Day After Observations

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MFB4-7jEOT8&w=560&h=315]

This is the space in which I usually write a long and rambling account of the previous day’s game.

I’ll get to some of that here, but that’s really not what people want to read right now.

People want to know about Andy Kennedy and whether he’ll be the basketball coach at Ole Miss next year.

The man who holds that answer is Ross Bjork, the new athletics director, who gave Kennedy a one-year extension last year when Bjork was just weeks on the job. The Rebels had just come very close to making the NCAA tournament but didn’t. Bjork could have given Kennedy a raise but didn’t. He could have extended Kennedy’s contract more than just one year but didn’t.

After the Rebels lost 63-62 at South Carolina on Feb. 20, Hugh Kellenberger of the Clarion-Ledger contacted Bjork and asked about Kennedy’s future. Bjork talked about the excitement of sellout crowds at Tad Smith Coliseum and of evaluating Kennedy at the end of the season.

It’s unclear what remains beyond the SEC tournament. Playing in the NIT for what would be a sixth time in seven years under Kennedy is not a slam dunk. Bjork has said he would rely heavily on the in-put of the players as to whether the school would accept an NIT invitation.

That’s the immediate future. If you’re trying to determine how Bjork will handle Kennedy’s future, consider Bjork’s time as AD at Western Kentucky.

Just last year Bjork fired Western coach Ken McDonald 16 games into the season. McDonald was off to a 5-11 start. Assistant coach Ray Harper was appointed interim coach. Bjork said at the time that the Western program needed a “new voice” and someone to help restore “respect” to the program. Declining attendance was a factor in the decision.

Harper led a turnaround that ended in the NCAA tournament last year. This year the Hilltoppers are 16-15, 10-10 in the Sun Belt.

Bjork also terminated Western’s women’s coach early last March in one of his last big personnel moves before taking the Ole Miss job.

With that decision Bjork parted ways with a woman who had a 21-year history with the school as a player, assistant coach and head coach but had just finished the season with a 9-21 record.

Again, attendance was cited as a factor.

That’s significant, because it speaks to Bjork’s awareness of fan’ support for his programs. Ole Miss fans are not unlike many others. When the Rebels win, they turn out. It will be interesting to see how fans support this team Tuesday night against Alabama, the last regular season home game.

Bjork made two tough decisions on head coaches in his final basketball season at Western Kentucky. Circumstances were different yet similar each time.

As far as the game yesterday, Kennedy called it “inexcusable” and said he had no explanation. That’s correct both times.

How does a senior-dominated frontcourt get schooled by a freshman and a first-year junior college transfer who prior to Saturday could only assist their team to a 3-13 SEC record?

Ole Miss let Gavin Ware catch the ball too close to the rim, and when he did, the help defense either wasn’t there or was lacking.

In other news, yet another big guy with perimeter skills abused the Rebels as Colin Borchert did what Kentucky’s Kyle Wiltjer and Florida’s Erik Murphy did, and that’s step outside and hit 3s. When he was challenged he put the ball on the floor and scored, and the help defense wasn’t there.

The Rebels were a little better defensively in the post in the second half, but the damage had been done. The law of averages said MSU would hit a couple of 3-pointers, and it did. Things started building. A crowd of less than 6,000 began to sound much louder.

One thing that didn’t change was State’s hustle on defense. Youngsters, take note of that. You don’t have to be the most talented player on the floor to play defense. Defense is most often about effort and energy.

MSU had it Saturday. Ole Miss didn’t, and the Rebels will finish the season once again coming close to the NCAA tournament but not getting in.

Denham Springs, La., native, Mississippian since 1989 with a stop in Meridian before arriving in Tupelo. Daily Journal beat writer since 1996, covering Ole Miss since 2002. Proud Northeast Louisiana alum. Follow me on Twitter @parrishalford and listen to Kory Keys and myself daily with The Ole Miss Beat on Rebel Sports Radio.

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  • rebelcuz

    Hey don’t blame Kennedy for this lose it was the players playing a lousy game.They don’t need to play anywhere after the way they played yesterday.

    • Longfellow51

      Can’t blame the coach? the captain of the ship? The coach is the one that is suppose to get his team game ready and focused, especially when your team is on the bubble. This ole Miss team was head and shoulders above that pitiful MSU team. Kennedy had halftime to make adjustments. They should have blown MSU out of the gym like so many have done the past 3 weeks.. This team was 7-20 coming in and hadn’t won a game since early January. They only have 6 scholarship players and 2 walkons to put on the court. Kennedy is a joke….oh, but I forgot, he is the winningest basketball coach in Ole Miss history…..ha, so was Stansbury at MSU, ask Stans how that worked out.

  • JB

    I think OM only chance for NCAA tournament play now is to win the SEC tournament which carries an automatic bid. Good luck Rebels!!!! JB

  • Longfellow51

    Wow, who saw this loss coming? IMO, this loss goes down as the worst loss of Coach Andy Kennedy’s tenure at Ole Miss. How do you lose to not only the worst team in the SEC, but one of the worst teams in the nation? This one is on Kennedy. I cannot think of one excuse to lose to a team like MSU….MSU is horrific!!! I thought the South Carolina loss (MSU beat SCAR) was bad, but this loss blows the SCAR loss out of the water…pathetic job Kennedy.

  • http://www.facebook.com/al.green.33633 Al Green

    It looks like Ole Miss has a really good football coach and State has a really good basketball coach (based on this year). For State in football and Ole Miss in basketball, they have coaches that have winning records but cannot get you where you want to be.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004292621183 Bill Brown

    I can’t see where Bjork has a choice. Two losses to teams that you should have never lost to is a direct reflection on focus and preparation. Andy is not connecting with his players and quite frankly they just don’t seem to want to play for him at a level worthy of Div. 1 basketball. Andy’s recruits have been average at best as this team just does not seem that talented. I like the guy and he seems to give it his all but the job just isn’t getting done. Sad.

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