New Mississippi State basketball coach Rick Ray explained his background and rang the traditional cowbell at an introductory presser in Starkville yesterday. As expected, after hearing him speak, State fans are feeling better about the hire (more in a minute).
Ray — who’s drawn positive reviews from those who’ve worked with him — opened with the usual “here’s what we’re gonna be” comments that all coaches use at their introductions:
“The program that I’m going to run is going to be a situation where guys are going to flourish.”
“All I ask you to do this whole time is, throw away your doubts, throw away your fears and get two feet into Mississippi State basketball. Then see what happens. If it doesn’t happen they you can start being judgmental, but don’t be judgmental right now.”
“I’m telling you this: We will be successful. I don’t know how to lose. The only thing I’ve ever done is win ballgames. I don’t care if you’re an assistant coach or associate head coach — if you come from a winning program, you know how to win.”
“The system we will run is based on integrity. I believe you win by doing things the right way. I want to make sure we put a team on this court that you guys are proud of.”
“I’ve got to get our players believing this is the right way to play basketball, making them better as a basketball player. Rest assured that all those things will happen. It will take some patience, but it will happen.”
Ray also explained that he believes in a motion offense with a lot of “screens, moving, popping and cutting.” He spoke of trying to keep Rodney Hood and the rest of his six scholarship players in Starkville. He credited predecessor Rick Stansbury for giving him a program to build on and yet he also said the off-court shenanigans would have to stop.
It was a Day One win for Ray. Of course, all but about 1% of opening pressers are wins. “He has a commanding presence,” MSU president Mark Keenum said yesterday. “He’s going to bring a high level of intellect and knowledge to the game.”
As noted above, State fans are gradually getting onboard with the hire. Especially that, “The only thing I’ve ever done is win ballgames” line. That’s quite a statement.
The Bulldog fansite ForWhomTheCowbellTolls.com — great name, by the way — now gives a thumbs-up to the man they’d likely never heard of a week ago:
“… I think Rick Ray will be a great fit at State. He isn’t who was most wanted, but in the end none of the candidates, wanted or unknown, were guaranteed to come in and be successful… The sky is the limit (with Ray), he’s sitting at 0-0 right now.”
True enough. Ray may turn out to be an A-1 head basketball coach. But for now he’s a lifetime assistant who’s never run his own program. He steps into a 14-team league that features coaches like Billy Donovan, John Calipari, Mike Anderson, and Frank Martin. Oh, and Frank Haith, the reigning National Coach of the Year is coming in, too. Ray’s taking over a program that will have serious depth issues next year and he’ll have to replace a guy who — even though he was the winningest coach in school history — was forced into very early retirement.
That won’t be easy. Now, that doesn’t mean State fans shouldn’t be hopeful and supportive. But buying in hook, line and sinker? Everybody does it right after a coach is introduced. But, boy, there sure are a lot of coaches introduced each year, aren’t there? Not every guy who wins the presser by telling the fans exactly what they want to hear goes on to win enough games to keep his job.
So the jury is still very much out on Rick Ray, the only SEC coach who’s never run a program before. We wish him well.
His deal: four years, $1 million per year plus incentives. He also announced that he will retain at least one Stansbury assistant.