/Kennedy returns to coaching – and ‘just the way he’s wired’ – at his alma mater, UAB

Kennedy returns to coaching – and ‘just the way he’s wired’ – at his alma mater, UAB

Next opinion: Kennedy’s future in broadcasting was bright because he knew that there is no need to shout in order to get his point across. Unsolicited advice for any TV or radio sports announcers: Wit wins 100 times over annoying volume. Kennedy, a Louisville native and former Ole Miss coach of basketball, decided to return to coaching at UAB where he hopes to revive the once-proud Conference USA program. UAB officially hired Kennedy Friday afternoon. Bravo to AK. He wants to do that. This is not what most people would do. It’s not what I would do. These are his options as I see them: (a) Work extremely long hours in a high-pressure job – recruiting pampered players, coaching those same pampered players, hiring and firing associates, recruiting, recruitment and recruiting; or (b). Work short hours and talk about those who spend so much time coaching and recruiting those ballplayers. I will take (b) every single time. This column is accompanied by the caveat that Kennedy and I are good friends. He was a high school and college player at UAB, as well as the 12 years that he was Ole Miss’s coach. He was a great coach and a better interview. He was an unstoppable quote machine. Each year, he attended the C Spire Howell–Gillom Awards Luncheon. He once made fun of me for having stolen four cars from my house in one night. Kennedy replied, “Jeesh Cleveland, you’re an sports writer for goodness sakes, four cars!” He can coach. Here’s what you need to know: * He took over an Ole Miss program that had suffered four consecutive losing seasons, and then racked up 11 consecutive winning seasons. He averaged 21 wins per season at Ole Miss over 12 years, a program that had only experienced three consecutive seasons of winning basketball before his arrival. * He won the SEC championship (102-98) at Ole Miss. This was despite recruiting to the league’s worst facility. Kennedy and I have spoken several times about his desire to return to coaching since he left Ole Miss for the television gig with SEC Network, ESPN. Kennedy was always determined to be a coach again. He would admit that he enjoyed his TV work. In the next sentence, he would add that he didn’t like the coaching competition, or the pressure to win. Kennedy would reply, “It’s just how I am wired.” It was a phrase I had heard dozens of times, but I only heard it once. The UAB job was all the more appealing because it was his alma mater, in the same city he chose to live. Kennedy stated in a UAB press release on Friday that he was blessed to have the opportunity to lead this historic basketball program at his alma mater in the city he loves. Conference USA is now a one-bid league. The NCAA Tournament saw only two teams from Conference USA in 2012, when Memphis was the tournament champ and Southern Miss was an at-large team. UAB basketball has had a difficult time. UAB was last represented in the NCAA Tournament in 2015. Since 2016, UAB has not been to the NIT. This is a far cry from the time when Gene Bartow, the legend of UAB basketball, led the team to seven consecutive NCAA Tournaments in 1980s. They reached the Sweet 16 twice. Kennedy will face Southern Miss’ Jay Ladner, UAB’s head coach. Ladner said that Kennedy is welcome in the league. Ladner stated, “I think it is exciting.” It’s great for the league to have a coach like Coach Kennedy. He was a great coach at Ole Miss. His announcing has made him a national celebrity. He was my favorite announcer. We were fighting for attention and notice in our league for our slice of the pie. This makes our league stronger and attractive to me. It raises the bar. “UAB is a high-quality basketball school and he’s a perfect fit. “Our league just got better.”