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Texas A&M Basketball

The Coach: Billy Kennedy and the art of proving the doubters wrong

March 9, 2016
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See also: Billy Kennedy named SEC Coach of the Year, five Aggies make All-SEC teams.

As Billy Kennedy finished cutting down the nets in celebration of Texas A&M’s Southeastern Conference basketball championship on Saturday, I kind of expected him to turn the crowd and flash the “No. 1” sign.

I just wasn’t sure which finger he’d use.

That’s a joke, of course. Kennedy has way too much character and is much too classy to resort to such gestures.

But could you really have blamed him if he’d addressed his detractors among the A&M fan base by asking: “How do you like me now, witches?” Or, something like that.

There is no doubt Kennedy has heard and/or read the critics that have called for his dismissal and questioned his abilities as a coach.

That was clear in the press conference following the Aggies’ 76-67 victory over Vanderbilt when he gave thanks for the support he’s gotten at A&M.

“The support has been tremendous from the administration, most of the fans and a lot of loyal supporters,” Kennedy said. “We’re really thankful to be part of a special run.”
 
Most of the fans have been supportive. Still, there has been a very outspoken group that has relentlessly bashed Kennedy.

Matt Sachs, TexAgs Kennedy's tasks upon arrival included overhauling a roster that lacked the athleticism to compete in the SEC and was suffering from APR issues. {"Module":"photo","Alignment":"left","Size":"large","Caption":"Kennedy\u0027s tasks upon arrival included overhauling a roster that lacked the athleticism to compete in the SEC and was suffering from APR issues.","MediaItemID":65365}
They’ve accused him of destroying the program. They attacked him for having a mild-mannered personality. They’ve suggested he’s incompetent. They’ve maintained he cannot win at a high level.

When he proved them wrong by delivering A&M’s first conference championship in 30 years, they gave credit to assistant coach Rick Stansbury for A&M’s rise.

No matter what Kennedy does, some Aggies just won’t give him the respect for a job well done.

He took over a declining program in 2011. He had health issues. He had to rebuild a minimally talented roster. He had to dismiss players. He had bad luck with injuries.

Last year Kennedy appeared to have won over most of his detractors. The Aggies were 20-8 and appeared destined for the NCAA Tournament.

Then, Danuel House broke his left foot. A&M suffered three straight losses and had to settle for the NIT.

That added fuel to the 'fire Kennedy' crowd.

It’s not that uncommon for a team to collapse when a star player is injured. It happened at A&M in 1994. The Aggies were tied with Texas for first place in the closing weeks of the Southwest Conference race. Then, Joe Wilbert sustained an eye injury in a loss to SMU. Losses to Baylor and Texas Tech followed. The Aggies eventually ended up in the NIT.

It happens at other places, too.

Cincinnati was ranked No. 1 in the nation in 2000 when Kenyon Martin broke his leg in the first game of the Conference USA Tournament. The Bearcats were eliminated in the second round of the NCAA Tournament by Tulsa.

After last season, Kennedy vowed A&M would reach the 2016 NCAA Tournament. He’s made good on that promise.

Kennedy’s team could win a game or two in this year’s NCAA Tournament. That would be a remarkable accomplishment considering A&M has reached the Sweet Sixteen just twice in school history.

Speaking of accomplishments, on Tuesday the SEC named Kennedy Coach of the Year. It marked the fourth such award in Kennedy's career — one in the Southland Conference while coaching Southeastern Louisiana, two as the coach at Murray State in the Ohio Valley and now one in the SEC.

Other programs surely have noticed what Kennedy has accomplished and are likely impressed.

Matt Sachs, TexAgs Now, Kennedy is the architect of Texas A&M's first conference title since Shelby Metcalf roamed the G. Rollie White sidelines. {"Module":"photo","Alignment":"right","Size":"large","Caption":"Now, Kennedy is the architect of Texas A\u0026M\u0027s first conference title since Shelby Metcalf roamed the G. Rollie White sidelines.","MediaItemID":67632}
If LSU opts to make a coaching change would Kennedy, a New Orleans native, be a candidate for that job? If so, would he take the call?

He should, but probably would not.

Kennedy strikes me as being more loyal to A&M than maybe some Aggies are to him.

Yet, the main reason I think he would stay is that he worked so hard to recruit freshmen Tyler Davis, Admon Gilder and D.J. Hogg.

That trio, along with sophomore Tonny Trocha-Morelos, should form the nucleus of a talented team for the future.

And as Kennedy continues to recruit well, he could be flashing that No. 1 sign again and again.

He’ll be using the index finger, of course.
Discussion from...

The Coach: Billy Kennedy and the art of proving the doubters wrong

37,750 Views | 156 Replies | Last: 5 yr ago by Player To Be Named Later
Olin Buchanan
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The Coach: Billy Kennedy and the art of proving the doubters wrong
letters at random
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Bluecat_Aggie94
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AG
I am happy for the team's success. And I have been a critic, but never shut the door on Billy bouncing back and having success. If you don't root for that, if you can't support your school's coach and keep hope, you are not much of a fan.

But, the very FIRST line of your otherwise very good article is such a crock.

"Traversing a winding road, Billy Kennedy overcame health issues, injuries and a depleted roster to rebuild a sagging program."

Really, Olin? This was NOT A SAGGING PROGRAM when BK took it over. It had been to the tourney six years, Turgeon thought it was going to be his BEST returning team had he stayed, and BK was quoted over and over saying this was NOT a rebuilding job, even making a big deal about what a unique opportunity it was to inherit such a talent laden team.

That was the crux of the valid criticism against BK. He took a very strong program to the ground, and yes, now seems to have rebuilt it. Glad we are back in the tournament, and absolutely kudos for the first conference championship in 30 years. I'm proud of BK and the team. But let's not revise history.
Method Man
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Some really awful points in this article. First one being LSU taking Kennedy or anyone for that matter.
Beau Holder
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AG

quote:
Turgeon thought it was going to be his BEST returning team had he stayed
You believed him?

Carter, Sloan, Davis, Roland, Kirk, Jones, Jordan and Elonu vs. Injured Middleton, Ray Turner, David Loubeau, Dash Harris and a bunch of guys who transferred to powerhouses like Gardner-Webb and Grand Canyon University.

Seems to me Turgeon got out as soon as he used up the last of the toughness and talent well BCG left him. His last team got roflswatted out of the first round by about 80 Florida State blocks and the next one was going nowhere no matter who coached it. Much less a guy who spent the entire preseason dealing with health issues. Only to then be forced to transition to a conference that had the athletes (especially in the frontcourt) to expose the complete lack of athleticism Turgeon had recruited.

Kennedy deserved much of the criticism in his second and third years, but he definitely rebuilt this thing on a better foundation than Turge left it.
salvatore_ditmars
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oh god, the part about how the SEC athletes are tougher than B12 and how that was a problem that BK had to overcome is my favorite excuse ever.
Bigbird
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AG
Good points.
I think the modern American is just negative, whiny, and quick to turn on its leaders. Hence the vitriol for Billy with these losses in past.
Just look at the Football game threads when we are behind.
Look at the shocking successes of Trump in these primaries. It's the death of manners and propriety in US Society.

DM me for questions regarding religion, finance, metaphysics, or relationship issues. LOL

Just don't research the whining I did during football games last Fall. "do as I say, not as I do".
halfastros81
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I am 100% in support of Coach Kennedy. I don't think he is a top flight X's and O's coach but the overall direction is very positive on all fronts imo . I also do not look at him as being a job hopper, especially after the patience he has been shown under very difficult circumstance in terms of his personal health. I don't understand the LSU comments at all. If anyone anywhere thinks the pressure would be less at LSU than at A&M they should rethink it. That place is a frieking meatgrinder.
wacarnolds
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quote:
Kennedy's team could win a game or two in this year's NCAA Tournament. That would be a remarkable accomplishment

Lol
wacarnolds
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quote:

I just wasn't sure which finger he'd use.

That's a joke, of course. Kennedy has way too much character and is much too classy to resort to such gestures.

But could you really have blamed him if he'd addressed his detractors among the A&M fan base by asking: "How do you like me now, witches?" Or, something like that.

I know I underachieved for 4 years, but I had a good 5th season, so F you!
mallen
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AG
Kennedy and the Aggies have the opportunity to continue setting historical records for our program. With a good showing in the SEC tournament and 1st 2 rounds of the NCAA tournament, the Aggies will have the most wins in school history and tie for the deepest tournament run in school history.
Clown Question
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Kennedy deserves kudos and credit for this season but he way underachieved the previous four no matter how many excuses you want to use. He took over a program that had gone to six straight NCAAs under two different coaches and took five years to get it back there (including no postseason at his first three years).

He proved the doubters wrong with maybe the overall most talented roster ever seen here. I want to see him produce a consistent NCAA team like the one we had before he got here. I have real doubts about that because he just doesn't have a record of producing such a thing. His record has been to struggle for several years and then get a NCAA bid, then move onto another job. Obviously, he is not moving on to another job, so he is going to have show he create a program that lasts rather than go to the NCAAs once every four or five years or so.

Give him all the praise in the world for this season (I'd never thought he would be the first coach of the big three (FB, BB, and MBB) to win a SEC title) but don't ignore his first four years here and the fact that he has to prove he can create a lasting program (which he has not done in his career).
Method Man
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Seems like several posters on this thread went to the Olin buchanon school of point making.
Method Man
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This has to be a fake article.

Fans have been tremendously supportive? Most checked out three games into the conference play until this season.
bobinator
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AG
Comparing the House situation to Kenyon Martin is a little ridiculous. For one, House isn't about to be the number one pick in the draft, he's maybe a second round pick. And Martin got hurt in the CUSA Tournament so it's not like Cincy got much practice time without him. Even then they were leading Tulsa late in the second half of that game, and that Tulsa team was pretty damn good. And again, they still got to the second round of the NCAA's without the number one pick in the draft.

We lost House and lost to Alabama and Auburn. Also, winning the SEC is a major accomplishment, obviously. But it's not like we won the Big 12 or something. We won the league and we beat exactly one ranked team one time to do it.

Also the APR thing was a real thing, I wrote about it plenty, but in retrospect we would have been better off just going ahead and kicking people off the team and taking the penalty and getting it over with instead of dragging it out. We weren't about to go to the NCAA's his second season anyway.

To me, Kennedy underperformed last year. I don't even think that's really debatable. But overall he's done a good job this year and if he can take next year's team to the tournament then he'll have done a good job next year also.

But this whole he would have been in the right to say "eff the haters" thing is absurd. There is PLENTY to be critical about over the last several seasons.

I don't like being negative, because we're in a great spot now, but there's no need to rewrite history.

Legal Custodian
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quote:
No matter what Kennedy does, some Aggies just won't give him the respect for a job well done.
Method Man
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That is also a dumb point. Most people think he did a good job this year and will give him credit for that. You bring on valid criticism of the prior four years by acting like they didn't happen and pretending Ags were wrong to be critical.
agfan1030
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OB....When I started reading your article I immediately knew many responses were not going to be supportive. I think you knew that, too.The door was opened for a lot of criticism and much of it was on point. Have supported the coach throughout but have also silently questioned him. I'm pretty happy now with the current status. He gradually got to the players he wanted and really good ones. He has a team with chemistry. I do worry about losing staff. I really like the complete staff he has.

I caught his statement about thanking most fans. Nothing wrong with that. He got a minor dig in and went right on.
Pumpkinhead
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If this season was made into a 'Hoosiers' movie...

Billy Kennedy



TexAgs Message Board




Billy Clyde Gillispie (it is a closely held secret that BCG helped out as a consultant this season, and while Kennedy did try to deliberately get himself thrown out of the Kentucky game so that BCG could make a dramatic entry and finish coaching the game, unfortunately Kennedy's antics only received a technical).



Pumpkinhead
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Responding to Olin's article, Turgeon left Dash, Elston, Middleton, Loubeau, Ray, Roberson, incoming recruit Branch (heralded at the time) and a mercurial Hibbert on the roster when he left, which while not as good a talent as this 2015-2016 team was still a roster that was decent on paper and certainly could have performed much better than 4-14 in conference.

So I don't really agree that much with the Turgeon bashing that has gone on the past several years. Sure Turgeon had some flaws and was kind of whiny and his recruiting was mediocre compared to what was flowing to Waco and Austin, and I guess the APR thing was a growing problem, but the guy still won 24 games per year and got into the NCAA every season. He was a good coach IMO.

Obviously, Kennedy getting Parkinsons and missing a bunch of time early in Year #1 added to the normal challenges of an entire new staff trying to get buy-in from players they did not recruit really threw a monkey wrench into things, as did a wave of injury problems (plus a Branch transfer) throughout the season that made it very difficult to ever get a roster rotation stabilized with much continuity. It was a FUBAR situation and I think most objective fans gave the new coaching staff a mulligan on what happened in Year 1.

Year #2 and Year#3 played out pretty grim and I also think most objective posters (including myself) were quite ready for a coaching change made at the end of Year #3. Recruiting was not going exceptionally well, things just didn't seem to be trending positive whatsoever. It definitely looked like coaching staff changes were necessary.

And major coaching changes DID occur at the end of Year #3, only they happened only at the assistant level. Replacing Cyp and Reese with Stansbury and Rahim and then landing a bunch of excellent recruiting talent obviously changed the trajectory of the program in a positive way in Year #4 and Year #5. The Ags went 24-12 in the SEC the past two years with an NIT and now an SEC co-championship NCAA year.

I remember when Stansbury was hired, many of us wondered how well Kennedy and Stansbury would be able to get along. No matter how much help posters feel Rick Stansbury gave in recruiting and game preparation/management, I think at a minimum Billy Kennedy deserves credit for making such a relationship work the past couple of years. I'm am positive there are a lot of head coaches out there with pretty big egos who would have felt threatened by adding such an assistant or mismanaged such a situation.
letters at random
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oh god, the part about how the SEC athletes are tougher than B12 and how that was a problem that BK had to overcome is my favorite excuse ever.
Except nobody said that.
salvatore_ditmars
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the texags staffer said it in the post before mine.
SAR Ag
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Congrats to Kennedy and the team for the conference co-championship. Great achievement - without a doubt. But this very good year has been the exception, and not the rule, under Kennedy. Before crowning him as the messiah, why don't we see how next year unfolds. He loses four senior starters. If the team can still stay competitive, then maybe he is the man for the long haul.
Wmw73
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Insanely great article!!

BK is an inspiration to me for not giving up when things looked very bleak after landing his dream job.

God bless you Billy Kennedy!
letters at random
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quote:
the texags staffer said it in the post before mine.
Not really.

He said this:

quote:
Seems to me Turgeon got out as soon as he used up the last of the toughness and talent well BCG left him. His last team got roflswatted out of the first round by about 80 Florida State blocks and the next one was going nowhere no matter who coached it. Much less a guy who spent the entire preseason dealing with health issues. Only to then be forced to transition to a conference that had the athletes (especially in the frontcourt) to expose the complete lack of athleticism Turgeon had recruited.

That's not the same thing as saying the SEC athletes are tougher. He did imply that the SEC basketball teams have rosters that are more athletic than the Big 12 teams. I think that's true. (More athletic doesn't mean better.)
Deputy Travis Junior
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I don't understand why some people are so hellbent on using this year to white wash underachievement in previous seasons. Yes he did a great job this year. Everyone's happy to admit that. We're all happy that we won the conference and are humming along with recruiting. But the failures of his first 3 (or even 4) years were not necessary steps to get here. Acknowledging that doesn't detract from the staff moves he made, the fantastic job he did selling his vision to recruits and transfers, or the Xs and Os coaching modifications he'd made that changed us from one of the worst offenses in D-I basketball in year 3 to a pretty good one this year.
Deputy Travis Junior
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quote:
quote:
the texags staffer said it in the post before mine.
No, he didn't.


"Only to then be forced to transition to a conference that had the athletes (especially in the frontcourt) to expose the complete lack of athleticism Turgeon had recruited."

That's pretty damn close.
letters at random
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quote:
quote:
quote:
the texags staffer said it in the post before mine.
No, he didn't.


"Only to then be forced to transition to a conference that had the athletes (especially in the frontcourt) to expose the complete lack of athleticism Turgeon had recruited."

That's pretty damn close.
Close, but importantly different. His point, which I agree with, was that the roster we had wasn't designed to handle the athleticism that is found on the SEC rosters. That's why the manner that we lost to FSU matters in context.
Deputy Travis Junior
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Other than Kentucky, the SEC has lower grade players than the Big 12. This ain't football.

As far as athleticism, our roster of Elston Turner, Ray Turner, Fabyon Harris, and Alex Caruso was not at some huge disadvantage to other teams in the conference
salvatore_ditmars
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his post was intentionally incendiary from start to finish and was filled with ridiculous assertions. it suggested that the "toughness" of the entire turgeon era was because of BCG's players and then turned around and implied that the reason we were so putridly soft the first 3 yrs of Billy Kennedy is because of Turge and Turge's soft players.


** "idiot" edited to "intentionally incendiary" for the sensitivities of lar
letters at random
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quote:
his post was idiotic from start to finish.


Just because you disagree with something, that doesn't make it idiotic, nor does it justify your incivility toward others. For what it's worth, I happen to agree with his comments.
greg.w.h
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First let me properly bow to those that believe the administration is always right and all Ags should line up and support it: Kennedy had a good year. It's not done and there is the possibility of an upside beyond what we have accomplished ever before.

TexAgs using its influence to peddle this story unfortunately damages its independence no matter whether it is completely self-publishing or coordinating with the Department of Athletics. The fact that it is provocative is understood and one can imagine that it draws eyeballs in a commercial way (and, after all, TexAgs is a for-profit business still.)

But for the sake of all that is Aggie: don't retract the story. Just follow up next year regarding where the new trajectory is taking us and flog us again if BK recruits a top 10 class again and goes a further step towards the national championship. Trust me that all of us who have commented negatively on his tenure are not opposed to him succeeding and likely will read the story and continue to keep our own counsel as to whether his tenure has been good for OUR SCHOOL or not. See...that's the problem with this article: it comes across as promoting a position that those who don't agree are disloyal. Shame on you.
Pumpkinhead
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I often like Olin's articles and appreciate his takes on TexAgs Radio, but the more I thought about this particular piece, I just don't like the agenda behind it (that Kennedy should be essentially giving his skeptics the bird) nor do I like the timing of it (the next 2-3 weeks could be the funnest of the season and no need IMO to be putting out an article like that this right now that is basically attacking a portion of our own fan base).

Had Olin come to me with this idea for an article, I'd have advised him 'Just let it go. Let's enjoy the post-season.'
Clown Question
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The problem is that most people with any sense thought this team would be a NCAA squad. Now winning the conference is a big deal, and and being a 4 seed compared to 7/8 is better than I (and many) would have thought. He deserves respect and credit for that accomplishment.

The concern, which is completely legitimate given Kennedy's performance his first four years and over his career, is that this year is not the norm for him here or throughout his career. It seems dumb to gloat to fans who were rightfully criticizing an under performing coach, because he had one good year out of five.

salvatore_ditmars
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