There was a time in December and January when there was a lot of optimism for the Men’s basketball team. We all knew that accomplishing much would be an uphill battle, but there were little signs of hope scattered all throughout the season to make people believe that better things were awaiting our basketball team in year three and year four of the Rick Ray era. Those days seem like an eternity ago.
After the home win over Texas A&M in January, we all knew that it was going to be tough to win the five games that came next. What we didn’t see coming was getting run off our home court by a very average Georgia team, and never really being too competitive on the road against a really bad Auburn team. A fan base that was at one time very optimistic about our season’s prospects has led many to question whether Rick Ray is truly the guy to restore the program to the heights it reached under Richard Williams and Rick Stansbury, or is he going to be the football version of Sylvester Croom.
Despite how bad it has gotten, (and I’m afraid it will only get worse, we may not win another game) Rick Ray deserves at least one more year. If we fire him at the end of this season, we will be starting right back at square one when Rick Ray took over. One more year may prove futile in the long run, but he should at least have an opportunity to get an entire team of scholarship players on the floor before we show him the door. But just because he gets a chance to right this ship next season, it doesn’t mean he gets a free pass on some of the obvious flaws that are on this team.
One of the reasons people were so optimistic one or two months ago is that the players seemed to be buying into Rick Ray’s philosophy on defense. That alone was keeping us in ball games and giving us a chance to compete. That has disappeared. Both Georgia and Auburn shot over 50% from the field, and Georgia shot an astonishing 74% from the field in the second half. And that was done at the Hump. We don’t have enough offensive talent to allow people to get baskets at will. The defensive intensity that was once so persistent is going to have to reemerge sooner than later.
Another concern is just the lack of effort. I hope that this has more to do with the team being tired. They are playing with basically seven players for the most part, and that can definitely take its toll. The bigger concern is that the players have given up, and if that’s the case, that falls on the shoulders of Rick Ray. I’m not saying that he didn’t have a mountain of obstacles to overcome when he took the reigns of the program, but he has to keep the players focused. If they aren’t staying motivated to compete, he has to fix that immediately.
If he can address these issues, I think we would be better off as a program in allowing Rick Ray at least one more year. We were patient enough with John Cohen when he inherited a flaming pile of rubble much like Rick Ray did. I think we are all pleased with how that turned out. I don’t know that we will get the same results with Rick Ray in his third year that we got with John Cohen in his third year, but we certainly won’t know if we don’t give him the chance.