Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Video Emerges in Coach's Assault Case

A police video reveals University of Mississippi basketball coach Andy Kennedy pleading with an officer before his arrest on an assault charge.

"I'm begging you . . . this is a major deal, man," Kennedy says in the video, which was included in a report by Eric Flack of WLWT in Cincinnati.

Kennedy was arrested December 18 on charges of punching a Cincinnati cab driver while his team was in town to play the University of Louisville.

We have followed the Kennedy story for several reasons: It's an intriguing legal story, assault has been an issue on this blog, and the case has connections to the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), my former employer. Kennedy and two of his assistants, Bill Armstrong and Torrey Ward, are UAB graduates and former players and coaches at the university.

For good measure, the Kennedy case raises troubling questions about legal ethics and has generated a flurry of lawsuits, focusing on everything from defamation to the coach's sex life (or lack thereof).

Kennedy acknowledges in the video that he had a verbal altercation with the cab driver. Apparently nothing was captured on the video about the alleged assault.

The video shows that Kennedy knew immediately this would become a "national incident" and could be a major blow to his career. He pulls the "celebrity card" with the officers, to little effect.

In fact, the best part of the video comes when an officer takes a swipe at the local pro football team. "You think we've never arrested somebody that's made national media? . . . We deal with the Bengals all the time."

As for UAB, I suspect the university continues to provide an undercurrent in the Kennedy story. Here's why: As we reported earlier here at Legal Schnauzer, a source with strong connections in college athletics told me that Kennedy had been warned by Ole Miss officials about drinking, particularly his habit of going out with a boisterous group of friends after home games in Oxford, MS.

If that's the case, I suspect Kennedy's job might be on shaky ground at Ole Miss, particularly with a criminal trial set for April, after the college basketball season is completed.

UAB's current coach, Mike Davis, has been widely reported to be interested in the jobs at the University of Alabama and the University of Georgia, both of which came open recently.

I'm hearing that former UAB coach and Birmingham native Mike Anderson, now at the University of Missouri, is the frontrunner for the Alabama job--and that he would come in a heartbeat if offered.

Does that mean Mike Davis could wind up at Georgia? If so, he probably would be able to bring with him 6-10 DeMarcus Cousins, one of the nation's top-rated recruits.

From reading Blazer Talk, a UAB sports forum, it looks like quite a few Blazer fans would like for Davis to hit the road. His botched recruitment of Cousins and a recent mass exodus of players seem to have turned off many UAB fans. Davis' apparent thirst for the Alabama job also hasn't helped.

From my perspective, much of the Davis mess should be blamed on President Carol Garrison. Athletics answers directly to the president, and the department has had a number of festering problems under Garrison. In fact, the university as a whole has several serious problems that Garrison has either caused or failed to address. Meanwhile, she asks for more taxpayer dollars from one side of her mouth while she wastes money out of the other.

Whoever you blame for the problems with UAB basketball, the program appears to need new leadership. Who might provide that? My guess is that Andy Kennedy would love to provide it. And I think he is handling his legal problems in such a way as to position himself for the UAB job--should Davis bolt for Alabama, Georgia, or parts unknown.

As I noted in a previous post, I think the whole point of the loss-of-consortium lawsuit filed by Kimber Kennedy (the coach's wife) is to get the cab driver and the valet who supports his story to countersue her. That way, the lawyers from both sides can get together and settle the whole affair under Kimber Kennedy's name. She would pay the cabbie and the valet a nice chunk of change to settle the lawsuit, drop the civil claims against her husband, and drop the criminal case (if Cincinnati prosecutors agree, and I think they would).

The end result? The Kennedys--or their insurer--would be a little poorer. But Andy's record would be clear, both criminally and civilly. With no signs of criminal charges or a civil settlement under his name, he could claim a pristine record for future employers. This could be a nifty piece of lawyering by Kennedy's attorney.

Kennedy's preferred employer, if the job is open, probably would be UAB. Would this be a good thing, a possible win-win for coach and university? I think it might be. Kennedy is a likable, popular fellow, and I suspect most UAB fans would welcome him back and try to help put the Cincinnati mess behind him. My source says that he does not think Kennedy has a serious drinking problem, but that he needs to use better judgment and keep a lower profile.

Also, if Kennedy were to come to UAB, I suspect he would need to alter the makeup of his coaching staff. The Ole Miss staff is essentially a bunch of children, and one or two of the assistant coaches played prominent roles in the Cincinnati fracas.

There's no question that Andy Kennedy is a talented coach. His injury-depleted Ole Miss team recently pulled off upset wins over Kentucky and Mississippi State. Unlike Davis and Anderson, I don't think Kennedy would see UAB as a "stepping stone" job. Given the proper resources and support, I think he would be happy to stick around awhile at his alma mater--and that's something UAB basketball needs.

But Kennedy needs to surround himself with some real adults. If he were to hire several seasoned assistants and clean up his personal act, I think he could be a good fit at his alma mater.

Hiring Andy Kennedy, with the right conditions in place, could be the first good decision Carol Garrison has made in a while.


Anonymous said...

"I'm hearing that former UAB coach and Birmingham native Mike Anderson, now at the University of Missouri, is the frontrunner for the Alabama job--and that he would come in a heartbeat if offered."


I'd hate to see him leave just as he's on the cusp of returning Mizzou to its former glory (such as it was).

If he did leave, you could be sure that every SEC coach will be telling 'Bama recruits not to expect him to stick around for very long, since he didn't in his last two jobs.

Personally, I don't think it will happen. Coaches get fired here, but they rarely move on to greener pastures. We must hire a lot of masochists, I guess. :)

Anonymous said...

Anderson, also known as "suitcase Mike" will go wherever they offer him the most money.

Or if Missou pays him more he will be there untill they fire him.

He was all ready to take the AU job ahead of Lebo but AU wanted him to come to campus and interview.
He only wanted to come to the campus to accept the job.

His agent would sell his own mother if the money was right.

As a UAB fan, I hope and pray that UAT takes Davis. I am not sure how else UAB can afford to get rid of him.