Rebel Basketball Coach Andy Kennedy continues to have recruiting success at the 11th hour. David…
Andy Kennedy summer teleconference
Kennedy was on the phone with any media, mostly from the south, who wanted to call in and talk. All of the league's 12 head coaches had about 10 minutes.
Not surprisingly Kennedy's answers and demeanor were refreshing and straight-forward. It was obvious there was a lot of interest and respect from several who asked questions – media from Florida, Arkansas, and Tennessee and even a question from a reporter in Long Beach, Calif., on his last few months as he left an emotional situation at Cincinnati to coming "home" to Mississippi as head coach.
"I'm excited to be back home in the great state of Mississippi and a part of the Southeastern Conference," the 38-year-old Louisville, Miss., native said in his opening remarks. "I've tried since I've been here to get to know the guys better that are returning since I'm a first-year coach here. I'm excited about the challenges that lie ahead of us."
With that, the lines were opened for reporters.
Question: "I know you're new to the situation, obviously, but just based on your short time there, what's your take on your team this season?"
Kennedy: "We only lost one senior so we have some experience returning. We return three senior guards (Todd Abernethy, Bam Doyne, Clarence Sanders) who have all been through the wars of the Southeastern Conference. We're also returning a young man along our frontline in (junior) Dwayne Curtis that's an all-league level player. We're hoping he will continue his progress and be a productive member of our team.
"What I don't know, and I believe this is typical of most guys as they come into a new situation, I don't know how my guys will react to adversity. I don't know how my guys will react when it gets hot, and I assure you it gets hot in the Southeastern Conference. So in getting to know the guys, I've been very, very encouraged with the way they've approached this transition. We're pleased to have picked up some valuable pieces in the spring signing period. So we're excited about where we are right now. But we also realize we've got a lot of work to do."
Next question: "You mentioned being a new guy in the SEC, so what do you expect out of the SEC?"
Kennedy: "We played SEC teams when I was at Cincinnati. We played three last season (beat LSU and Vanderbilt; lost to South Carolina). I grew up in this area and a fan of this league. I think Southeastern Conference basketball is at an alltime high, and that's certainly stating the obvious with Florida being the national champion, LSU coming off a Final Four appearance, and South Carolina winning back to back NIT titles. With a number of quality players returning and with the coaches here, I think we're certainly one of the elite conferences in the country and again I'm excited to be a part of it."
Question: "Is there anything about the SEC that might set it apart – better point guards, better big men, athleticism, anything you see at all?"
Kennedy: "I do think the athleticism is very, very strong. I think with what Billy (Donovan) has got returning at Florida along with John (Brady) at LSU - and again those are the two teams that got to where we all want to be and that's the Final Four - I just think there's experience at a number of positions in this league. Across the board, I think this league is set up to have a banner year."
Question from Frank Burlison of the Long Beach (Calif.) Press-Telegram, who also happens to be one of scout.com's national basketball writers: "Tell me Andy just how things have gone for you from the whirlwind at Cincinnati to taking the job at Mississippi. Have you actually had a chance to regroup, anytime at all to take care of personal matters?"
Kennedy: "I've got a lot of personal stuff stacked on my desk to take care of, Frank. It really has been quite a whirlwind the past 10 or 11 months. You know opportunities present themselves in strange ways, and I've just experienced that first-hand, first in a survival mode at Cincinnati and then getting the opportunity here. There are a lot of things I need to take care of, and my priorities have been to try to put us into a position to have some success when the fall rolls around. Having the opportunity to come back to this league in my home state is something I'm really excited about."
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