JR: How will your second Ole Miss team be similar and different from your first one?
AK: There are some attributes that last year's team possessed that I hope all our teams show. That is a willingness to compete, and a team that plays extremely hard all the time. Although I thought at the beginning of the year we had to evolve into that, I thought at the end of the year our guys gave us all they had to give. Some nights that wasn't enough, but that wasn't their fault. I hope this year's team takes on those same attributes and we play with an edge and we play with some toughness. Now as far as the makeup of the group, it will be totally different from last year's team, just totally different. I think it will be a bigger team, a more athletic team, a team that's got more options.
JR: Talk about your schedule this year. You've said before that it is an ever-evolving process from year to year to get it as close as possible to what you want it to be.
AK: We haven't released our schedule yet, but once we get the SEC part of it from the SEC office, then we can release it. Our non-league schedule is basically done. But I can't comment on them until we have a couple of more signed documents. Everything non-league has been agreed upon. We've just got to get signed documents.
JR: Will this year's schedule be more of what you want to see in your schedule each year than last season's slate of games was?
AK: It's never exactly what you want. Scheduling in our sport is hard because you have so many games and so many parameters. I learned some things last year. I've never been in a place that I had to put as much time and thought into when you play the games. It's hard enough to try to get what makes sense for your team from a competitive standpoint. But the timing of those games is very, very important simply because of the lessons we learned last December and November. We have to do them in conjunction when people are here. We have to do them when our students are here. If not then we lose the whole essence of a homecourt advantage. If you're not going to have a homecourt advantage, why are you playing at home? We put a lot of thought into it. Michael White, who does the majority of our scheduling, and I have visited at length about it. To give you an example, we open up on (Sat.) Nov. 10 for the second consecutive year with Mississippi Valley. We play six consecutive home games with our students in town. Then, assuming all our contracts are signed and there are no glitches, we'll be done playing (at home) by Dec. 1 until Jan. 1. The Memphis situation threw us back. We had Memphis scheduled (here) for Dec. 1 which is the last Saturday prior to finals, which means all our students would be in town. We wanted to have a marquee game that day. We'd have had our first big opportunity of the year, a tremendous opportunity, because quite frankly they could be the No. 1 team in the country at that time.
JR: Will you play Memphis the following two seasons?
AK: That's what I've been told. The timing of it (the change this season) certainly wasn't good for us. The realities of scheduling aren't that easy. When you get a team like Memphis, you'd like to be able to make sure that happens. But powers way beyond my control, and that didn't happen. So we're trying to fill that date, and we think we've got a team that is going to give us a good opportunity to help our non-league schedule. There are a lot of things you can do in the non-league schedule. Timing is important but you also want to develop some continuity with your team as you head into SEC play. So as it stands right now, our first six games will be at home. We have one during Thanksgiving week when the students will be off, but we're going to do it on the Saturday (Nov. 24) after the football game at Mississippi State (which this year is on Friday, Nov. 23). Kids have to go to class that Monday, so we're hoping to get some of them back for that game. That was as close as we could get to them being back in school. As it is right now and when we play at home on Dec. 1, we will not play back in Tad Smith Coliseum until the month of January. We're taking our show on the road. We've got some road games we're starting some series with. We've got some road games that we're returning as a part of contractual obligations. We're going to play a game in Jackson. We're going to play a game in Southaven. And we're going to play in a three-day tournament in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
JR: Do you know who else is in that San Juan field?
AK: I don't know if they've released it yet, but they had contracts for Clemson, DePaul, Wyoming, LaSalle, a host team from Puerto Rico, ourselves, and maybe another team or two. It could be an eight-team tournament or it could be a six-team round-robin type situation. We'll know more later.
A summer visit with AK - part two
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