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Tuesday, June 28, 2011
Will Kennedy speed A&M up? Not likely

By Eamonn Brennan

When Texas A&M coach Billy Kennedy was introduced to the media in College Station, Texas, he was asked about his coaching style and how he likes his teams to play. His answer -- reprinted in full below -- was impressively detailed:
"I was fortunate enough to play for my stepfather, Kevin Trower, who is a legendary high school coach in New Orleans," Kennedy said. "He's 76 years old and still coaching. We were taught the old school Hank Iba style of defense. We pressure man-to-man. We will pick up full court and turn people, and really try to pressure them and speed them up if our personnel allows that. I think we have some personnel that will allow that. Offensively we want to score in the first seven seconds of the shot clock. We want to attack and really get in the paint. If we can't get in the paint we want to shoot quality threes from the wing or corners. Then we're going to be patient offensively if we don't score in the first seven seconds and we'll have a late clock.

Billy Kennedy
Billy Kennedy's Aggies may work in some 7-second possessions, but for the most part they'll play at a deliberate pace.
Hopefully that gives you a good rundown on how we like to play," Kennedy said. "It's been consistent since I've been a head coach, and it comes back to being good defensively. If you're good defensively you have a chance night in and night out."

Kennedy's whole press conference was like that: informative, detailed, and downright friendly. Kennedy even busted out a "Howdy!" in his opening remarks.

The interesting part about his answer, though, is that it's not quite as revealing on first glance as it might seem. Kennedy mentions his desire to get a shot in the first seven seconds of the shot clock, and immediately one thinks of "Seven Seconds or Less," the famed high-flying style Mike D'Antoni popularized with Steve Nash and the Suns (and which was later recounted in a fantastic all-access book by Sports Illustrated's Jack McCallum). In reality, the second part of Kennedy's quote -- "then we're going to be patient offensively" and "we'll have a late clock" -- is actually the most important part of the whole bit.

Indeed, Kennedy's teams -- whether at Murray State, which he left for the A&M gig, or at Southeastern Louisiana before that -- have never resembled those glory-years Suns behemoths. Instead, his teams have almost always been slow. In five years at Murray State, the Racers (no pace puns forthcoming; I refuse) only cracked the top 200 in adjusted tempo twice, according to Ken Pomeroy. When they did so, they were ranked No. 198 (in 2007) and No. 197 (in 2010). This is not exactly high-paced hoops.

But so what? Fact is, this actually works out quite well for Kennedy, for his new players and for A&M fans in general. Kennedy may not run the exact same offense as Turgeon, and he may not have the exact same points of emphasis, but he will inherit a team that is very much used to playing at a deliberate pace. There won't be some massive, wholesale strategic change at work here. Khris Middleton, David Loubeau and the rest of the Aggies -- who comprise what should be a competitive team in Kennedy's first year -- won't suddenly be asked to start playing a totally different style.

In the face of a coaching change, there's something to be said for stylistic continuity. The 2011-12 Aggies will have that much going for them. And if Kennedy does pepper in some occasional seven-second possessions, well, all the better.