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CBSSports.com Senior Writer

Texas A&M hire shows that 'less' coach can be better

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Texas A&M hired Billy Kennedy as its new basketball coach Sunday.

He doesn't have the profile of Jeff Van Gundy.

Or the buzz of Buzz Williams.

So I haven't received a slew of emails from Texas A&M fans who are excited about the man athletic director Bill Byrne picked to succeed Mark Turgeon after several others (including Van Gundy and Williams) rejected overtures, which means this hire is like pretty much every other coaching hire made this offseason.

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Almost no high-major program hired its first choice. Almost no high-major program "won the press conference." The only obvious exception is Arkansas, which lured Mike Anderson from Missouri. But beyond that the initial reaction to most hires has ranged from disappointment to tempered enthusiasm.

This is how the coaching carousel now works.

Hiring is tougher than ever.

The majority of the good and established coaches are entrenched and wealthy and uninterested in making anything close to a lateral move, and the programs most likely to supply power-conference schools with rising stars are now paying what it takes to keep the rising stars -- like VCU's Shaka Smart -- from leaving for anything short of an elite job. Consequently, schools are forced to make uninspired hires or gamble on relative unknowns, which brings me back to Texas A&M and Kennedy.

Most casual fans couldn't identify him.

Most Texas A&M fans probably couldn't either.

He's never had the kind of NCAA tournament run that puts his face on television nonstop for a week like Butler's Brad Stevens, never coached an NBA star like Davidson's Bob McKillop. He spent the first 13 years of his career as an assistant, the second 13 as the head coach at Centenary, Southeastern Louisiana and Murray State, and he's done much of it -- and by much of it, I mean nearly all of it -- in total anonymity.

So this is not the type of hire that has folks in College Station doing cartwheels through campus. But the good news is that none of it really matters, and the guess here is that they'll be more excited about the hiring of Kennedy in eight months than they are today.

Why?

Because Texas A&M hired a good basketball coach.

Just like Clemson did last year.

Just like Arizona did the year before that.

No, Kennedy wasn't Texas A&M's first choice any more than Brad Brownell was Clemson's first choice or Sean Miller was Arizona's first choice, but ask Clemson and Arizona fans if they'd trade Brownell and Miller for any of the candidates they thought they wanted a week before both hires were made. I bet they'd tell you they wouldn't, and they'd be wise because Brownell and Miller have already proven to be tremendous hires for their schools.

Expect Kennedy to do the same thing.

He'll take a roster built by Turgeon that's ready to win next season, and he'll win with it next season. Then he'll land some recruits, win some more games, and before you know it he'll be the big-name coach Texas A&M tried to hire.

It'll just happen in reverse the same way it happened in reverse at Pittsburgh with Jamie Dixon, at Kansas State with Frank Martin, at Memphis with Josh Pastner and at Marquette with Williams. None of those guys were considered slam-dunk hires when they were hired, but now each school has a coach it wouldn't trade.

They serve as proof that "winning the press conference" is something that rarely matters in the grand scheme of things. What matters is whether you make the right hire, and Texas A&M probably did.


Gary Parrish is a senior college basketball columnist for CBSSports.com and frequent contributor to the CBS Sports Network. The Mississippi native also hosts the highest-rated sports talk radio show -- The Gary Parrish Show -- in the history of Memphis. He lives in that area with his wife, two children and a dog.
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