Texas A&M introduces Billy Kennedy
COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- Billy Kennedy donned a maroon jacket on Monday, and officially became Texas A&M's basketball coach.
He succeeds Mark Turgeon, who resigned a week ago to take over at Maryland following Gary Williams' abrupt retirement.
"This is a destination job for me," said Kennedy, who is from Louisiana but spent the past five seasons at Murray State.
About 150 fans were at Reed Arena's basketball complex for Kennedy's introduction. Texas A&M athletic director Bill Byrne says he was seeking someone "who understands our culture here at Texas A&M."
"When you start looking around, this man fits the bill," Byrne said.
Most of the players whom Kennedy inherited attended the news conference, despite school not being in session, and afterward spoke of their support for him.
So did touted 2011 signees Jamal Branch and Jordan Green, who also came out to support the new coach.
The 47-year-old Kennedy compiled a 107-53 record at Murray State. He led the Racers to the round of 32 of the NCAA tournament in 2010, where they lost by two points to eventual national runner-up Butler.
The Aggies have played in six consecutive NCAA tournaments -- four under Turgeon and two under current Texas Tech coach Billy Gillispie. Kennedy thanked Turgeon for leaving him a program that's on solid ground.
"It's very rare as a coach that you take over a college program that's in good shape," Kennedy said.
The Aggies return their top two scorers, guard Khris Middleton and forward David Loubeau, and seven of their top 10 players from a squad that lost its opening round game of the NCAA tournament to Florida State.
"I really like his offensive style. It's very fast paced," Loubeau said of Kennedy. "I think it's going to be a great year."
Loubeau said the players researched Kennedy's background when his name emerged as a candidate. Kennedy said he's in the early stages of assembling a staff and offered no specifics on that front.
His contract is reportedly close to $1 million annually over five years, after recently receiving a pay bump to $225,000 at Murray State. He has also served as a head coach at Southeastern Louisiana and Centenary.
"We're going to build this team on defense," said Kennedy, who added he learned defense the "old school Hank Iba" way.
"Pressure and man-to-man and trying to speed things up," Kennedy said. "If your personnel allows that -- and I think we have personnel allowing that."
Kennedy, who's from the New Orleans area, said A&M fans won't have to worry about him trying to leave College Station should he continue the program's winning ways.
"I believe in this place," he said. "And I'm very thankful to be here."
Gillispie bolted A&M for Kentucky in 2007 and Turgeon split for Maryland four years later -- each to schools considered basketball schools.
"This is a dream for me," said Kennedy. "There is no Maryland, Kansas or Carolina or wherever."
Kennedy served as an A&M assistant in 1990-91 under Kermit Davis, but was not linked to the NCAA rules violations that cost Davis his job. He's also served as an assistant at New Orleans, Wyoming, Northwestern State and Tulane.
"My goal here is to win national championships," Kennedy said to the fans.
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press
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