How Will We Define Success Under Rick Ray?


The hiring of Rick Ray seems to have a very underwhelming feel for MSU fans. It seems like Stricklin may have ‘settled’ for a coach, only paying him $1 million when we know State can shell out more than that. Ray isn’t a proven coach, and that has many folks feeling lukewarm about it.

But in the end, Rick Ray is now apart of our Bulldog family, and come the start of the next basketball season we’ll be cheering him on. What do we expect from him? What should we expect? What can we expect?

I think everyone agrees that the 2012-13 season is a wash – it will be a rebuilding year through and through. 15 wins may be a success in year one…and that’s no fault of Rick Ray. Year two is probably where we’ll be looking for a marked improvement..maybe nearing 20 wins and an appearance in a postseason tournament. By years three and four, I know MSU fans will be ready to compete for a NCAA Tournament berth.

What does Scott Stricklin expect from Ray? After all, he’s bringing him in with a salary near or at the bottom of the SEC. Of course, MSU is now the only SEC school who currently has first time head coach – so the salary is in part due to that. But in hiring a rookie head coach, and paying him a “low” salary, what exactly is Stricklin expecting in return?

From the press conference, it sounds like he just wants a coach with a strong work ethic, competitiveness, intelligence and the ability to sell Mississippi State to recruits and fans. He never mentioned winning. In fact, he said the goal of MSU athletics was to create great experiences.

Rick Ray never discussed the barometer of success in his comments either. So what is it? What are the long-term goals of Mississippi State basketball? Stansbury went to six NCAA Tournaments in 14 years and went into Selection Sunday squarely on the bubble three other times…that wasn’t good enough for a lot of people. The feeling I get from Stricklin and Ray is we are setting the bar a notch below that.

I may be wrong here, but it doesn’t seem like winning is the measurement of success right now for MSU basketball. Perhaps it will be once the work ethic and discipline have taken hold – one or two years down the road.

It would be hard to argue that after his four-year contract is up, Rick Ray would deserve an extension if he hasn’t brought us back to the big dance. This isn’t Ole Miss where trying hard in February and getting NIT bids are cause for celebration. We’ll give Ray a year or two to mold the team into his own…but after that it’s time to put some wins up.