Kennedy quick fix at Cincy, but what about long term?

Originally Published: August 8, 2005
By Andy Katz | ESPN.com

Andy Kennedy has a choice that Mike Davis and Steve Lavin didn't have in similar circumstances.

Neither Davis, at Indiana under Bob Knight, nor Lavin, at UCLA under Jim Harrick, was a close personal friend of his head coach when both were abruptly fired before the season. So, when Davis and Lavin were offered to be the interim coach at their respective schools, there were no personal reasons to turn down the job, regardless of what the head coaches thought about the school or their replacement.

Kennedy, the associate head coach at Cincinnati, is a close friend of Bob Huggins. That could make a tough transition for Kennedy. But, according to one source, Huggins is expected to stay out of any attempt to hire Kennedy on an interim basis in the hope that would be best for the program and his players.

A source close to the situation told ESPN.com that Kennedy hadn't been offered the job as of late Tuesday night. But that would seem appropriate since Huggins hadn't officially been fired or resigned and won't be until 2 p.m. Wednesday. Huggins on Tuesday was in Las Vegas at the Michael Jordan Flight School, a fantasy camp for adults, and was making his way back to Cincinnati to decide his fate at the school.

A source close to the situation told ESPN.com that hiring Kennedy would keep the team intact considering Kennedy recruited the players on the current roster. Certainly the four returning seniors -- James White, Armein Kirkland, Eric Hicks and Jihad Muhammad -- aren't going anywhere since they have only one season of eligibility remaining. Cincinnati's school year starts in late September and is on the quarter system, making transferring to another semester institution (many start this week) extremely difficult.

But there are seven newcomers who could think about other destinations in the next few days. The Bearcats have a strong newcomer class led by junior college forwards Ivan Johnson and Cedric McGowan as well as expected high school impact players point guard Devan Downey, small forward DeAndre Coleman and center Abdul Herrera.

These top eight players should keep Cincinnati competitive in the Big East in its first season with making the NCAA Tournament a legitimate goal and that's one reason ESPN.com pegged Cincinnati at No. 22 in its Summer Sizzling Top 50 last week.

Multiple sources told ESPN.com that hiring Kennedy would also be the safer choice for the administration since athletic director Bob Goin is out in June. Cincinnati officials made it clear at a news conference Tuesday that they would speed up Goin's replacement search. That could mean a new AD by January, but that still leaves a tenuous situation to hire a fulltime coach until then.

One source who knows Cincinnati president Nancy Zimpher well said he wouldn't be surprised to see Zimpher hire the head basketball coach regardless of a new AD. Clearly, she has shown with the Huggins ultimatum Tuesday that she is willing to take matters into her own hands.

There are coaches who aren't tied to a school who are available such as ESPN analyst Rick Majerus, former Virginia coach Pete Gillen and Cincinnati great and Hall of Fame member Oscar Robertson, who came in last July to oversee the program when Huggins was suspended for the summer of 2004 after a DUI.

But the likely scenario is that Kennedy would be tapped for the foreseeable future. And then the search would likely open up to coaches across the country, assuming Kennedy wouldn't be given the chance to remain fulltime. A new AD would likely have to let Kennedy know when he was on board if he had a shot at the job. If he comes in by January then he would have time to evaluate Kennedy.

One name to take off the list of any future candidacies is Bruce Pearl. Pearl would have been a hot name for the job if this were March since he worked for Zimpher at UW-Milwaukee and then took the Panthers to the Sweet 16. But Pearl is now at Tennessee and off limits to Cincinnati.

One prominent coach, thought to be a possible candidate, who requested he not be named, said about the position, "What fool would follow Huggins? I wouldn't go. Hugs is a tough guy to follow. It would be like following Tark [Jerry Tarkanian] at UNLV or John Calipari at UMass. Cincinnati wasn't much before he got there.''

There will be plenty of names thrown out throughout the course of the season, coaches in the Mid-American conference, Big East, top assistants and anyone who might have a connection to Cincinnati.

But, for now, it appears Kennedy would be given the first crack at following Huggins. Kennedy, a candidate for jobs in the Southeast after playing at UAB, would be the bridge from the Huggins era to a reign that is still undetermined and might not be known for some time until the AD search can be completed with a new hire, possibly in early 2006.

Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com.

Andy Katz | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com

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