Coach Speaks

It's hard to get a handle on just what the biggest story of this Ole Miss men's basketball season is. At this point, who really knows, all things considered? It's still developing as all seasons do.

Games? There have only been 11. The Rebels are 7-4. Nobody expected a repeat of last season's 14-0 non-conference; still that's one story.

Injuries? There've been three of the major variety, season-enders for three important guards. That's a huge story for any program, especially one that was counting on those somewhat experienced guards (two sophomores and a junior) to carry the team while the newer and more inexperienced inside guys developed.

Off the court issues? Add that to the list as of Thursday. Certainly in three days' time, that's gotten more national attention than anything for the program since the NIT Final Four more than eight months ago.

If it's hard for us or for you to figure this season out so far, imagine what it's like for the coaches and players. But they all seem to be handling it as well as they can.

The players just want to play basketball. This time of year there's an entire month for them to think nothing but basketball. Coaches and players even point that out from time to time, that there's no time like December and early January for having the opportunity to work and coach and improve and progress. But that's not all they're dealing with this December, unfortunately.

The coaches would love to just be coaching, doing their jobs, evaluating their team, game-planning, recruiting. It's what basketball coaches do. But that isn't all that's happening, at least not right now. And we can only guess for how much longer.

The next most important moment for this program comes on Monday against Florida A&M in Oxford. The Rebels practiced this morning in preparation of that 7 p.m contest.

After practice, head coach Andy Kennedy addressed the media, as usual, but then also talked about the situation in Cincinnati, giving his side, so to speak, as much as possible given the legal aspects of things currently.

Question: Is it difficult to coach the team and make the necessary changes in personnel with so much going on off the court such as lawsuits and charges?

Kennedy: "Well that's been a distraction for me obviously. I don't want that to become a distraction for our team. Other than the initial allegation, we've tried to shield our team from that, because in dealing with what they need to stay focused on. Obviously it's taken away from my focus. But I've come to realize that it's part of the game."

Question: Will you have to travel back and forth to Cincinnati any?

Kennedy: "I don't think so. There's been a pretrial date set for Jan. 16th, which I'm not sure I'll even have to be there until the trial date is set. That will be determined on the 16th."

Question: It appears you have gotten basically full support from your administration and from your fans.

Kennedy: "I could not be more pleased with the way...you know Pete (Boone) hasn't traveled with us much this season. Pete was there. We immediately addressed it, he and I. We brought the other members who were involved with every step of the allegation. My four members of the staff who were there every step of the way, whose stories have yet to be heard, which will come out, once this is engaged in the process. We sat down and we explained to him what occurred. He felt comfortable with that. We had communications with our administration here on campus, who was tremendously supportive. He made his decision, we moved forward on the task at hand, which was obviously preparing our team amid the controversy for the game. Once we got back from the game, obviously now as we all know, this thing has taken on a life of its own, which is again unfortunately part of the process."

Question: There have been a lot of people asking what the coaching staff was doing in general out at 1:30 in the morning. Does this change the way the coaching staff operates?

Kennedy: "I want to speak to that a little bit, because again I know this is being portrayed as SEC coaches gone wild. I lived in Cincinnati for five years. I've got some friends in that area. We went, and the whole staff was not out the entire time, I went to meet some friends from the Cincinnati area. We had dinner. We then went and met some other friends at an establishment. We were departing prior to 1 a.m. This evening started much later after our meetings, in the 10-10:30 range. I can't give you specifics. When I was processed through the arrest process, that came up at 1:45. That's when I was actually in the justice center. This occurred much earlier than that. I don't want it to be portrayed, and it has been portrayed again, as SEC coaches gone wild, which is completely unfounded. I realize your business (media). Now as some of the facts are coming out and some of the statements are coming out and the discrepancies in those statements from the different parties, again speaks to why I had to do what I had to do yesterday (file a civil suit against the cab driver and a witness citing defamation of character and slander). A man takes his whole life to establish credibility, and I cannot stand back and allow my credibility to be impuned based on false allegations. That was the purpose of what I had to do yesterday."

*** The Ole Miss assistant coaches made statements to the media as well, and they are in another story on this website titled "Coaches Speak."


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