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MSU’s Stricklin Has To Ask Fans For Patience During Search

Fifteen days ago, many Mississippi State fans were rejoicing in the news that Rick Stansbury was stepping down as basketball coach.  We heard from a number of them each and every time we suggested that Stansbury should be given one last chance to rid his program of Renardo Sidney and turn things around.

“Stansbury can recruit, but he can’t coach.”  “It’s time for him to go.”  “With our tradition, why wouldn’t a name coach jump at the chance to come to State?”

And now?  MSU AD Scott Stricklin yesterday had to put out a message to calm Bulldog fans who are growing impatient with his yet-to-bear-fruit coach search.  This just hours after former Dog Robert Hood — father of current Dog Rodney Hood — claimed the school’s program “is not in shambles.”

Stricklin’s statement reads as follows:


“Like Bulldog fans everywhere, I eagerly anticipate the hiring of Mississippi State’s next men’s basketball coach.  However, from the beginning of this process, no deadline has been imposed on the search.  It’s important that we hire the right candidate to lead our program, a person of integrity who will instill discipline, character and accountability into the men’s basketball program at Mississippi State.  Thank you for your patience.  Hail State!”


I’m sure that will calm the State fans who’d hoped for Shaka Smart or Frank Martin or Gregg Marshall.  Instead they’ve seen at least three mid-major coaches re-up with their old schools (Steve Prohm at Murray State, Bryce Drew at Valparaiso) or take other jobs (John Groce to Illinois).  The Bulldog player roster is also emptying.  And Mr. Basketball in the Magnolia State, Devonta Pollard, has scratched MSU from his list of suitors.

Today longtime Vanderbilt assistant Dan Muller is being mentioned as a potential candidate.  A show of hands from anyone in Starkville who’d heard of Kevin Stallings’ 12-year assistant before yesterday, please?

Thought so.

Tubby Smith’s Minnesota Gophers lost in last night’s NIT finals to Stanford so now his name can begin to be kicked around in Starkville, too.  (Smith at one time or another has been mentioned in connection with every basketball job in the SEC and — if I checked — probably a couple of football jobs, too.  He’s the Jon Gruden of SEC hoops searches.)

So what’s the problem at State?  Here’s the short list:


1.  Most coaches believe Stansbury did an unreal job of recruiting to Starkville.  It’s a nice town.  I’ve been there.  I like it.  The people are Mayberry-friendly.  And that’s a compliment, not a dig.  But there’s a reason Dan Mullen signs most of his football recruits from inside state lines.  The aforementioned Martin will have a much easier time bringing outside recruits to a fancy new facility in the more cosmopolitan Columbia, South Carolina than he would have had if he’d talked to and landed at State.  Stansbury’s recruiting work was under-valued.

2.  Martin — to keep using him as an example — will make $2 million per season at Carolina.  It doesn’t appear Stricklin has that type of cash to toss around right now.  Thus the large number of newbie coaches and assistants on his list.

3.  State fans pooh-poohed when this site referred to Stansbury as the top coach in their school’s history.  “He only won a bunch of games because he was here so long.”  Well, you can bet any coach considering a move to State will know that he’s walking into a job with big expectations.  Whether fans viewed Stansbury as their Win King doesn’t matter.  Any candidate to replace him knows that the school just ran off the winningest coach it had ever had.  A smart candidate will wonder if he can do better than Stansbury did.


In the end, Stricklin might still find the right guy for MSU on Day 15, Day 25 or Day 35.  One of those up-and-comers he’s chatting up might just say “yes” and then turn into the next Dean Smith.  Could happen.

But we continue to believe State’s AD would have been better off giving Stansbury one more year with the instructions to boot Sidney and — how’d he put it? — “instill discipline, character and accountability into the men’s basketball program at Mississippi State.”

Instead, he’s talking to longtime SEC assistants that most fans have never heard of and putting out press releases asking for patience.  Might as well ask for peace, love and understanding while he’s at it.




 


3 comments
RingProudly
RingProudly

I like your blog, and I find it unfortunate that you seem so critical of the process. Realistically, noone knows exactly what's going on behind the curtains. Just because these coaches interviewed doesn't mean Stricklin didn't turn THEM down. He very well could be waiting for a Nick Saban (cough cough Tubby) or simply biding his time to get the exact right fit. He issued a plea for patience because you're right about one thing - MSU fans will be expecting a lot and are a rabid fanbase. State hoops fans, and in general, are easy to get into a tizzy.

 

I think assuming things are falling apart, and framing the situation that way, is based only on surface-based assumptions and is not something I know this blog to be a fan of doing. I respect your writing more than that.

John at MrSEC
John at MrSEC moderator

RingProudly...

 

You do indeed ring proudly.  You're a fountain of positivity for your school.  Thumbs up for that.

 

This site delivers news and opinion.  The news is a number of coaches have interviewed with MSU only to stay put with raises at their existing schools.  Sure, it's possible Stricklin wasn't interested in them.  But that seems a bit unlikely.

 

Also, I don't think I said things are "falling apart," as you put it.  In fact, I said State could still land the next Dean Smith.  But the fact that the school's AD is having to put out a press release asking for patience is not a good sign, whether one rings proudly or not.

 

If he's making a comment, there's a reason for it.  He's hearing from State fans and alums who want to know what's taking so long.  We tried to explain in three quick points what the hold-up might be.

 

And I've stated -- knowing full well that I could be wrong -- that I think and have thought State would have been better off giving Stansbury another year.  We'll see who State hires and how they do.  Until then, the news is that State's search isn't looking good to this point and the AD has had to address that fact... and the opinion -- at least here -- is that MSU's next coach won't bring more success than Stansbury brought.

 

We aren't surprised that MSU has had trouble bringing someone in.  That's been our position since Stansbury's "retirement."

 

For State's sake, I hope I'm wrong.  But this site is very much news plus opinion.  And that's my current opinion.  I'll be happy to admit my error if MSU lands some big name coach with a late-game money thrust.  Or if MSU grabs an up-and-comer who's on other teams' radar.  

 

But remember this -- James Franklin's hire at Vanderbilt resulted in "huh?" reactions from this site and many others.  After a season on the job, he's looking pretty darn good.  As we're fond of saying... anything's possible.

 

Thanks as always for reading,

John

RingProudly
RingProudly

 @John at MrSEC

 Sorry if I offended, certainly wasn't my goal.

 

I don't find myself to be particularly positive, just neutral. Lots of things are possible. It's certsainly possible noone is interested in Mississippi State, but THAT is what I find unlikely. Prohm, after a year of coaching, would turn down ~1m for a major high-profile job for 300K at Murray State? That just doesn't seem logical to assume.

 

You're right, Stricklin did post due to the speculation and concern. That, however, means nothing other than the fact that the base is energized. It doesn't mean things are *actually* going wrong. It just means that people are in a tizzy. That, I won't deny.

 

I'll admit the search seems, on the surface, to be a bit sloppy. Knowing Stricklin and his former hires and hiring processes, I doubt that it's sloppy internally.

 

As far as your blog, never cease to offer your opinion. You seem to be one of the more educated - and certainly level-headed - opinionated sports writers there are. I love your stuff, just felt the original post was a bit alarmist. Regardless, I don't have to agree with an opinion to respect it, and I respect you and your blog very much.

 

Also, I feel this deserves to be said: few bloggers take the time to reply to every comment. That's impressive and very appreciated.



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