For the Record ...

Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy talks recruiting, speculation regarding his candidacy at South Florida and discussions with A.D. Ross Bjork in an exclusive interview with the Ole Miss Spirit.

On recruiting, including the spring signing period and scholarship numbers:

"We signed four during the early period, and we'll be very aggressive in the spring period, just based on trying to field the needs that became apparent to us all based on the course of our 33-game schedule.

"All the guys on our team are on one-year renewable scholarships. Not to be flippant, but we've got 13 scholarships. We'll have to determine what's in the best interest of our program, which I'm in charge of, and what's in the best interest of the men in our program. I always believe this, and I say this rhetorically all the time, that ultimately your years in college are really the best time of your life. I want the experience from a basketball standpoint to be a good one, so that your overall experience will be a good one.

"The term student-athlete is thrown around all the time. But really, they're athlete-students. For a basketball player, if his basketball experience isn't good, it's going to directly affect, in a negative way, his overall experience at the university. They come here on a basketball scholarship. Basketball's so important in them being a part of this university. I want that experience to be a good one, and if it can't be here, then I want to help them find a place that they have a great experience so that they can fully enjoy their time in college and it can prepare them for the next stage in their lives."


On speculation of his being a candidate at South Florida:


"Just speculation. If you were to get on your website, or ESPN.com or CBSSports.com, there's speculation daily, whether it be me or whoever. It's just kind of part of the job. I was never contacted by South Florida. That's not the way things work. Typically, if you see somebody's name in the paper associated with a job, that means they're probably not involved with that job. It's just speculation, and one thing leads to another. One guy's name gets thrown out there and so they put it on a website and then it kind of spreads from there without really any validity to it whatsoever. It's always been my policy not to even comment on speculation because if I did that I'd spend all my time trying to shoot down rumors one way or the other.

"I was born and raised in this state. It's a privilege for me to be an ambassador for the university as its head basketball coach, and I mean that seriously. I grew up following the SEC, I'm proud of many of the things we've accomplished here. There are many things I want to accomplish moving forward. I feel good about where we are. We've got to make some adjustments as it relates to personnel in order to give our team the best chance to be successful, and that's really where my focus is."


On the progress being made of rolling over his contract to the maximum four years:


"(Ole Miss athletics director) Ross (Bjork) has been very supportive. Pete Boone hired me under Chancellor (Robert) Khayat's direction. They were great to me in helping us build this program back. When I got this job in 2006, Ole Miss was coming off four consecutive losing seasons. There was some work that had to be done in a number of regards. I'm sitting here today in a nice basketball practice facility, which has really been a huge, huge component in us being able to attract a better quality of student-athlete into our program. They're moving dirt daily for the new arena, which comes online in 2016. That's going to be a huge, huge plus for our program and the women's program in giving us a facility of which we can all be proud. Ross has been tremendous in coming in and providing leadership, not only to our department, but the athletic department as a whole. And he's really given a vision as to where we're trying to move in the future. He and I have had very candid conversations over his time here. We're both on the same page as to the things that we need to address moving forward. I'm really excited to have him as my boss. We've had good conversations. My hope is we can get his wrapped up quickly."


On his long-term future at Ole Miss:


"I don't know. I work at the pleasure of my employer. Anything can happen in this business. I do know this: I do know that it wasn't just over 12 months ago that we were able to cut down the nets as an SEC champion. We were able to get to the NCAA tournament, which was a huge albatross as it related to my tenure as well as the history of Ole Miss basketball. And getting to the tournament and having a chance to beat a Wisconsin team that's playing this weekend in the Sweet Sixteen. We were one defensive stop (against LaSalle), one free throw away from advancing to the Sweet Sixteen, which I think in our business equates to getting into a BCS bowl. We were that close.

"This year, we took a little bit of a step back. We weren't able to be as good as we needed to be in a number of different areas. We finished just short of being where we wanted to be. We now have to address those needs moving forward, and hopefully we can bring in the type of player that's going to help us do just that.

"But I take pride in the fact that we've done a lot of things. We've won a bunch of games, 171 to be exact, which is the third most in the SEC behind only two Hall of Fame coaches who happened to coach at the University of Kentucky in Rick Pitino and Joe B. Hall. We've won the third-most games in the history of any tenure through its first eight years in the SEC. We've done a lot of firsts as it relates to the history of this program, and we feel like we're right on the verge again of taking us where we all want to be, and that's perennially fighting for an SEC championship with the opportunity to advance in the NCAA tournament."


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