Ole Miss in on the big day for hoops

Ole Miss will announce Andy Kennedy as its 20th head men's basketball coach at a news conference in C.M. "Tad" Smith Coliseum Friday at noon. Fans are encouraged to attend.

Big splash after all.

The college basketball world was turned upside down Thursday, at least in some areas.

It all started for us shortly before 1 p.m. in the beautiful, new Rayner Terminal at University-Oxford Airport – the same landing strip, but different building, where we've gone many times to meet the men's basketball team arriving home after a big win. On Thursday afternoon it was to meet the men from Ole Miss leading the search for a new head basketball coach.

There was one interview left, but the word was out: There'd be a new head coach by Friday.

Was it Kennedy? Was it Pelphrey? Dildy? Cronin?

This was good stuff, if you're a reporter or if you're a fan of Ole Miss or even college basketball. The University of Mississippi was in the mix of a whirlwind day of change among hoops programs.

"We were coming into the airport in Cincinnati and there were all these cameras and reporters," UM AD Pete Boone said. "They're filming us as we go by. I'm thinking basketball's a pretty big deal in Cincinnati if these guys are here for us. So I looked and there was the Kansas State plane, and I figured out what was going on.

"Once you think everybody's looking at you," Boone said as we all laughed along with him, "you'd better look behind you. They might be looking at someone else."

What was going on and what they were looking at was what you now know: Bob Huggins, the former Cincinnati coach, to K-State; AK, as some call Andy Kennedy, was heading to Ole Miss; Mick Cronin, who interviewed with Ole Miss, was leaving Murray State to head back to his hometown and alma mater, Cincinnati – to replace AK, the interim coach who had replaced Huggs.

Got it? Bottom line: Ole Miss was in on the big splash Thursday. And on Friday at noon the good times will continue with a news conference on the hardwood of C.M. "Tad" Smith Coliseum as fans and supporters of the Ole Miss Rebels are invited, encouraged even, to attend.

Another opportunity for a big splash for Ole Miss. That event will be on ESPN and ESPN news and TV stations throughout the country. Book it.

Late Thursday afternoon after writing a story, I left Oxford for Tupelo to get my XM radio installed in a new vehicle. While riding back to Oxford Thursday night, I was flipping through channels on the XM and ran across a new one I hadn't seen nor heard before. Channel 173 – The nation's station. It was AM 700 WLW out of Cincinnati.

If any of you is a connoisseur of AM radio stations, you know that's the powerful voice out of Cincy that you can pick up throughout much of the country at night. Now it appears to have found a home on XM and can be heard all day and night.

I tuned in and listened the rest of the way back to Oxford. It was all about Huggins and Kennedy and Cronin. Very interesting indeed.

Most of the callers were fans of Huggins. They were also fans of Kennedy. They want both to succeed. There are many K-State and Ole Miss fans now among Cincinnati Bearcats fans. The callers said so.

There was less talk about their new head coach – Cronin – during the time I was listening than about Huggins and Kennedy.

It seems that the postgame radio show is normally piped over the PA in Cincinnati's arena. But after UC's loss to the SEC's South Carolina, the PA was turned off as Kennedy conducted his final radio show live after the game. This did not sit well at all with the Cincy faithful.

They said so on the air as I listened. They played a tape from the broadcast as fans booed about the cutting down of the volume. "Hire Andy" chants were audible even though Kennedy is now a Rebel and Cronin's now a Bearcat.

One high school senior said she was considering going to UC, as she called it, since her parents did and she is from there. But now because of the way they treated AK after the game, she might look elsewhere.

That was the sentiment throughout – upset with the way Kennedy was treated and unhappy with the University of Cincinnati's treatment of both Kennedy and Huggins.

Cronin has his work cut out for him to win some of these fans back. Of course a few big victories early next season would do the trick.

The show host I was listening to said he hoped Ole Miss treated Kennedy better than the Cincinnati higher ups have.

Not to worry. Ole Miss has already done that by hiring him as its next head men's basketball coach. Rebel fans will get to put the exclamation point on that hire starting tomorrow at noon in Tad Smith as the country watches the proceedings.

Big splash? Big splash indeed.

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So the good folks in the town of Louisville must feel mighty proud to have one of their own – again – doing big things at Ole Miss.

Kennedy now, but the list is lengthy and impressive on accomplished Rebels and Lady Rebels from Winston County. I'm sure I will leave some out but here goes the list of the other ones I can think of off the top of my head.

Van Chancellor – Ole Miss women's basketball head coach; WNBA champion head coach; Gold Medal Olympic Coach 2004

Sheila Sullivan Hickman – Member of the 1,000-point Lady Rebel basketball club; former member of the Ole Miss Athletics Committee; head girls basketball coach at Louisville High

Doug Cunningham – former Rebel football player from the 1960s now living in Jackson; also played with the San Francisco 49ers

Tim Ellis – former Ole Miss quarterback in the 1970s that led the Rebels to a 20-13 comeback win over national champion Notre Dame

Tommy Luke – former Rebel football player and the father of Tom and Matt

Danetra Forrest – current Lady Rebel basketball player

Kim Rosamond – former Lady Rebel basketball player and Lady Rebel assistant coach now living in Murfreesboro, Tenn.

Gail Crick Eaves – former Lady Rebel basketball player; played on undefeated SEC champions in 1992; and NCAA Woman of the Year from Mississippi in 1992

So I give Louisville props in these spaces tonight. If I left out one or more, sorry. It was unintentional. But that is an impressive list.

A list that now includes Andy Kennedy.

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