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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Keep Kennedy: A&M has improved each season under Kennedy. Time to let him finish the job.

Billy Kennedy will have a strong crop of freshmen next season.
Photo by Cody Franklin

Billy Kennedy will have a strong crop of freshmen next season.

F
ive losses in the last seven games. That alone has many among the A&M men’s basketball fandom questioning why head coach Billy Kennedy’s isn’t searching for residency elsewhere than College Station.
And I understand it. Aggies want to win and Kennedy has had more than his fair share of time in Aggieland. In this day and age where we’ve seen coaches routinely ousted before the customary three-year grace period, it’s almost a miracle his contract has survived this long.
But let’s not be too quick to launch the basketball program back into the “hit or miss” typhoon that is the college coaching carousel. 
Kennedy is a proven program builder. At every stop along his coaching tour, Kennedy has left his programs in better places than when he adopted them, whether that be guiding Southeastern Louisiana to its first NCAA tournament appearance or raising Murray State from 16-14 in 2006-07 to 31-5 in 2009-10.
Under his leadership, a similar transformation unfolds in College Station for the A&M program. In his first year as head coach in 2011, A&M went 14-18. From there A&M earned winning records of 18-15 in 2012 and 18-16 record in 2013.
And then, of course, there’s this year. With the emotional highs following a 2-5 closure to the campaign, it’s easy to forget that this squad won 21 ballgames, the most victories since 2011. It was another progressive season in the Kennedy era as the Aggies advanced to the second round of the National Invitation Tournament.
The NIT is no NCAA tournament, but it is often thought of as a springboard for developing programs toward future NCAA tournament appearances and success. Take, for instance, Wichita State University. 
In their development under up and rising head coach Gregg Marshall, the Shockers appeared in the first round of the NIT in 2010 and then won the tournament the following year before advancing to the NCAA tournament four consecutive years, including this year’s current Sweet 16 run. 
It’s not hard to fathom that A&M is in an “NIT phase” of its own under Kennedy. A&M was never outmatched in any contest this year, it swept NCAA tournament team LSU and it took No. 1 Kentucky to the brink of defeat in a double overtime thriller at Reed Arena.
Obviously, A&M fans will hope their team’s “NIT phase” will be a year shorter than Wichita State’s, and I think that’s quite realistic.
The Aggies expect to have both of their most productive players back next season in juniors Danuel House and Jalen Jones. House led the Aggies in scoring and was their best player, but missed his last four games, which fell right in the thick of that criticized 2-5 closing stretch. Jones was the team’s second-leading scorer and leading rebounder.
A&M also molded freshmen Alex Robinson and Peyton Allen into contributing roles. Robinson received key minutes orchestrating the offense and Allen offered a 3-point threat coming off the bench.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, the Aggies have assembled, under Kennedy’s guidance, the No. 3 recruiting class in the nation for the upcoming season. All four members are ranked inside the ESPN top 70. 
Are you sure that’s the head coach you want to can?
Like I said, I get it. Aggies want to win, and they want to win now. But don’t let what was an unforeseen, bitter conclusion to the 2014-15 campaign hang over the big picture.
Kennedy’s got the ball moving on his master plan. Now, let’s let him see it through.

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