Rick Stansbury's Employment at Mississippi State University

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Hot topic of the day: Rick Stansbury’s fate as the head coach of the basketball team. The Dawgs have lost three straight games to teams they were supposed to beat. On the road or not, they were favored in each game.

Stansbury is not a bad coach. You don’t average 20+ wins per year over 14 years at a power conference school if you’re a bad coach. You don’t win your division five times in 13 years, or never come in last place if you’re a bad coach. You don’t win a conference championship or take your team to the NCAA Tournament half the time if you’re a bad coach. No, Stans is a good coach.

And here is what good gets you: 14 relatively pressure-free years at a school. But year after year more fans jump on the ‘we need a new coach bandwagon’ than stay on the current coach’s side. That is just a fact. And while Stans isn’t a bad coach, and he hasn’t ‘forgotten’ how to coach, you have to wonder if he’s had his chance.

One thing we don’t want to be is a prisoner of the moment. State has lost three straight games and we jump to conclusions about his fate. But there has been a pattern of underachieving talent.

In 2007, the team included Jamont Gordon, the Delk twins, Ben Hansbrough, Charles Rhodes, Dietric Slater, Barry Stewart, Jarvis Varnardo, Vernon Goodridge and of course Joseph Iupe. Did MSU get jobbed by the committee, sure. But there shouldn’t have been any question about it with that lineup.

In 2008, you take all of the above players minus the Delk twins and add Ravern Johnson, Brian Johnson, Phil Turner, Kodi Augustus and Elgin Bailey. The Bulldogs got off to a horrible start losing to Southern Illinois, Miami (OH), Miami (FL), and South Alabama. Even after a solid SEC run, the Dawgs only got an ‘8’ seed and had to play Memphis in the second round.

2009’s team lost Rhodes, Gordon and Hansbrough but picked up Dee Bost, Romero Osby and Twany Beckham. While there were some growing pains and certainly State finished strong with a SEC Tournament Championship, there were plenty of ‘scratch your head losses’ like at home to Auburn, Ole Miss and LSU.

2010 may be the biggest disappointment. Stansbury finally held a team together only losing Freshman Twany Beckham to transfer, and Brian Johnson was the only one to graduate. The team played great at times but then terrible plenty of other times. State won the West despite an 8-8 record, and missed the NCAA Tournament.

Last year (2011) MSU didn’t get much of anything going amid distractions all year. Now this season started out surprisingly good. And I will argue that most people who were upset with Stans after the Arkansas and Ole Miss loss were out of bounds considering how far ahead of expectations this team was. But there’s no excuse to have a 6-6 record with a starting lineup that includes the talent of Arnett Moultrie, Dee Bost, Rodney Hood and Renardo Sidney.

Is Stan’s a victim of his own recruiting success? No, because he would’ve been fired many years ago if it wasn’t for all the good players. He may, however, be a victim of the type of players he has recruited in recent years. And that’s not to knock the players of this team, any and all blame goes to the coach – the head of the program.

I have been a firm advocate that Rick Stansbury is the right coach for Mississippi State. I believe he is a solid coach who has been able to secure the top talent in the state and elsewhere. He’s kept State highly competitive and in position for major accomplishments. I don’t think losing one game early in the NCAA Tournament should define your season, it happens to a lot of great teams and coaches. Some of those tournament teams were probably good enough to make longer runs had they drawn different opposition.

But why does MSU basketball continually underachieve over the last several years? When Stansbury said after the Auburn loss that “we’re the underdog in all these road games” and “the home game is the one you hate to lose” then there is clearly a problem.

State has been favored in all three of these losses (according to Vegas), and losing on the road to inferior opponents should be unacceptable. Florida – ok. Arkansas – well, ok. LSU & Auburn – not ok at all. It appears as though good has become the enemy of great.

I think his job status should be as follows: (1) If State doesn’t make the NCAA Tournament, he’s fired; (2) If State makes the NCAA Tournament then he gets another year but no contract extension or raise; (3) If State wins the SEC Tournament and gets to the Sweet 16 or greater then he can get an extension and raise (outside UK, UNC and Kansas, there isn’t a school out there who doesn’t give an extension after making the Sweet 16).

Those are just my thoughts on the matter. Feel free to tell me I’m off my rocker…but I don’t think I am.

 

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