball team. In addition, he is a certified economic and community developer and currently, a highly successful leader in the real estate business with Premier Properties of Oxford. Steve’s lifelong dream has been to live in Oxford full-time. “I am now living my dream daily as is my wife Rosie, who works with the Oxford Chamber of Commerce,” Steve said. You can contact Steve at sovassallo@gmail.comor call him at 985-852-7745.