When Kentucky takes the court at Humphrey Coliseum tonight, they’ll face a man who entered the SEC basketball season just as Mark Richt had entered last football season — as a man too long at one place, with fans grumbling about underachievement. Unlike Richt, Stansbury’s troops haven’t rallied ’round him to “gruntle” the disgruntled. Instead they’ve lost three games in a row and the 14-year head coach is feeling heat from the Bulldog fanbase.
After losses to Auburn, LSU and Georgia, the coach angered a few more fans by claiming that his team was the “underdog” in its games at Auburn and at LSU:
“Let me say this about the road: I don’t know if anybody figures out how to win on the road. There aren’t many teams across the country who figure out how to win on the road. That’s Number One.
You go to LSU and you go to Auburn, those are two hard places to win. The one home game is the one you hate lose. Home games. Road games are hard to come by. They’re hard to come by. Like I said the other day, we’re the underdog in all these road games so far.”
Actually, the coach’s words are honest. On the season, the home team’s winning percentage in conference play has fluctuated around 70-75%. Kentucky and Florida and Vanderbilt — the top three teams in the league — all have four or more road wins in the SEC. Everyone else struggles on the road. And only Georgia and South Carolina have poorly defended their home turf.
So a case could be made that, yes, MSU really was an underdog on the road. But fans don’t want to hear that and Stansbury did himself no favors by saying it.
Yesterday, all the pressure might’ve gotten to Stansbury a bit when he took a pair of shots at former State player Twany Beckham who transferred to Kentucky this year:
First: “I saw his stats the other day in SEC play. Did he make one or attempt one shot?”
And then: “He’s seeing some pretty good basketball. He’s getting a front-row ticket every night. Yes, sir.”
After his comments hit Twitter, Stansbury attempted to put the toothpaste back into the tube via his own Twitter feed:
“I’d like to clear up the comments I made earlier today about Twany Beckham. First off, they were taken out of context. I’ve never said anything negative about a player, nor will I. Again, those comments were taken out of context. Earlier tonight, I called Twany and had a great conversation with him. He’s a great kid and I would never say anything to hurt or embarrass him. I wish him nothing but the best.”
How his comments were taken out of context is anyone’s guess. There’s a large difference between “out of context” and “I thought they were off the record.” But if Stansbury wanted his remarks be kept off the record, he’d have been better off not making them during a media session. And — just in terms of showing some class — he shouldn’t have made them at all.
The bottom line is this: Stansbury has overstayed his welcome in Starkville. The man is averaging 20 wins per year and he’s taken the Dogs to six NCAA Tournaments and four NITs in his thirteen seasons. Doesn’t matter. Ask Richt.
Once a coach has been at a school for more than a decade, all of the losses add up. ”He lost this one in ’03 and that awful one in ’07 and he didn’t even have a winning conference record in ’09,” etc, etc.
For years we’ve said on this site that wins are like haircuts. You can get a great one, but pretty soon, you’re going to need another one. And another. And another. Losses, on the other hand, are like tartar on your teeth. They just continue to build up and build up until all anyone sees are yellow teeth (or in this case, a gaggle of losses).
Richt survived 2011 with a 10-4 season. But losses in Georgia’s last two games have left a certain segment of the UGA fanbase upset again. Yes, he’s getting a contract extension, but if his Bulldogs go 8-5 or worse in 2012 — against what looks to be an easy-esque schedule on paper — folks will be screaming for his noggin just as they were post-2010. He’s been in Athens too long.
Stansbury might survive this season at State. Handing Kentucky its first league loss of the season would certainly help his case. And who knows if AD Scott Stricklin is as eager for change as the many MSU fans who are emailing this site on an hourly basis? But eventually, it’s just going to take one bad year to unseat State’s long-tenured coach.
There are just too many losses in the collective memory.
Now that’s not fair in this writer’s view, but it is a fact in our instant-gratification, 24-hour media cycle world circa 2012.