Ole Miss basketball head coach Andy Kennedy has stepped down immediately, the university announced Sunday.
Kennedy, the winningest basketball coach in the school’s history, announced Monday that he would leave at the end of this season. He said pressure on the players forced him to re-think his decision and step away immediately.
Ole Miss lost its final game with Kennedy as head coach on Saturday, a 79-62 loss to in-state rival Mississippi State.
Assistant coach Tony Madlock will serve as the interim head coach for the rest of the 2017-18 season. He has 20 years of college coaching experience and is in his fourth season with Ole Miss.
Ole Miss athletics director Ross Bjork said he supported Kennedy’s decision.
“Andy and I spoke this morning, and I fully support his decision to step away today. While we had hoped to relieve some pressure with last week’s announcement, it simply did not work out that way. Our student-athletes are the most important aspect of our athletics program, and we must always put them in the best position for success, no matter what.
“Coach Kennedy will always be remembered as an Ole Miss Rebel, and we wish him the best.”
Kennedy said in a statement released by Ole Miss that he had hoped his announcement on February 12 would clarify the direction of the program and end speculation about his future as the Rebels’ head coach.
“My announcement on Monday ... was intended to:
▪ “Lift ‘the cloud’ forming over our program due to continued speculation regarding my future as head coach.
▪ “Stop any divisive distraction that the speculation was causing among our supporters (Rebel Nation) and all Ross to move forward with securing the next head coach for the program.
▪ “Relieve any external pressure being felt by our current players.
“While I believe the first two of these intended goals were accomplished, the third was not.”
Kennedy, a Louisville native, said it became apparent over the week that his presence as the head coach was “proving detrimental to these players finishing the season in a fashion that is representative of The Standard for this program that has been clearly established and maintained for over a decade; therefore, I believe that it is in everyone’s best interest that I exit my role as head coach effective immediately.
“We all know that ‘clean breaks’ are always best, and I should have realized this last Monday. My apologies.”
Kennedy went on in his statement to thank those who showed him and his family “incredible grace and support.”
“I am very thankful to have had the opportunity to serve as the head coach for men’s basketball at the University of Mississippi for 12 years! This community, this university, the SEC, have all overwhelmed me and my family with incredible grace and support. We will forever be woven into the fabric of this very special place – ‘Hell Yeah, Damn Right!!’”
Kennedy leaves Ole Miss with a 245-156 record as men’s head coach. His tenure for 401 games is the 10th most by coach at one school in SEC history.
According to Ole Miss, Kennedy turned around the Ole Miss basketball program. He is the only coach in SEC history to post 11 consecutive winning seasons after taking over a program coming off four straight losing seasons. In his first season, he guided the Rebels to 21 wins and an SEC West Division title on his way to becoming SEC Coach of the Year. Since then, the Rebels are one of only 14 teams nationwide to have 11 straight winning seasons. Ole Miss ranks third in the conference with nine 20-win seasons during those 11 years.