Coach Andy Kennedy Q & A

The following is the transcript from the news conference Friday at noon announcing that Andy Kennedy is the new Ole Miss men's head basketball coach.

Chancellor Robert Khayat:

"Good afternoon everybody and welcome to Tad Smith Coliseum. We're delighted to have you all here. We thank you for being with us. This is truly an historic day in the life of The University of Mississippi. For a number of years we've been committed to offering the highest quality programs in everything we do, whether it be in the academic arena, student life, the way we keep our grounds, our alumni association activities, and of course our athletics programs. Today we are going to be making an announcement that is totally consistent with the commitment we've made as an Ole Miss community to being competitive at the highest levels in everything that we do. A number of people have been involved in this process. We have on the podium with us members of our athletics committee, advisory committee. We have Rose Jackson Flenorl. We have Dr. Tyrus McCarty. And we have Mr. Bill Renovich, who is president of our alumni association. They and others have been consulting with Pete Boone during the process of searching for a coach. We would not be here and this family (Kennedys) would not be here so soon if not for David McCormick who is in our audience and who provided the airplane for us to be able to get to Cincinnati and back this morning. David, we're profoundly grateful to you for your continuing support. For those of you who have watched this closely, I think it's good for you to know that a wonderfully thorough, well-put together, carefully-thought-out process was in place, led by Pete Boone with help from John Hartwell and other members of the athletics department. An effort was made to truly have a national search to find the most qualified people in the country who would come to Ole Miss and offer the kind of leadership for our basketball program that we want. We have a great deal of appreciation for the work that Pete and John did. We know that you all are going to be pleased with the outcome. So at this time, I'll ask you to welcome Pete Boone, director of athletics."

Athletics Director Pete Boone:

"Thanks Chancellor. It really is an exciting day for me – to be done with this. Over the last two or three weeks it has been exciting. The thing that's been so exciting to me about this is the interest and level of desirability that Ole Miss basketball has. Now sometimes you read newspapers and you find that folks think you can't win at Ole Miss. Let me tell you, there are a lot of great coaches in the country that know you can win at Ole Miss. The question I've been asked most is what set apart Andy Kennedy from the rest of the candidates? I thought long and hard about it and I tried to find out that moment in time that I thought Andy was our guy. And that moment came during our interview when Andy was passionately talking about wanting to be at Ole Miss, and John Hartwell handed him our compensation list and he said ‘I'm not interested in that.' I liked that (laughter). Now if he'd seen the numbers then he might have turned it back over. Since he didn't see them I've already slid some different numbers in there (more laughter). But that was the passion that Andy had about being her. He wanted to be here. He knows he can be a success here. He's been a success before. He knows what it takes. It is not about anything but Ole Miss. It's always about Ole Miss. And on this particular day it's about Ole Miss basketball. And the future of Ole Miss basketball lies with Andy Kennedy, and I'd like for you to welcome him."

Ole Miss men's head basketball coach Andy Kennedy:

"Thank you. Who says you can't come home? This is like a homecoming for me. It's been quite some time since I've stepped foot in this facility. It conjures up a lot of good memories. It conjures up memories of successful Ole Miss basketball from Carlos Clark to Elston Turner to Sean Touhy to John Stroud to Gerald Glass. I know that there's been a lot of great players and a lot of great moments in here. And it is my charge and it is my duty to bring that back, and I assure you that will happen. I first and foremost want to thank Chancellor Khayat and Mr. Boone for affording me this opportunity to come home. With this process, I'm on a whirlwind. I'm on about two hours of sleep and about six Mellow Yellows, so forgive me if I ramble. But this all has really transpired pretty quickly. About 12 hours ago I was coaching a group of kids that I dearly love in Cincinnati. As we were deflated walking off the floor and ending our journey together, I had an opportunity to visit with Pete (Boone), and I was really, really excited about having the opportunity to come and serve as an ambassador for The University of Mississippi. And make no mistake about it – that is what I view myself as. Our kids will be extensions of the student body, and I will serve as an ambassador for this great university. I knew when we landed I was back in God's Country. It's been a while. I was born and raised in Louisville, Mississippi. My mother and father are here, my brother and his family, and I look forward to extending that family to being a part of this Ole Miss group. I want to introduce my wife, who is the true backbone of this family, Kimber, even though she got up this morning and forgot her wedding ring. So I'm not sure if that's good or bad. And my two heart and souls are beside here, Kaitlyn 6 and Meagan 9. A lot of people say why would you do this? This was an easy decision, very easy. First and foremost my No. 1 priority is to be the provider for my family. I am uprooting my family, especially these two little girls, from the only life they know. We've been in Cincinnati five years. That is a wonderful community. I've had the opportunity to sit at the right hand of Bob Huggins, one of the best basketball coaches in all of collegiate athletics. I've had the opportunity to run a top 20 program amid less than ideal circumstances, granted. However I was given that opportunity and I knew once the opportunity was afford that this was what was best for me. I knew the sacrifices the Kennedy household was going to have to make was going to be so much worth it once we got to this community and be a part of what we know Mississippi to be all about. So I'm extremely grateful for this. Make no mistake about it. I did not come here to be a martyr. Our goal is to hit the ground running. Our goal is to return Ole Miss to its proper place in the SEC. Thank you for your support and for your continuing support. All I ask is for you to give us an opportunity to earn your support. If you give us the opportunity, we will earn your support. Thank you."

Q: What is your style offensively and defensively you hope to implement here?

Kennedy: "In a perfect world, and we know we don't live in a perfect world, understanding the dynamics of Mississippi having been a product of this state, understanding the recruiting base we're within driving distance from, I believe it's in the best interests of this university longterm to play fast, to be athletic, and to play to the strengths of our region, which is athleticism and versatility. The day and age of going out at Ole Miss or at Cincinnati and sign a plethora of 6-10, 6-11 kids, those days are over. But I do think there's an abundance of kids 6-4, 6-5, 6-7 that area interchangeable parts that can use the gifts that God has given them, and it's my job to not mess that up. Immediately though, I don't have a set style for this team. I will evaluate the situation and do what's in the best interests of our current situation."

Q: How difficult have the last few days been, going through this process and continuing to coach Cincinnati?

Kennedy: "It was difficult to coach the game last night because we had five scholarship players (to play) against South Carolina, which you guys know first-hand is pretty good. It was difficult to not be able to help my kids more because I do love those guys. We've had an unbelievable year, and to see that come to a close was bitter and sweet. Sweet because I have been afforded the opportunity to stand before you today, and disappointing because you never want to see the guys who have put so much into it disappointed. I was hopeful the passion with which I approached this job would come across. I was hopeful that I would indeed be given this opportunity, and for that I am very grateful."

Q: How have the last few months helped prepare you to be a head coach in the SEC?

Kennedy: I would never in a million years dreamt I would have gone through what I currently did. I think the adversity thrown at us helped prepare me for whatever is next. I had no idea it would unfold as it did. We were thrown obstacle after obstacle. But as a testament to the strong will of our kids, and a testament to their resiliency, we continued to fight and we continued to represent the university in the fashion that it deserved to be represented. I just coached in the best basketball league in the country. When the whole thing went down in late August and Coach (Bob) Huggins was given the ultimatum and he took what was in his best interests, we were sitting there for about a 72-hour period not knowing what was next, not knowing if I was going to be the coach, not knowing if given that opportunity I was going to accept it. There was a plethora of emotions that I just related to the kids on this (Ole Miss) team, and I'm sure they've been going through this as well. Kimber, my wife, was walking like a caged Tiger, very, very nervous and not knowing what the next step for the Kennedys was. Being people of faith, I told her we're going to be where we're supposed to be. This is not the time to be nervous. The time to be nervous is at the game and you see me standing up and you look on the other end and you see Jim Calhoun (Connecticut), and three days later you look at me and look down at the other end and you see Jim Boeheim (Syracuse) and then Rick Pitino (Louisville) and then John Beilein (West Virginia), and the list goes on and on and on. So I've been trying to hit fast balls all year. I'm ready for some change of speed."

Q: Pete said because you didn't look at the money was the reason you got the job.

Kennedy: "I'm a quick reader (laughter from the audience). I may have caught Pete dozing. But I got a quick glance (more laughter)."

Q: So what turned the tide in your favor?

Kennedy: "I left the interview (Thursday morning) and felt I pretty good about it. When I left I thought it went well. I thought we had good dialogue. From my perspective I did all I thought I could do. I then immediately focused on helping my team (Cincinnati) continue on this journey. Pete called me back and not so much what he said but how he said it, then I felt like he felt good about it and we'd see how this played out. I don't know that there was any one point or one moment that sold me or made me. I just went in and tried to be honest. I think a man is nothing without honesty and without loyalty and without some sense of moral compass. So I just tried to lay it out there, whether I'm speaking to you or whether I'm speaking to the Chancellor or whether I'm speaking to our point guard. There's not going to be a lot of mixed signals as it relates to me."

Chancellor Khayat intervenes: "I'm going to add this. It was integrity based rational passion. We're looking for all of that at Ole Miss. We're looking for integrity. We're looking for reasonable, rational people, and we want everybody on this campus no matter what they do to be passionate about what they do. This man brought passion to the conversation (applause)."

Q: How important is recruiting the state of Mississippi?

Kennedy: "Recruiting is the lifeblood of your program. The top three things to be successful are recruiting, recruiting, recruiting. I've said this several times and I told Pete this seven times, so Pete just laugh like you haven't heard it. I've been a recruiting guy. I've been a trenches guy. I've been a guy that tries to look under every rock in recruiting. The last six months as the interim head coach, it changed my focus a little bit. I understand that recruiting is the lifeblood. My motto is recruiting is like shaving. If you don't it every day or eventually you'll end up looking like a bum. So recruiting is our number one priority, and we've got to make sure we become a very viable entity not only within the state of Mississippi but throughout the southeast."

Q: What do you want to see out of the fans and out of the students?

Kennedy: "I don't ask for anything other than an opportunity to earn your support. That's all we want. Then it is up to us to provide something worth watching. I just ask that you go into it with your eyes open. At the end of the day, support the name on the front of the shirt, and get behind these kids who in my opinion and in my charge will be ambassadors for the university of Mississippi."

Q: What about your staff?

Kennedy: "We're 24 hours into this. I can't give you much. I will do a lot of evaluating the next few days. I will visit today with current staff (at Ole Miss) and get their input about what's going on. Obviously they know much more about this (situation at Ole Miss) than I do. After being in this business 11 years, I know this is a relationship business. There are some people that would make some sense. That wil lbe addressed and addressed rather quickly.

Q: How was your meeting with the Ole Miss players earlier today?

Kennedy: "I kinda laid it out there as I thought that I should. These kids don't know me at all. I wanted to put a face with a name and to let them know I am ultimately here to serve them. I think that really is why I am here. I made the point to them earlyon that this is their team. It's not my team, it's their team. I'm here to facilitate that. I want them to take ownership of this immediately. Once you can get kids to take ownership, you'll be amazed at what you are able to accomplish. There was not a lot of give and take, nor did I expect that in a first meeting. I also want to have an opportunity soon to sit down with each of them one on one when I believe they will be even more open.

Q: Were you recruited by Ole Miss (out of high school)?

Kennedy: "I was recruited by Ole Miss. Lee Hunt was the head coach here. I like Coach Hunt. He worked for Gene Bartow who I ended up playing for (at UAB). I haven't been in Oxford for some time. I grew up in Louisville, Mississippi. I spent all my childhood years trying to get out, and I've spent all my adult years trying to get back. I think it was one of those situations where I was looking for a bigger, better situation. I did not sense the passion (at Ole Miss) that Chancellor Khayat has referred to. I followed the passion. I went to North Carolina State and played for the late Jim Valvano. I transferred from there (to UAB). I was like a lot of other 18-year-old hot shots. I had all the answers. I was going to show you. I ended up playing for another legend, Gene Bartow. And now have had the opportunity to sit next to Bob Huggins. All three were uniquely different in their approach but they have a common denominator, and that is their success transcends mere wins and losses. Those three guys are program builders. Through basketball I had the opportunity to experience of that first hand. I hope I have been able to retain some of that along the way."

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