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The Commercial Appeal (Memphis, Tennessee)
OXFORD — Less than a week ago, after his team just suffered a loss to Missouri, its sixth in a span of seven games and fourth straight, Andy Kennedy sat in the media room at The Pavilion and singled out Ole Miss' team awareness as a reason why.
"Unaware people are unsuccessful people," Kennedy said. "Whether it be basketball or what have you."
Kennedy has no doubt had a successful tenure at Ole Miss. He's the all-time winningest coach in program history. He ranks 18th in SEC history with 245 wins. The Rebels won the 2013 SEC Tournament under Kennedy and appeared in two NCAA Tournaments during his watch (2013 and '15).
But Kennedy was well aware of what the situation was at Ole Miss. After he and the university failed to come to an agreement on a contract extension last spring, it increased the pressure for Kennedy and the Rebels to perform.
So the day after Ole Miss dropped its fifth consecutive game, to LSU on Saturday, its seventh loss in the past eight, and fell three games below .500, Kennedy woke up with a conviction.
"There needed to be some clarity as to the future of Ole Miss basketball," Kennedy said Monday, as he announced he was stepping down as the Rebels' coach at the end of the season. "I also know that it's time for a new voice and a new vision for this program moving forward." Kennedy called Ross Bjork on Sunday and told the Rebels' athletic director he was ready to step down. The school will honor the remainder of Kennedy's contract, Bjork said, which has two years remaining at a little more than $2 million each season.
"I'm at complete peace with this decision," Kennedy said. "I truly am."
And with that comes some finality to Kennedy's 12-season tenure at Ole Miss. Kennedy held himself accountable for a season that's gone in the wrong direction. There was excitement before the season about a solid group of guards and depth the team lacked last season.
Instead, the team has been plagued by inconsistency and sits just one game ahead of last-place Vanderbilt in the SEC. "I didn't foresee some of the things that have transpired," Kennedy said. "Again, I'm accountable for that. It's my responsibility. I haven't been able to reach this team like I would have hoped. I try not to be frustrated ... but we're constantly trying to figure out how can we get this group to play."
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