Moving Ahead

Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy gathered with local media in an official setting for the final time Thursday, answering questions on a myriad of topics, from changes to his roster to movement on his staff.

Kennedy and Athletics Director Pete Boone sat down earlier in the week in the pair's routine end-of-the-year evaluation meeting. As Kyle Veazey of the (Jackson) Clarion-Ledger first reported, Kennedy won't receive an extension to his current contract, which runs through the 2013-14 season.

"(Boone) made the decision, and I support his decision," Kennedy said. "He's the employer. He has to make the decision that he feels is in the best interest of the department. I completely understand that. To me, I've got enough stability and enough security to do my job effectively."

Kennedy won't be receiving an extension to his current contract, which runs through the 2013-14 season
Bruce Newman
"I did not extend his contract," Boone said, speaking with The Ole Miss Spirit this afternoon. "He has three years left. He understands this is a business and was not offended by that at all. He realized the expectations on this year's team and that those expectations were not met. He understands the perception of extending his contract out would not have been perceived well, but that does not take away the confidence I have in him to get the job done."

Kennedy has led Ole Miss to four 20-win seasons in his five years as head coach, and is the fastest head coach in school history to 100 wins. In each of those four years, however, his teams failed to reach the NCAA tournament, instead forced to settle for the National Invitation Tournament.

Ole Miss reached the NIT Final Four twice -- once in 2008, and again in 2010.

"I have heard that some people believe if Andy doesn't make the NCAA Tournament next year that it will be his last season," Boone said. "From my perspective as the Athletics Director, that's just one measuring stick. When next year comes and goes, I will sit down and look at the program in totality again and will not base any decision on one aspect."

"I would think that (making the NCAA tournament) is certainly one of the criteria," Kennedy said. "One of my jobs is to lend perspective. That also needs to be put into context of perspective. That is certainly a criteria, but I'm not sure that's the only criteria."

The Rebels were eliminated by California in the NIT first round this season, finishing with an overall record of 20-14. Should Ole Miss opt to buyout Kennedy in any of the next three years, it would owe him the remainder of his contract, which pays $1.3 million annually.

"What I want everyone to understand is that we are talking about a successful program, but we all want to see it get better and keep moving forward each year," Boone said.

Though no extension was given, Boone is pleased with Kennedy
Associated Press
"I looked at everything before I sat down with Andy. When you look at his body of work in totality, it's a good worksheet. Do we want to be more successful? Yes, we all -- Andy, me, the fans -- all of us."

Kennedy is currently in the evaluation process of his program. When asked if he anticipates roster changes, Kennedy answered simply. "Yes," he said, without delving into specifics.

Ole Miss added four players to its roster -- Jarvis Summers, Ladarius White, Aaron Jones and Jamal Jones -- in the early signing period in December. Other potential additions have yet to be identified, other than Maurice Aniefiok, a 6-foot-5 guard/forward of Huntington Prep in Huntington, W.Va.

Aniefiok lists Ole Miss, USC, Indiana and Duquesne as schools of interest.

"For us, it's truly about making sure that we have all of the pieces of the puzzle," Kennedy said. "And that means identifying the needs of our team, and then trying to aggressively address those needs through recruiting, through player development, through putting them in the position that they need to be in in order to have the best chance to be successful.

"Right now we're in the phase that we need to evaluate our personnel. We will go through end-of-the-season meetings where we're discussing with each individual player about what is the next step. Again, trying to make the best decision for Ole Miss basketball so that we can continue in our attempts to take that next step and break through and be where everybody wants to be."

From speaking with sources close to the situation, a staff shakeup is all but assured. But who goes and who stays is unclear.

Assistant coach Michael White has emerged as a candidate for at least two head coaching jobs, namely at Louisiana Tech and Florida Gulf Coast. Torrey Ward and Owen Miller -- the other members of Kennedy's current staff -- could have opportunities as well.

"Every assistant coach in the country wants to be a head coach," Kennedy said. "I want that for them. For me, I would like nothing better than all three of my guys to have opportunities to progress in their careers. Things change so dramatically in coaching and coaching searches, so I try not to delve into that speculative world because I have enough on my plate."

Suffice to say, the days, weeks, months ahead and decisions made, will drastically change the landscape of Ole Miss basketball. Kennedy will say as much.

"We're in the most transit age in college basketball in the history of this sport," Kennedy said. "I think there's a number of reasons for that. At the end of the day, as we look at our roster, the roster you saw in California will not be the same roster you see in our opener next year. My anticipation is there will be some movement as it relates to trying to improve our product."

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