With a 88-55 win over Auburn on February 23, Ole Miss' Andy Kennedy became the winningest coach in Ole Miss basketball history. Having recorded 145 wins in Oxford, Kennedy surpasses former Rebel head coach B.L. Graham's mark of 144 wins from 1950-1962.
Only in his seventh season with the Rebels, Kennedy became the all-time win leader six years faster than Graham. At 145-85, the fiery head coach has won nearly 65 percent of his games in Oxford. The 2007 AP SEC Coach of the Year has led his club to five 20-plus win seasons in his seven years with the team, never finishing a season with a losing record.
The Louisville, MS native has been a winner his entire life, as early as his high school playing days (1982-1984) at Winston Academy where he was a two-time All-State pick. In 1986, Kennedy was named a Parade All-American and Mississippi Player of the Year for his work on the hardwood.
During his first year of college ball at N.C. State (1986-1987), Kennedy was coached by the legendary Jim Valvano. In fact, the Wolfpack went on to win the 1987 ACC Tournament Championship.
After a year at N.C. State, he transferred to UAB to be coached by the great Gene Bartow. While a Blazer, Kennedy led his team to the 1989 Final Four and ended his career as UAB's second all-time scoring leader with 1,787 points. Ultimately, it was through the advisement of his mentor, Bartow, that Kennedy would pursue a career in college coaching.
Following a brief stint as a professional player, including a period with the NBA's Charlotte Hornets, he became an assistant coach at South Alabama in 1994. An assistant coach at various schools until 2005, Andy Kennedy accepted the opportunity to become a head coach at Ole Miss in 2006.
Having led the Rebels to five postseason appearances, two SEC Western Division Titles (2007 and 2010) and two NIT Final Four appearances, Kennedy's current squad is desperately trying to stay alive for an invite to the NCAA Tournament in 2013. It's the one glaring omission from a remarkable coaching career at Ole Miss, and a void he hopes to fill this season.
For a successful coach only about to turn 45 in March, there is ample reason to believe Andy Kennedy still has yet to hit his coaching prime. There's no doubt the late, great Gene Bartow is smiling down on his former guard as he became the all-time win leader at Ole Miss.
In fact, you may actually see a shadow of Bartow when the Rebels win a close game. Kennedy explained to Jon Solomon of al.com why he departs the court so quickly after a close victory:
"After UAB won a close game, Bartow would say a couple words to the team and then literally be out the door wearing his trench coat. I wondered where in the world is he going to so fast? He would say, 'They can't take 'em back, Andy.' So now when I win a game that we win in the last second, I'm just like that. I don't want the officials to tell me to come back to the floor. When you get 'em, you take 'em and get out of the building."
Behind the play of Kennedy-esque G Marshall Henderson, Andy Kennedy hopes he gets to walk off the court quickly at least a few more times this year as postseason play nears.