With the 2015 Final Four locked in, the NCAA basketball offseason has already commenced. This week saw a couple of notable coaching departures, as Rick Barnes got shitcanned out of Austin after 17 years with the Longhorns. More hilariously, though, Tennessee's revolving door revolved once more to toss pint-sized beachball Donnie Tyndall out of Rocky Top. Those skeletons in Hattiesburg, man, they just won't die.
Tyndall's ignominious guillotining could cause waves in Oxford, at least according to Gary Parrish at CBS Sports, who lists a certain Andy Kennedy among the potential candidates to fill the Vols' coaching vacancy. At first reading, in fact, Parrish seems to consider AK the best man for the job:
[Kennedy is] 41-25 in his past 66 SEC games, which is better than everybody not named Billy Donovan or John Calipari, and Kennedy has made the NCAA Tournament in two of the past three seasons even though he might have the SEC's worst resources. Still, for some reason, some Ole Miss fans never seem satisfied, and I've long believed staying 10 years at the same school is less than ideal for most. So Tennessee could make a run at a proven SEC head coach who already has strong ties in Memphis, and Kennedy would have to listen because the Tennessee job trumps the Ole Miss job in basically every way.
This is all true, right down to the grumblings from Rebel fans who'd just as well see Kennedy flayed after Ole Miss' early departures from the NCAA Tournament the past few years. But read that paragraph again. He's mentioned in the same breath as madman-genius John Calipari and Dean of SEC Basketball Billy Donovan. To be sure, basketball will always be football's weaker sister in Lafayette County, so AK's success -- yes, success -- when measured against the conference's foremost masterminds renders him a damn fine prospect for the Tennessee gig.
How likely is it that AK leaves Oxford?
At this point, who really knows. Parrish is only offering up a list of candidates that, in addition to Kennedy, includes the recently fired Rick Barnes. Tennessee should certainly take a long look at AK, who has done quite a bit of good for the Rebel roundball program. He's already the winningest coach in Ole Miss history with 192 notches and ranks third among coaching wins in his first nine seasons -- just one shy of Billy Donovan, mind you.
Moreover, Rocky Top can certainly bait the hook for whomever they offer the job. Their war coffers are deep, and the State of Tennessee appears to have no sort of contract-length restrictions, whereas Mississippi caps state-employee contracts at four years. That, coupled with AK's documented recruiting ties in the Volunteer State, may argue for an offseason relocation to Knoxville.
Any more unhinged speculation?
Of course! What's the offseason for if not completely baseless rumor-mongering? AK re-upped his four-year contract with Ole Miss back in April of 2013. In the wake of that humdinger of a season, AK commanded a higher salary -- he's pulling down $1.8 million a year currently -- and then-fresh-faced Ross Bjork wanted to commit to him out of the gate.
Further, Parrish's assertion that the Tennessee job is better in every way than the Ole Miss gig rakes a bit. The athletics association opened a new roundball practice facility in 2010, and next season will see the opening of a shiny new arena. To the extent that all coaches are hired guns, these architectural ties make the current iteration of Ole Miss basketball certainly feel like the house that Andy built.
Things will certainly start moving fast in the SEC basketball coaching circus. Ben Howland's hiring in Starkville and Alabama's throw-money-at-everyone-and-see-who-sticks approach are going to ignite quite the firestorm in Oxford should AK turn in a lackluster 2015-16 campaign, so one wouldn't blame him for entertaining other possibilities before that shitcan potentially comes down on him.