Ole Miss Basketball: Is Kennedy The Problem With Rebels Hoops?

LEXINGTON, KY - JANUARY 6: Head coach Andy Kennedy of the Mississippi Rebels reacts to a call in the second half of the game against the Kentucky Wildcats at Rupp Arena on January 6, 2015 in Lexington, Kentucky. Kentucky defeated Mississippi 89-86 in overtime. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
LEXINGTON, KY - JANUARY 6: Head coach Andy Kennedy of the Mississippi Rebels reacts to a call in the second half of the game against the Kentucky Wildcats at Rupp Arena on January 6, 2015 in Lexington, Kentucky. Kentucky defeated Mississippi 89-86 in overtime. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) /

The 2017-18 season has not been what any Ole Miss basketball fan expected and now it has us looking for answers to many difficult questions.

There’s no doubt Ole Miss basketball (10-9, 3-4) has fallen short of expectations for this college basketball season. Ole Miss has one of the historically best coaches in the SEC and a talented staff. Ole Miss is also loaded with very talented players. Naturally it makes many of us wonder what’s really wrong with Ole Miss and the bigger question in the end is how do we fix it?

With Andy Kennedy at the helm of Ole miss basketball the Rebels have been perennial winners. We’ve seen how Andy Kennedy has coached less talented teams and had success and now we see this. This seasons performance and inconsistency is not at all what we are used to seeing from a AK coached team. Of course, many Rebels fans are beginning to get restless and are even questioning Andy Kennedy’s tenure at Ole Miss.

Passing The Buck

Ole Miss Rebels Basketball
Ole Miss Rebels Basketball /

Ole Miss Rebels Basketball

As of now Rebel fans are split on Andy Kennedy.  Like many Ole Miss basketball fans I can easily appreciate all AK has done for the basketball program. However, we have every right to wonder what has happened this season and what lies ahead for our Rebels basketball program. It’s not about casting blame but it is however about asking the necessary questions.

Of course, in intercollegiate athletics there are always situations which can arise between coaches and administration. There were very obvious tensions created between coach Andy Kennedy, AD Ross Bjork and chancellor Jeff Vitter. When the Ole Miss admin had a chance to renew Kennedy’s contract this past spring there was a significant problem.

Kennedy lobbied for more money for his assistants and Vitter agreed to increase their salaries however he wanted to eliminate Kennedy’s buyout from his contract renewal and no agreement could be met. Kennedy didn’t get his renewal and Ole Miss basketball still has the lowest paid staffers in the SEC. So did this cause the problems this season? Maybe not directly however it did have an effect. Subsequently, Ole Miss lost one of Kennedy’s best assistants and two highly touted recruits who are starting at other schools.

Surveying The Entire Situation

It’s easy to point the fingers and pass the blame, however none of the above should have ever happened. Regardless of any Ole Miss fan’s feelings towards Kennedy the Ole Miss assistants shouldn’t be the lowest paid in the conference. If chancellor Jeff Vitter wanted to do the right thing for Ole Miss basketball he should be willing to pay our assistants a competitive salary.

In addition, Vitter should be willing to do this without questioning AK’s buyout in his contract. Of course, in today’s college coaching atmosphere everything is about numbers. With a new multi-million dollar facility it makes no sense to deny good coaches the money to make them want to stay in Oxford.

So maybe it didn’t affect this season directly however we know it made an impact. When the coach isn’t happy and secure in his job it has an effect on his performance. Of course, attitude reflects leadership and naturally a player’s performance can be affected by it as well. Is this the problem with this Rebels team? Not in its entirety.

Basketball Can Be Fickle

So at the moment Ole Miss basketball fans are split when it comes to Andy Kennedy and his tenure moving forward. Some fans blame Kennedy and some don’t. Some support Vitter being willing to move in a new direction for coach and some don’t. One thing we aren’t split on is the performance of this Ole Miss team. Of course, it’s been pretty ugly so far. However, basketball can be a strange game.

As a friend stated on Facebook, “We have been in every game this year. Sometimes the ball does not drop.” He is absolutely correct. He is as correct as another person who stated, “Hey it isn’t AK out there missing those shots!” No Andy Kennedy is not out there missing shots. However he is the head coach of the team missing those shots.

In the game against Texas A&M we saw the Rebels play a hard-fought very tough game which came down to a last second shot. Breein Tyree’s 3-point attempt looked good but rattled down, around and out. Yes, basketball can be strange and heart-breaking. Of course, this wasn’t AK’s fault nor was it Tyree’s. It was as good a shot as he could make at that moment. However, there have been moments when Ole Miss shouldn’t have made the shots they did.

So far after 19 games we know a number of key things. One, Andy Kennedy has started eleven different line-ups. Two, those eleven different line-ups have produced only 10 wins. Three, consistency or lack thereof from the perimeter has been below normal for an AK coached team. Four, there have been points taken off the scoreboard because of poor shot decisions. And yes, all of those things are reflective of the coaching staff.

What’s Next For AK And Rebels Hoops?

Tonight the Ole Miss Rebels face the Alabama Crimson Tide and a win is essential for immediate relief to stop the bleeding. Of course, a win would help get the Rebels back to .500 in SEC play. It would also give Ole Miss a resume building win and get AK and the Rebels one game closer to a 20 win season.

In order to get the win however, Andy Kennedy needs to get this team back into the ‘fight mode’ of past AK teams. Until we see a consistent starting line-up, a consistent game-plan and consistency on the court I’m afraid the bleeding continues. If Andy Kennedy and the Rebels don’t get to 20 wins there will likely be no post-season play.

Next: AK's Top 5 Greatest Moments!

If Andy Kennedy doesn’t make the post-season I seriously doubt he will be retained by the current administration. Of course, if and when that happens Ole Miss basketball will be looking for a new head coach. Which brings us to ponder another question. Who in the world would we get who ‘might’ be any better? Hotty Toddy!