At a press conference held this afternoon, men’s basketball coach Andy Kennedy announced that he would be stepping down at the end of the season. Ole Miss hired Kennedy in 2006 and this year marks his 12th season in control of the program.
“It’s time for a new voice and a new vision for this program moving forward,” Kennedy said. “So, with that said, at the end of this season, I will be stepping down from my role as the head coach of Ole Miss.”
Kennedy is the longest-tenured coach in the SEC and the only coach in SEC history to post 11 consecutive winning seasons after taking over a program coming off four straight losing seasons. Ole Miss Athletics Director Ross Bjork, who sat next to Kennedy at Monday’s press conference, offered praise for Kennedy’s success at the helm of his program.
“Today’s news might be a little surprising, or the timing of it might be a little surprising,” Bjork said. “It’s also time we celebrate Andy Kennedy’s dedication and hard work for Ole Miss basketball … We’re going to celebrate all that he’s done for the program.”
Kennedy’s announcement follows Ole Miss’ 82-66 loss to LSU on Saturday. The Rebels are currently 11-14 overall and ranked 11th in the SEC with a 4-8 conference record. They are in the midst of a five-game losing streak, stretching back to the 85-72 loss to Texas on Jan. 27.
“I am regretful I could not take the program to the next level,” Kennedy said. “I knew that we had some issues, but we always have issues. Every team has challenges, and this team was no different. I didn’t foresee some of the things that have transpired, and again, I’m accountable for that.”
Some have questioned Kennedy’s decision to announce his departure before the end of the season and the effects that decision could have on his program’s short-term future. But Kennedy felt an immediate announcement would lift the “ominous cloud” hanging over the team.
“I have too much respect for this university. I have too much respect for the position of being a head coach in the SEC to allow any speculation about my job status to create a divisive distraction for this program and for the people who support it,” Kennedy said.
Throughout his tenure in Oxford, Kennedy has assembled an overall record of 245-143 and has twice taken teams to the NCAA Tournament. His postseason success peaked in 2013, when Ole Miss advanced to the Round of 32 before conceding to La Salle. That same year, the Rebels claimed the SEC Tournament Championship after defeating Florida and won 27 games, tying the school record.
This year, however, the Rebels are ranked outside the RPI top-100 and are widely thought to be out of the NCAA Tournament discussion.
“We both talked about and expected this team to make a run at SEC play and make a run towards postseason,” Bjork said. “We continued to talk. We met again on Friday to discuss the last few weeks of his season, and then he called me on Sunday and said that he was ready to step down at the end of the season. We both agreed it was best for the program.”
Kennedy will finish out the remaining six games as head coach at Ole Miss before his contract, which was not extended last summer, runs out. The search for Ole Miss’ next men’s basketball head coach will begin tomorrow.
“I am at complete peace with this decision,” Kennedy said.