Renowned for our procilivity to embarrass ourselfs in delightfully bizarre ways when we don't get our way (which is often), we Rebels more than outdid ourselves last night both during and after an absolutely merciless 102-76 beatdown at the hands of the Vanderbilt Commodores. The game, fans, players, and coaches were everything you'd expect out of what has become arguably the most frustrated and frustrating collegiate sports community in the nation.
Fisticuffs? The angry hurling of garbage onto a playing surface? A coaching staff looking lost and confused in a then-unprecedented manner? Oh yeah, we had it all. And while this camel's back has been steadily accumulating straws for a few years now, last night was, for many of us, the final spine-shattering bit. While Andy Kennedy's tenure and viability has been hotly debated in recent weeks, I am confident that little doubt remains as to whether or not he should remain under the employ of the University of Mississippi's Department of Intercollegiate Athletics.
Whether he will though, remains yet to be seen.
Putting the game itself aside - because, really, what kind of recap or analysis can one offer after a 26-point basketball loss aside from "we had our asses beaten into a thick paste" - a few bizarre and frustrating things took place last night which are more than worthy of mention here.
For starters, Vanderbilt's early lead damn near completely emptied the Tad Pad. It was like someone fired mustard gas canisters in there, becuase our fans fled, and quickly. And with good reason! Why should people be expected to sit through such an embarrassing showing by this team, especially considering how absolutely patient we've been with this program this season? "Oh, but they're on the bubble, so they'll need our support tonight at home" can very quickly turn into "screw this, I have booze in search of a stomach to occupy" in a town like Oxford, and understandably so.
What thse people did miss, though, were students throwing garbage on the court. I've railed against this in the past, and I will continue to do so (Sir/madam, whoever you are who throws garbage onto the court, you're being an ass and making the rest of us guilty by association. Stop.), but I don't think a single act can better demonstrate the frustrations of this fan base.
Apparently, though, our frustrations don't come nearly as close to those felt by the players, most notably Jelan Kendrick and Reginald Buckner who, upon leaving the court, fought each other in the tunnel which leads to the locker room. Kendrick then refused to enter the locker room, even after Andy Kennedy's alleged attempts to (literally) pull him into the room.
I don't care who started what, nor does it prove anything as both of these guys have reputations as hot-heads. These actions are inexcuseable under nearly any circumstance, and they fall just as squarely on the shoulders of our players as they do our coaches. Players fighting players screams "lack of institutional control" within the basketball program, something which I imagine most of us would be tough to convince isn't the case.
Jelan Kendrick then went double crazy, per the Twitters:
@EngrRebel: He [walked] over to the student section and just stared at everyone left. really weird.
Kendrick, if you'll recall, was booted from Memphis due to his anger management issues. It's apparent that he hasn't moved past or grown out of them, even if Kennedy has, to his credit, done a better job of managing Kendrick's personality than Josh Pastner could. I think we are starting to see just exactly why Kendrick became such an undesireable at a program like Memphis, and that he is the person we were warned about.
He is human. And I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and make efforts to understand him and all of that jazz, but he has got to, on his end, show some effort to improve and even some remorse for his behavior thus far.
On to Coach Kennedy, and to keep it short, are there any good reasons to keep him for another season? He has had six seasons in Oxford and achieved nothing better than an NIT Final Four appearance. He has recruited well, but hasn't developed or utilized our players' talents much beyond their own innate athleticism. He has breathed new life into a program hurting for fan support and enthusiasm, but anybody following in Rod Barnes' footsteps would have done the same. He has won a few big games here and there, but none of them were games which could have put Ole Miss off of the bubble (such as beating Kentucky last season). In fact, we've lost what seems to have been every, single, game we've played under Andy Kennedy which, per pundits, would have gotten us off of the bubble and into NCAA contention. Every. Single. One. For six damn years.
You wanna beat an Andy Kennedy coached team? Simple. Get Joe Lunardi or Andy Katz to list us as the "next four in" the week leading up to our matchup. Done.
Over the past few seasons, Ole Miss' administration and fans have poured a lot of support into this basketball program, relatively speaking. We've filled the Tad Pad. We've tuned into the games on our radios and televisions. We've even ponied up money to build a new arena. We're ready for this program to get to the next level; let's hire a coach which reflects that desire.