Ole Miss: Barnes won't return as coach next season

Updated: March 4, 2006, 11:57 AM ET
Associated Press

JACKSON, Miss. -- Rod Barnes will not return as men's basketball coach at Mississippi next season.

Athletic director Pete Boone said Friday that Barnes will finish this season with the Rebels, but wouldn't specify whether the coach resigned or was being fired.

A school spokesman said Barnes was traveling with his team for its regular-season finale at No. 21 LSU on Saturday and would have no immediate comment.

Katz: Kennedy eyed for job
Cincinnati interim coach Andy Kennedy will be a candidate at Ole Miss to replace Barnes, a source close to the situation told ESPN.com's Andy Katz.

Kennedy, the 1986 Mississippi player of the year, played at UAB and has deep roots in the South. A source said boosters are lobbying on Kennedy's behalf. Story

"He won't be our coach next year," Boone told The Associated Press. "I'm not sure how all of that works out, the terminology of that. I just don't know. We hadn't spent a whole lot of time talking about that."

The school announced the coaching change a day after the decision was made, Boone said. The athletic director said he met with university chancellor Robert Khayat to discuss the Rebels' disappointing season.

Ole Miss (14-14, 4-11 Southeastern Conference) has lost four straight games and 11 of 12 since a 13-3 start -- its best since 2001-02, the last time the Rebels reached the NCAA Tournament.

"We were kind of hoping things would work out until the end, and they just didn't," Boone said.

The Rebels have won five or fewer SEC games in each of the past four seasons.

Barnes is 141-107 in eight seasons coaching his alma mater. He led the Rebels to the NCAA Tournament in three of his first four seasons, including an appearance in the round of 16 in 2001. But the Rebels have had three consecutive losing seasons since 2002.

The former all-SEC guard, a 1988 Ole Miss graduate, is four victories behind B.L. "Country" Graham on the school's career wins list.

The announcement of Barnes' departure came almost exactly one year after he agreed to a four-year contract extension worth a reported $600,000 each year through the 2008-09 season.

Barnes' future was the subject of speculation for much of the past two months. Boone told the AP last week that he planned to evaluate the program at the end of the season.

"When you come to a decision and all parties concerned, it's best to go ahead and talk with whoever you need to talk to and make that decision," Boone said. "Why not try to keep it quiet? ... Nothing's ever quiet. Any time a final decision is made on anything, if it's going to be public knowledge, try to get it out."

Boone said the search for a replacement was "not far along at all."

"Fans, being what they are, sent names and stuff in, but we're not even focused on that right now," Boone said. "When the season's going good, or bad, there are always coaches that you're watching, because you never know. But I wouldn't want that to be an indication we're doing that this season. ADs always do that."

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press