Former Murray State head coach and one-time Aggie assistant Billy Kennedy was named the 21st men’s basketball coach at Texas A&M on May 16, 2011.
The 49-year-old Kennedy, has led the Aggies through a unique time of transition which saw A&M play its final season in the Big 12 Conference before moving into the Southeastern Conference during the 2012-13 campaign.
Under Kennedy’s watch, Texas A&M basketball has continued to progress on the court while making impressive strides in the classroom. In 2012-13, Texas A&M made a statement on the national stage as Kennedy led the Aggies to an upset win over defending national champion Kentucky at Rupp Arena, handing the Wildcats their first home SEC loss of head coach John Calipari’s tenure in Lexington. Additionally, A&M claimed another marquee victory in early February when the Aggies downed No. 20 Missouri at Reed Arena.
Kennedy oversaw the development of senior Elston Turner into one of the nation’s most explosive offensive forces as he garnered multiple national player of the week honors after becoming the just the third visiting player all-time to score 40 or more points against Kentucky at Rupp Arena before setting the Reed Arena scoring record not once, but twice later in the year. Turner went on to receive first-team All-SEC and USBWA All-District accolades.
In the classroom, the Aggies have made tremendous strides and put together one of the highest team GPAs in recent memory during the 2013 spring semester when the team collectively produced a 3.12 average.
A two-time Ohio Valley Conference Coach of the Year, Kennedy came to Aggieland after five seasons at the helm at Murray State University in Kentucky. There, he guided the Racers to a winning record in each year of his tenure. In his last two seasons at Murray State, his team posted a combined 54-14 record, back-to-back Ohio Valley Conference championships and consecutive trips to the postseason.
“I couldn’t wait to get back to Aggieland,” Kennedy said. “Even though I was there for only a short time, I could tell Aggieland is a special place. Aggies have great pride and passion for their school and their athletic programs.”
Over his last 10 years as a head coach, Kennedy’s teams have averaged over 20 wins per season, earned four conference titles and made three trips to the postseason--two to the NCAA Tournament and one in the NIT.
Kennedy’s final season MSU in 2010-11 concluded with a 23-9 campaign, one which saw the Racers capture the OVC regular-season title for the second straight year and earn a spot in the National Invitation Tournament. Kennedy won his second straight OVC Coach of the Year honor for his efforts.
In an outstanding 2009-10 season, Kennedy guided Murray State to a 31-5 mark, the OVC regular-season and tournament titles and a trip to the NCAA Tournament. There, his Racers upset Vanderbilt in the first round--the program’s first tourney win since 1988--before falling in the final seconds of the second round to eventual national runner-up Butler. It was the best season in the program’s 85-year history.
Kennedy was named NABC District-19 Coach of the Year following the 2009-10 season and was also a finalist for the Skip Prosser Award and Hugh Durham Award. The Racers were also honored with the OVC Men’s Basketball Sportsmanship Award in voting by the leagues’ head coaches.
In Kennedy’s five seasons at MSU, the Racers went 70-24 in OVC play en route to two league championships and three runner-up finishes.
Kennedy came to Murray State after serving the 2005-06 season as an assistant to current Missouri coach Frank Haith at the University of Miami. During that stint, Kennedy helped lead the Hurricanes to the quarterfinals of the NIT with an 18-16 record and wins that year over North Carolina, Maryland, Wake Forest and Oklahoma State.
Before Miami, Kennedy was the head coach for six seasons at his alma mater, Southeastern Louisiana. In his final two seasons at SLU, Kennedy guided the Lions to a 44-18 record, two Southland Conference regular-season titles and the school’s first-ever trip to the NCAA Tournament.
He was named Coach of the Year by the Louisiana Sports Writers Association, the Louisiana Association of Basketball Coaches and the National Association of Basketball Coaches (District 8) in back-to-back years, and was named SLC Coach of the Year in 2004.
His 2004-05 squad posted a 24-9 record, the best in school history, won its second consecutive Southland Conference title with a 13-3 league mark, claimed the school’s first conference tournament championship and advanced to face Oklahoma State in the NCAA Tournament.
Prior to taking over at SLU, Kennedy spent two seasons (1997-99) as head coach at Centenary College where he was able to turn the program around in just two seasons. Centenary went from only six wins in 1997-98 to a 14-14 mark in his final season.
Before his first head coaching job at Centenary, the Metairie, La., native spent 11 seasons as an assistant coach at seven Division I schools, including Texas A&M for the 1990-91 season. Kennedy’s other stops included New Orleans, Wyoming, Northwestern State, Tulane, Creighton and California.
He helped lead New Orleans to the second round of the NCAA Tournament in 1987. That year, UNO was a 13-seed when they upset 2-seed BYU before falling to Alabama. Kennedy also assisted Wyoming’s run to the NCAA Tournament in 1988. During his four seasons at California, the Golden Bears had two 20-win seasons and made three appearances in the NCAA Tournament--with one trip to the Sweet 16.
He earned a solid reputation as a recruiter early in his career while an assistant at Cal, where three of his classes were considered among the best in the nation. Kennedy recruited Shareef Abdur-Rahim and Tony Gonzalez to the Cal program.
Kennedy’s basketball philosophy starts with a rock-solid foundation of tough, in-your-face defense.
His 2009-10 Murray State team dominated the court on defense and were part of a group of only eight teams that led their conference in overall field-goal percentage (.499) and field-goal percentage defense (.387). The Racers led the OVC in scoring defense, field goal percentage defense, three-point percentage defense, blocked shots and steals, while holding the opponent’s leading scorer under his average in 31 of 36 games.
Under Kennedy’s watch, the Racers led the league in defending the three-point shot for the four his five seasons and scoring defense in each of the last three seasons. His team ranked in the top four in field-goal percentage defense every year, leading the league three times.
Kennedy received his Bachelor of Arts degree in social studies education from Southeastern Louisiana University in 1986. He was a star basketball player at Holy Cross High School in New Orleans before attending Delgado Community College, where he earned an associate of arts degree in general studies in 1984.
A class act off the court as well, Kennedy was presented this April with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes 2011 John Lotz “Barnabas” Award at the Final Four in Houston. The award is presented by the FCA to a basketball coach who best exhibits a commitment to Christ, integrity, encouragement to others and lives a balanced life.
Kennedy is married to the former Mary Ethredge, and he has four children, Will, Lexie, Brooks and Anna Cate.
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What They're Saying...
"I was first met Billy when he was at Texas A&M and then he did some part-time scouting for the Spurs. I have a great respect for him and his basketball coaching abilities, as well as for the type of person he is. Personally, I am excited for Billy, but I am equally excited for Texas A&M because he will do a great job of leading the basketball program. He is a very good team builder and mentor for these young men. He is about family. His wife and daughter are part of the basketball family. He develops a great environment to be able to achieve success on the basketball court and in life. I have a great respect for him and he is a high character person and an outstanding coach."
"I have known Billy for a number of years and he is an outstanding basketball coach. More importantly, he is a person of great moral and ethical character. He has a high level of integrity and Texas A&M has hired a good coach, but an even better person."
"I couldn't be happier for Billy. He is a great coach, a great friend and an even better person. The fit in College Station is an outstanding one. Billy has had a great deal of success recruiting in the southwest, in particular the states of Texas and Louisiana, so Texas A&M is getting an excellent coach who will fit the long-term vision of that university."
“Coach Kennedy was one of the coaches that believed in me. I tried to give back to him as best I could by going out and playing as hard as I could. He showed me a lot and I learned so much from him. He helped me mature both as a basketball player and as a man and was really supportive spiritually off the court.”