Ole Miss hired Andy Kennedy before the 2006-07 basketball season.
That was 12 seasons ago. Or … four Ole Miss football coaches ago.
Kennedy, who mutually decided to step down after his 12th season will end without another NCAA Tournament appearance, will leave as the SEC’s longest-tenured basketball coach.
It’s not like he outperformed his football colleagues, though.
True, he won more games in Oxford than anybody, but he didn’t win a lot of big ones. He made the NCAA Tournament just twice, winning just two games, and the Rebels were never ranked in the final poll.
Can you imagine an SEC football coach surviving such relative postseason mediocrity for that long?
Of course not.
Kennedy’s case isn’t isolated, either. There might be no greater example of the disparity in expectations than at Georgia.
Mark Richt averaged 10 wins a season for 15 years before Georgia fired him. Richt led Georgia to a bowl game every season and finished in the Top 25 11 times.
His counterpart, Mark Fox, is in his ninth season as Georgia’s basketball coach. Fox has guided the Bulldogs to the NCAA Tournament exactly twice and has yet to finish a season ranked in the Top 25. Yet there are no fiery FireMarkFox campaigns in Athens.
The gap is common. It’s not so much that SEC athletic directors aren’t paying attention to what happens on the hardwood (and hoping fans aren’t, either), but it’s fair to say that barring a scandal or NCAA violation, the leash is longer for basketball coaches than football coaches.
Since Nick Saban arrived for the 2007 football season, the SEC already has churned through 44 football coaches. Whoever replaces Kennedy will be the 38th basketball coach in that span. The basketball coaches have a greater chance of staying 5 years or more, too.
* Includes Ole Miss’ next coach for 2018-19.
Saban not only is the longest-tenured SEC football coach, entering his 12th season, but he’s the only one who has been on the same sideline longer than five seasons.
In that same span, 10 SEC basketball coaches have spent at least seven seasons at their respective school.
Some were finishing their tenures in the late 2000s, but four of those streaks are active. Six more are well on their way: Frank Martin is in his sixth year at South Carolina, Bruce Pearl is taking Auburn to new heights in his fourth year, and proven winners Avery Johnson (Alabama), Michael White (Florida), Ben Howland (Mississippi State) and Rick Barnes (Tennessee) are all in their third year.
It’s quite possible, if not likely, that when the 2020-21 season starts, 10 of the 14 SEC basketball coaches will have been at their school for seven years.
How many of the 14 football coaches can you reasonably expect to make it seven years? Saban obviously has. Kirby Smart pretty obviously will. Texas A&M certainly paid Jimbo Fisher as though it expects him to be in College Station at least that long.
Florida’s Dan Mullen better break through the glass ceiling he ran into at Mississippi State. Will Muschamp seems to have South Carolina on the rebound, but who in Columbia anticipated Smart building that kind of monster in Athens?
Barry Odom? Derek Mason? Matt Luke? Nope, nope and next.
Jeremy Pruitt? Tennessee hasn’t kept a head coach that long since Phil Fulmer.
Mark Stoops? He’s entering his sixth year. He has moved the needle a bit, but Kentucky still hasn’t posted a winning SEC record since 1977.
Gus Malzahn? He’s entering his sixth year, too. He beat Alabama again, but then watched the Tide roll around in confetti again, too. His seat doesn’t come equipped with an air conditioner.
Ed Orgeron? He’s sitting on the hottest seat in the league.
Football coaches stay on the clock. SEC basketball coaches, by comparison and especially recently, look like a bastion of stability.
* Ole Miss will hire a basketball coach for 2018-19.