Ole Miss hires Cincinnati interim coach Kennedy

JACKSON, Miss. -- Mississippi hired former Cincinnati
interim coach Andy Kennedy on Thursday night, athletic director
Pete Boone told The Associated Press.

Kennedy, passed over for the Cincinnati job that went to Mick
Cronin on Thursday night after the Bearcats' season finale in the
NIT, was to be introduced at a news conference Friday in Oxford,
Boone said.

"The way he handled himself in adverse circumstances showed me
his head coaching instincts, and there's no question that he's been
a great recruiter over the years," Boone said.

It caps a three-day whirlwind for Ole Miss officials who
interviewed four candidates in two days before hiting Kennedy to
replace Rod Barnes.

Barnes, a former national coach of the year, was told last month
that he would not return to the Rebels next year after his fourth
straight losing season.

The hiring returns the Louisville, Miss., native to his home
state for his first full-time head coaching job at the college

"I've had numerous phone calls from some of the nation's best
head coaches advocating him as a great young coach, one that knows
his Xs and Os as well as his recruiting ability," Boone said.

He said Kennedy was picked because of "his absolute passion for
coming back to Mississippi and being a part of building this
program and being here for the long term."

The former Mississippi high school player of the year was an
assistant at South Alabama and UAB before joining Bob Huggins'
staff at Cincinnati as recruiting coordinator in 2001. He was
promoted to associate head coach two years ago.

After the controversial Huggins stepped down in August, Kennedy
became interim head coach and was a popular choice among some fans
at Cincinnati to receive the job permanently.

He led Cincinnati to a 21-13 record in his only season running
the program, and had the Bearcats in contention for a spot in the
NCAA Tournament.

After they were snubbed by the selection committee, they landed
in the National Invitation Tournament where they won two games and
advanced to the quarterfinals. The Bearcats' season ended Thursday
night with a 65-62 home loss to South Carolina.

The Bearcats' season ended Thursday night with a 65-62 home loss
to South Carolina, but not before some impassioned fans chanted
their support for Kennedy and gave him three standing ovations.

Two fans who participated in a free throw shooting contest
during a timeout held up signs saying, "Hire Andy.''

Coincidentally, Kennedy's hiring by Ole Miss came on the same
day Kansas State snatched up Huggins.

"I think this is the end of the chapter for Bob Huggins
basketball," Kennedy said after the loss. "This kind of puts
closure ... and it's kind of ironic it happens today -- he gets a
job and we're done. I think it closes the chapter."

Boone told Barnes that the coach would not return for a ninth
season. Barnes led Ole Miss to the NCAA Tournament in three of his
first four seasons in Oxford, but had four straight losing seasons
after that, including a 14-16 finish this year.

Kennedy was speculated as a leading candidate almost from the
start, and he was interviewed by Ole Miss earlier Thursday in

Other coaches known to have interviewed with Ole Miss included
Cronin and South Alabama's John Pelphrey on Wednesday, and Kennedy
and Ole Miss assistant Tracy Dildy the following day.

"I think we turned over every stone we possibly could, and we
narrowed it down to some great candidates," Boone said.
"Throughout the interview process, Andy's passion for wanting to
be at Ole Miss, plus his background, separated him from the rest of