Breakups are never easy, and this one is no exception.
For 12 years, you have been a rock. Athletics directors, coaches, players and even chancellors have come and gone, but there was always one thing for certain: Andy Kennedy was the head basketball coach at Ole Miss. There are no words to express what that means to a fan base – thank you.
Though this decision comes with gut-wrenching nostalgia, as you said, it’s about moving forward. It was time.
Sure, there were times when crucial losses that landed squarely on your shoulders caused frustration to boil, and yes, you absolutely should have played Dom more than 13 minutes against Auburn at home. But at the end of the day, in just one year, you took a forlorn program to top of the SEC West. And over 12 years, you brought stability and excitement to a team that, in a lot of ways, takes a backseat in Oxford.
On Monday, you said that there will be time to walk down memory lane, but then wasn’t it. Whether you’re ready or not, let’s take a stroll through the history you have written.
With an SEC Coach of the Year title already under your belt, you did something that had never been done before and took the Rebels to the NIT Final Four in 2008. How sweet was it stepping onto the court at Madison Square Garden for the first time? I can only imagine.
In December of that year, you showed that you were human. While the incident and its ramifications were certainly not ideal, it could have been any one of us. Because of your character, because of your spirit, because of your humility, you were forgiven. You were the guy, and there was no one who had your back more than Ole Miss.
Two years later, you claimed another SEC West title en route to a second NIT Final Four birth and skyrocketed to the top of Ole Miss coaching royalty. An electrifying 2013 season saw you become the winningest coach in Ole Miss history, and an SEC championship solidified your crown. And erasing 2015’s 17-point NCAA Tournament deficit sits only behind three other comeback margins in tournament history. Impressive.
While the on-court results stand alone, your attitude off of it makes you, well, you.
There is no coach in the nation with a stronger shoe game. There is no coach in the nation who fires back at twitter trolls with the same amount of pure savagery. There is no coach in the nation with an alter ego donning as sweet of stache (Randy, we will miss you too).
Of course, we can’t talk about your passion without flashing back to Feb. 21, 2017, the overtime win over State. As the game wound to a close, it was not one of the young players firing back at the Bulldog chirps – it was you. When you walked into the tunnel and told the Starkville native to “Meet me outside; I’ll be waiting,” there was no doubt in anyone’s minds that no coach in the nation cared more for his players than you.
AK, you are uniquely you, and your swagger is abundant. It will be missed.
On Monday, you said that you are at complete peace with this decision, and I hope that’s true, because you deserve it. Ole Miss loves you, Coach. Here’s to moving forward.