Andy Kennedy took his coaching staff to Memphis for last Monday night's Grizzlies playoff game with the Dallas Mavericks.
They visited with Kennedy's former college head coach at UAB, Gene Bartow, who now works with the Grizzlies, and also the logo himself, Jerry West.
I like that. I like the fact that the Ole Miss men's basketball coaches are everywhere these days.
From recruiting outside of Oxford to setting up shop inside Oxford. From visiting with alums and supporters at meetings and events to attending NBA playoff games and letting important basketball people in the area know they're here and mean business.
That Kennedy and his staff and Bartow and West hung out for a while is good for Ole Miss basketball. Good for visibility in the Memphis market where Ole Miss hoops has been strong but not strong enough.
Kennedy mentioned some things in an interview this past week about scheduling. He said the staff is locked into some things for the upcoming season. He meant games like the one at Saint Louis, which he said wasn't a bad situation since it's only a five or six hours' drive from Oxford, and Saint Louis plays good basketball in a good conference, the Atlantic-10 – which also includes teams like Temple, UMass, GW, Xavier, Charlotte, and others.
He also meant a home game with UIC, a return trip to Oxford by the Flames after the Rebels visited Chicago last winter. He mentioned the Chicago connections for Rebel hoops with players like Dwayne Curtis and Justin Cerasoli on the roster.
He meant a trip to South Alabama for a game this season, with the Jaguars returning the favor by coming to Oxford not once but twice in the next couple of seasons.
He never said any of those situations were bad or wrong. He simply said the Rebels were locked into some things at this time. And those are the apparent ones.
He mentioned the Memphis series as being a positive. The Rebels head back up to FedEx Forum this season to play the Tigers, who were a win short of the Final Four this past season.
The last time the Rebels played on the same floor the Grizzlies call home, they came away winners, 65-53 over the Tigers two seasons ago.
I feel a greater bond than ever between Ole Miss men's basketball and the Memphis area. Kennedy and staff's trip Monday proved they want to have a presence there. That he thinks the UM-UM series is good for Ole Miss basketball is also noteworthy.
Some Rebel fans obviously don't feel that way as far as Ole Miss-Memphis football is concerned. And the way John Calapari has manipulated at least the scheduling aspect of that non-conference basketball game each season has left more than a bitter taste in their mouths.
But I agree with Kennedy in that it's a good series for Ole Miss, if all things are equal and the playing court is level. And with Kennedy calling the shots for Ole Miss, Rebel hoops likely won't get pushed around by the Tiger hierarchy any longer.
He mentioned there are several schools the Rebels will be looking to try to line up to play in the years ahead. He offered some of the roadblocks we've heard before, that scheduling isn't as easy as calling up a coach or team and saying "Y'all come." There's more to it than that.
One he said might be a possibility is DePaul of the Big East. He said there'd been some interaction with a connection at the Chicago school about playing, but that there'd have to be good interest from both sides for it to work. We'll see on that possible home and away series, but it appears the potential is there for some real challenges to dot Rebel schedules in the future.
It's a difficult and time-consuming thing to schedule basketball games. Every team – Ole Miss and the potential opponents they talk with – is looking for an edge. It wasn't different with the last staff and it won't be with this staff. It's the nature of the sport itself.
There's no question that it's full speed ahead with all things Rebel hoops. I get that feeling every time I enter their offices. There's always a meeting going on or a phone call to be returned or a lead to follow up. It's the type situation you as Rebel fans want.
And a couple of things have become quickly apparent. One, Kennedy allows a lot of room for his assistants to interact, to speak up, to offer their suggestions, to be involved in the entire process of building a winner at Ole Miss.
Two, Kennedy is the clear-cut leader of this staff. As the head coach, he is in charge, he has one goal in mind and that's to build the best basketball program possible at Ole Miss.
His office walls are still empty, and the bookshelves vacant of any reading material. It's the same way throughout all the men's basketball offices these days.
There'll be time for all that later. But for now it's all about getting things started, laying the foundation, working out the details of where all the players will be this summer, and learning (besides Michael White, of course) how things work, where things are, and who to call or contact in their new environment.
First years are different than any others. I see that with every new head coach and coaching staff that arrives.
It's the same with Kennedy and company. But they've hit the ground running full speed ahead.
My guess is it will be that way for a long time to come as they go about the task of building a winner for Ole Miss men's basketball.
Kennedy and staff in non-stop motion
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