Let's don't get ahead of ourselves. Andy Kennedy is the head coach at Ole Miss. And he's got a grand plan for men's hoops here, and it includes you.
Matter of fact, it must have you.
And you're buying in. There's no final count because season tickets are still on sale. But that number's higher than it's been in at least three or four years.
Rebuilding a program takes some time in all areas. In terms of winning and talent, Kennedy rectified that in the first year. An NIT bid and 21 wins, along with a top-notch recruiting class, were accomplished in year one.
Fans came back, too, especially in late January and through the end of the season. But Kennedy has a message, and he's stated it loud and clear many times. Basketball season begins in November. More specifically and to the point, the 2007-08 season begins Saturday at 2 p.m. against Mississippi Valley State in Oxford.
Fan support at Tad Smith Coliseum last season became again what we've seen here from time to time. Like when Bob Weltlich coached here, and when Gerald Glass played here, and when the Rebels won the SEC West three times in five years from 1997-2001.
The Rebel hoops express picked up steam last winter, peaking with a record crowd of more than 9,400 against Alabama and culminating with a title-winning moment on an emotional Senior Day against Auburn. Throw in a Valentine's night thriller against LSU and you've got a view into the type situation Kennedy wants here for every game at Ole Miss.
He knows the season opener against Valley won't have the excitement level of an SEC game. He understands fans aren't nearly as likely to get all wound up for some of the November and December games as they are the ones in January and February.
But it's not about that. It's about being here. He appreciates the support. He really does. He just wants to see more. I've heard him say both.
Kennedy has held up his end of the bargain. He repeatedly said prior to last season that one of his goals was that when fans came to Tad Smith Coliseum and sat in those blue seats and bought some concessions and settled in to watch and to cheer, that he wanted them to have ownership in this team and program. He wanted them to believe when they left the coliseum and headed home that their efforts to attend had been worth whatever it took.
Can you say a 16-1 home record and some of the most thrilling games in recent memory? That's what I mean by holding up his end of the bargain. He and his staff and players clearly did that.
One thing I've learned from working at the Spirit for years: some fans don't want to be told what to do. Not by us. Not by anybody. I'm certainly not doing that.
I'm just laying it all out, because I also know the following type questions we're often asked.
"What can I do to help?" Or "What is it going to take to win big here?" Or "What can we do to make sure a coach stays and the program remains intact?"
Sure, there's a list, and it's not an exact science. There is no definite, sure-fire answer. Every school and situation and program has its own set of unique challenges and opportunities when it comes to winning and sustained success.
Some of it may be tougher to do anything about, to overcome, to work through. One thing's a little bit easier for most and it's doable for many. And you will have done your part.
Attend the games - even the ones in November and December. And if you can, bring somebody with you. They can certainly get a ticket into these early-season games.
The season tips at 2 tomorrow at Tad Smith.
How can fans help? Be at the games.
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