When the dust settled following the rumors and ultimately the firing of Texas A&M men’s basketball coach Billy Kennedy, there was a lot of respect shown to the man that led the Aggies for eight years.
Players tweeted their sentiments and peers spoke of how highly they thought of Kennedy as a coach and, maybe more importantly, as a person.
Savion Flagg, who flourished under Kennedy in his sophomore season tweeted “Thank you! Thank you for a chance! Thank you for your guidance! Thank you for your honesty! Thank you for teaching me FAITH! THANK YOU COACH KENNEDY.”
Sophomore guard TJ Starks, who was in Kennedy’s doghouse at times, tweeted “I don’t care what people say about ya Coach I’m riding wit ya til the end rather you coaching or not. I appreciate you and your dedication to the team! You will be missed and I wish you luck down the road!! Love.” Starks posted a photo of Kennedy and his wife Mary cutting down the nets after the Aggies won the SEC regular-season championship in 2016.
That was the most successful season for the Aggies under Kennedy, who was 14-18 in his final season and 151-116 overall. In addition to the SEC regular-season title, A&M made it to the final of the SEC tournament and beat Northern Iowa in the greatest comeback in NCAA history to reach the Sweet 16. Four players from that 2016 season — Alex Caruso, Danuel House, Jalen Jones and Tyler Davis — have suited up in an NBA game.
Two players who were on both Sweet 16 teams chimed in with tweets. DJ Hogg, who averages 10.5 points per game for Delaware in the NBA G-League, tweeted “nothing but respect for this man!! Was always bigger than basketball with him, great coach and even better mentor.” Hogg was suspended twice while playing at A&M, the second time when he was averaging a team-leading 14.6 points per game.
Guard Admon Gilder scored the tying basket when the Aggies came back from 12 down in 44 seconds to beat Northern Iowa. He was the lone player to stick around four years from Kennedy’s best recruiting class, although he did not play his senior season because of a blood clot in his right bicep. Gilder showed his respect for Kennedy and the program by being available for his teammates every day.
Gilder tweeted “Thank you Coach Kennedy for an amazing journey. Your motivation & encouragement has pushed me to heights I could never have dreamt of without you. I am where I am today because of you. Thank you for helping me to be excellent in this game & a better man in all aspects of my life.” Gilder posted the same photo as Starks.
Kennedy first came to Texas A&M as an assistant under Kermit Davis in the 1990-91 season. Davis is leading his Ole Miss Rebels into the NCAA tournament against Oklahoma on Friday, but he had time to share his feelings about Kennedy in Monday’s SEC teleconference.
“No. 1, what an excellent coach when he was at Murray State and at A&M and to take Texas A&M to two Sweet 16s in a very short period of time over the last three or four years is amazing,” Davis said. “A great family guy, a devoted husband and father. He is one of the really, really good people in our business.”
Kennedy was greeted in Nashville, Tennessee, at the SEC tournament with rumors that his next loss would be his last game at A&M. The Aggies opened the tournament with a win against Vanderbilt.
“I hate to speculate because I don’t know all the facts of what happened, but he obviously found a way to win a game and then got beat by a really good team,” Davis said. “I admire Billy. As far as guys in our industry, he is one of the most respected in the game.”
The coach that Kennedy last faced, Ben Howland, has taken four different schools to the NCAA tournament, the latest being Mississippi State.
Howland’s Bulldogs face Liberty on Thursday. After answering questions about that matchup, Howland spoke about Kennedy.
“First of all Billy is a very good coach, and he’s done a great job everywhere he’s been,” Howland said. “He’s a class person, won our conference my first year in the league, so he did some really good things at Texas A&M, and he’s going to be remembered as a really good coach at Texas A&M by those fans and the people that were there. He is someone who will land back in the coaching profession real quick.”
A&M’s players must now wait and see who their coach will be next season. Experts have pointed to Buzz Williams of Virginia Tech as being the lead candidate. Williams’ Hokies are a No. 4 seed and are playing in their program-best third consecutive NCAA tournament. Williams was an assistant at A&M under Billy Gillispie from the 2004-05 season to 2006-07.
As for the players, there are no organized workouts planned in the immediate future. No matter the coaching situation, the players are given time to rest and recover from a long season and focus on their academics once the season is finished.