In the midst of his 12th season as the head coach of the Ole Miss basketball team, Andy Kennedy has announced that he will step down at the end of the season. During a joint press conference with AD Ross Bjork, Kennedy says that the decision was about being direct and holding himself accountable.
“I have been truly blessed to have been given the opportunity to be a head coach in the Southeastern Conference in my home state for 12 years. That is a true blessing, this I know. I also know that it is time for a new voice and a new vision for this program moving forward. With that said, at the end of this season I will be stepping down in my role as the head coach of Ole Miss. I have too much respect for this University. I have too much respect for this position of being a head coach in the SEC to allow any speculation about my job status to create a divisive distraction on this program and the people that support it. I am at complete peace with this decision, I truly am. I appreciate Ross and the working relationship that we have, which allows us to talk candidly and frankly that now is the time to move the program forward.”
This news comes during a disappointing 11-14 season and coming off the team’s 5th straight loss. While this season wasn’t what the Rebels had in mind, Bjork says that Kennedy’s legacy at Ole Miss needs to be honored, but it was time for a new voice.
“In the final analysis, Coach Kennedy feels he needs a new platform and I believe our program needs a new voice, a leader who can build upon the foundation that is in place thanks to Andy’s leadership. Andy will coach our team; he will lead our team the remainder of the season. We have six regular season SEC games left. We have a postseason tournament to play; we hope we make a run,” Bjork said.
The success that Bjork spoke of includes two trips to the NCAA tournament, an SEC tournament championship in 2013 and nine 20-win seasons among many other accomplishments. Before Kennedy’s arrival, the program had just seven 20-win seasons in 96 years. Since his arrival in 2006, Kennedy has been an instrumental piece in putting Ole Miss basketball back on track. The two spoke of how this move is about getting over the hump and establishing a winning culture at Ole Miss. While he may not be the one to lead the Rebels to that goal, Kennedy knows that the program is on the right path.
“This landscape has completely changed. From 2006 a lot has changed. It started with the practice facility and now it culminates with this magnificent facility (The Pavilion). It has been a great shot in the arm moving forward. The landscape has changed and I think, honestly, the foundation is set. It is ready to take that next step. I am regretful that I couldn’t get it there, but I am also accountable for that. I want to see it get there and I think that it can.”
Kennedy will coach through the remainder of the season, but Bjork says the timing of the decision allows them to get a head start on their coaching search. As far as who the Rebels’ new coach may be, Bjork says its all about finding the right fit.
“Obviously, recruiting is paramount. That foundation, we have a lot to sell, we have resources, we have made a commitment and are willing to do more to move ahead,” Bjork said. “This is a great job. This is a destination job and now we have this building, the Tuohy Center and the SEC better than it has ever been. This is an attractive job in college basketball. We will go after the best coach. Whoever that is, what their background is will be determined to find the best coach.”
When the Rebels take the court on Tuesday against Arkansas, it will be Kennedy’s 400th game as the head coach at Ole Miss. The Mississippi native will leave the program as its all-time winningest head coach. The end of Kennedy’s tenure in Oxford concludes a storied chapter in Ole Miss basketball history.
Watch the full press conference below: