Hoops search nears end; tennis coach rolls on

While the UM men's basketball coach search wraps up, Billy Chadwick begins work on his second 500 wins at Ole Miss.

A new hoops coach is about to be named. Unless, as Pete Boone said, some of the logistics don't work out, then we should know by Friday afternoon who the new men's basketball coach at Ole Miss will be.

Word to those reading: Let's be supportive.

I really probably shouldn't say that, and I am obviously not talking to most of you. Most of you will be excited about the hire whoever it turns out to be. That's because you love Ole Miss and want basketball, and every sport, to succeed here.

The best thing for the new coach and for Ole Miss is for you to get on board for the ride. This will be an exciting time, as the hire of new coaches always is.

So do yourself and Ole Miss a favor. Let bygones be bygones. Let the past remain where it is. Look only to the future, and let's try to work together – all of us – to make men's basketball something here that it's only been a few times – a winner and a champion.

Let's make it again – and more – like the Weltlich years when so many got so excited about hoops for the first time. When Carlos Clark sank a jumper at the buzzer in Tad Smith to beat Grambling for the Rebels' first-ever postseason win - in the NIT in 1980. And started a streak of eight straight over State. Sound familiar? It was us that did it back then.

Let's try to recapture that feeling as 8,000-plus Ole Miss fans were in attendance in Birmingham that special night in 1981. Stan Torgerson yelled into his radio microphone at game's end, "The horn sounds. The Rebels win. They are the champions of the Southeastern Conference!" as he lost his voice in one glorious moment for Ole Miss hoops.

Let's try to work together for more times like the net-cutting that followed clinching games of SEC West titles in 1997, 1998, and 2001 - all at Tad Smith.

Let's see if we can't help this new guy get things rolling so our deepest run ever won't be to the Sweet Sixteen in 2001 and San Antonio won't be one of the few great moments in NCAA Tournament history for Ole Miss.

Heck even the Bryce Drew dagger of 1998 might become a distant memory if we all get behind this guy.

The new coach has his work cut out for him. Ole Miss basketball coaches always do.

It's not an easy job, but with passion and hard work and having true support from Ole Miss fans from the start, it can be done. It can work. Ole Miss can win.

Get on board. Show him your support. It's time to get excited about Ole Miss men's basketball again.

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Certainly one sport at Ole Miss that hasn't been looking for a new head coach for a long time and won't be is men's tennis. Billy Chadwick won his 500th match as an Ole Miss head coach Wednesday when his men's team beat Memphis 7-0.

It was the fifth straight shutout victory for Ole Miss this season, including wins over South Carolina, Alabama, Auburn, and West Florida in addition to Memphis. That's impressive. I told him they are turning out to be like the 1959 SEC team of the decade in football when the Rebels gave up only 21 points the entire season.

Chadwick's first 107 wins at Ole Miss, starting in 1979, came as head coach of the Lady Rebels. His next 393 have been as the men's head coach.

So that means with seven more victories, we'll have some more celebrating to do when Chadwick reaches another milestone – his 400th men's win at Ole Miss.

But that's what this program is all about – winning and celebrating accomplishments and titles. It's been going on for years and the end is not in sight.

During Wednesday's relatively easy win over Memphis, Chadwick was doing his usual coaching and teaching, rallying any doubles team or singles player who needed it, encouraging others and congratulating them when their work was done on this day.

And of course making his way through the crowd and speaking to some friends and fans. Tennis works that way. The players and coaches are right there with those who watch and support.

"I think one of the things that makes this special is that so many of the people out here today supporting us have been a part of so many of these wins," Chadwick said. "I look in the stands and some of them have been here for all 27 years. So that makes it special for me, along with the players that have gone through here. The wins are because of them."

Chadwick said when he joined Ole Miss tennis as women's coach in 1979, he had no idea he'd still be here.

"I never dreamed I'd be doing this in 2006," he said. "It evolved as the years went on. You start improving and being successful and it starts being even more fun. Then there's the connection with all the people who support and the kids and the people you work with. It's a great feeling to have accomplished all of this at Ole Miss."

And of course, never stopping to relish the moment too much, since there's an important weekend of SEC action at Vandy and at Kentucky Friday and Sunday.

"We've got two tough matches this weekend," said Chadwick after the well-wishers had left and the photographers had stopped taking shots of him and his team with "Coach Chadwick: Win No. 500" on the scoreboard as the backdrop. "It's the SEC, and we have to play well every time out. We've got our work cut out for us again."

With Billy Chadwick leading the way, the SEC has learned all too well it has its work cut out against the Rebels, too.

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