OXFORD, Miss. (AP) Mississippi coach Andy Kennedy and the school are parting ways after 12 seasons.
Kennedy announced Monday his decision to step down as head coach, effective at the end of the season. The decision comes two days after Ole Miss (11-14, 4-8 SEC) lost at LSU to extend its losing streak to five.
Kennedy is the winningest coach at Ole Miss with 245 wins, ranking 18th in SEC history. This season he picked up his 100th SEC regular season win and is the only Ole Miss coach to reach that accomplishment.
Kennedy was hired in March of 2006, replacing Rod Barnes who at the time was the most successful coach in program history. The Rebels won the 2013 Southeastern Conference tournament championship and have made the NCAA Tournament twice under Kennedy. There were also six other postseason appearances.
”I woke up Sunday morning with a true conviction that there needed to be some clarity as it pertained to the future of Ole Miss basketball moving forward,” Kennedy said during a news conference with athletic director Ross Bjork. ”I’ve been blessed, truly blessed, to have had the opportunity to be a head coach in the Southeastern Conference in my home state for 12 years. .I also know that it’s time for a new voice and a new vision for this program moving forward. I’m at complete peace with this decision.”
There was promise at the beginning of the season that the Rebels could make a run at an NCAA Tournament bid. Three overtime losses to nonconference opponents and Kennedy’s first losing conference record entering February have made that near impossible. It also caused discussion of whether Kennedy would be let go once the season ended.
”I feel like the time is right,” Kennedy said. ”I didn’t want the rest of the season to be about `what’s Andy Kennedy’s status? Are you for him or are you against him?’ I didn’t want to divide our fan base. I respect this too much for that. I didn’t want people to have to choose a side. I want everybody to be on the same side and that’s moving the program forward.”
This season Kennedy picked up his 100th SEC regular season win. Ole Miss has averaged 21 wins per season under Kennedy after the program posted only 21 or more wins three times in 96 years before his arrival.
”Andy Kennedy always did it right way,” Bjork said. ”He always did it the right way. He was consistent. He worked extremely hard every single year. He maximized the resources when he first arrived. .He changed the culture of Ole Miss basketball.”
Bjork noted the search for a new head coach will begin immediately and credited Kennedy for making the announcement now and giving them plenty of time to find his successor.
The Rebels have six more regular season games, including three home games. The first home game is Tuesday against Arkansas. Bjork said they will use the final weeks to `walk down memory lane’ and honor Kennedy’s legacy with the program.