College Basketball Nation: Bill Byrne

Billy Kennedy won the press conference

May, 19, 2011
5/19/11
5:39
PM ET
Billy Kennedy had them at "Howdy" and "Gig 'em."

That was how he greeted Texas A&M after slipping on a maroon jacket for his introduction as the coach earlier this week. He also managed to slip in a little nugget to reporters during the news conference, just to make sure everyone knew that he was fit to be an Aggie.

Kennedy was an assistant coach at Texas A&M during the 1990-91 season, and he liked his stint there so much that he named his daughter, Lexie, after the place.

"I've got an older daughter who is 20 years old, and she was born here," Kennedy said Monday. "Her name is Alexandra Marie. A and M."

Kennedy also managed to slip in the school's rally cry during the interview process with athletic director Bill Byrne, according to the Houston Chronicle.
In the interview, Byrne wanted to know about recruiting.

"I want to see us have a bigger presence in Texas," he said. "I knew he'd been here before (as an A&M assistant in 1990-91). He came into the meeting and said, 'Gig 'em.' He had us figured out. And he talked about recruiting Texas. That was music to my ears."

At that point, Byrne, who had brought Billy Gillispie and Mark Turgeon to College Station, was well on his way to hiring his third men's basketball coach at A&M.

Of course, the quality of one-liners that Kennedy uses doesn't really matter in the grand scheme of things. Wins matter, and that's where he also has it covered. He's managed to make NCAA tournament appearances with Southeastern Louisiana and Murray State, which won 31 games in 2010 including an upset win in the NCAAs.

But it doesn't hurt that Kennedy is getting off to a nice start, winning over fans and the blogosphere.
Mark Turgeon is known as a classy guy. He's reserved, solid, the kind who speaks softly but lets his coaching talk for him, the kind known for fundamental solidity off and on the court. Before he accepted athletic director Kevin Anderson's offer to become the new coach at Maryland Monday, Turgeon did what he's always done before taking a new job: He informed his former team first. That sort of thing shouldn't be praise-worthy, but in the transient world of college basketball coaching, it is.

But did Turgeon always get along with fans? Was he happy at A&M? Or was this parting inevitable? That's the thesis of a column from Dallas Morning News Contributor David Harris, who says that new Maryland coach Mark Turgeon, while successful at A&M, also butt heads with the fan base over attendance, support and recognition:
From the moment he arrived, he had a certain uneasiness about him. It just never felt right. In his mind, when he gave his all on the sidelines, in the film room and on the practice court, he expected the fans to return the favor. Unfortunately, that's not the way things go at A&M.

When they didn't show up at Reed, he felt like his program was being underappreciated. He felt like he was being underappreciated. As a result, he regularly voiced his displeasure with attendance.

At a school that often boasts having the best fans in the country, questioning loyalty or a lack thereof doesn't tend to have a positive impact. The minute Turgeon criticized the fans, he lost many. When he continued to question their passion, the detractors added up.

For his part, Turgeon has been nothing but gracious toward his former school since announcing his decision. On Monday night, Turgeon tweeted the following statements in quick succession:
"Aggies: Thanks for a great 4 years. I was proud to represent Texas A&M University. It is truly a special and classy place. The relationships built with many Aggies and relationships with our players is something that will be with me forever. We had many great nights in Reed Arena. I know there are many more in store for the maroon & white."

What does this mean about the A&M fan base? Or the state of A&M hoops? It's hard to say. Perhaps the Aggies -- never a traditional basketball power -- tasted success under Billy Gillispie, saw that success continue under Turgeon and found themselves looking for more than four straight first-weekend NCAA tournament exits. Or maybe Harris is overstating the case somewhat. The Texas A&M fans at I Am The 12th Man (great blog name, by the way) praised Turgeon and hoped A&M would make him a worthy counteroffer in the hopes of keeping him at the school. And Turgeon, public spin or no, certainly seemed to have enjoyed his time.

Whatever the case, it's fair to say A&M fans now have expectations higher than at any time in the program's unspectacular history. Long obsessed almost single-mindedly with football, Aggies fans now have a consistently competitive basketball program to look forward to as well. They don't just want to get to the NCAA tournament. They don't just want to compete in the Big 12. They want more.

This is called momentum, and it is a good thing. Now it's up to A&M athletic director Bill Byrne -- who released a pitch-perfect statement yesterday -- to find a guy late in the coaching carousel to build on those expectations going forward.

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