The Men’s Basketball Team will take on the Florida Gators tonight at 6:00 in Gainesville. We might stay in the game for a little while, but at some point the inevitable will happen and the Gators will blow the doors off of Rick Ray’s team. But the point of this post is not to predict how badly we will lose tonight or if we have any small chance that we will win. The point of this post is to express my frustration with the other inevitable, and very maddening, truth that will emerge in the game. When it starts to get bad, people will start to voice their frustration on Facebook and Twitter. And when they do, some people will start clamoring for Stansbury. Here’s a newsflash:
Rick Stansbury is not walking through those doors.
Feel free to point out twenty win seasons. Feel free to point out SEC West Titles. Feel free to point out a few SEC Tournament runs. Feel free to do whatever it takes to make you feel like you have defended the honor of Rick Stansbury, but none of it is going to bring him back as our head coach. It just won’t happen.
Mississippi State Bulldogs
Therein lies my frustration. I don’t get the point of constantly asking for Stansbury to come back and take over the program or saying that you missed 20 wins a year. Because do you know what all of those SEC West Titles and 20 win seasons got us?
All of the banners hanging in Humphrey Coliseum from the Stansbury era that have NCAA on them all have one thing in common. None of them have Sweet 16, Elite 8 or Final Four on them. In 14 seasons under Rick Stansbury, the basketball team never made it past the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament. In those 14 seasons, the basketball team won 4 NCAA Tournament games, or one every 3 1/2 seasons. Despite those numbers in the NCAA Tournament, people will stand up and defend Stansbury like he was Dean Smith or Adolph Rupp.
It pains me to write such harsh words about Stansbury because I was a Stansbury apologist up until his final season. I defended him for so many of the reasons that people today will defend him. SEC West Titles. NCAA Tournament Appearances. 20 win seasons. I was right there with you. But that all changed with that dreadful 2012 season.
With possibly his most talented team, Rick Stansbury proved that he didn’t have what it takes in 2012. And if you say Renardo Sidney was a big part of why that team fell a part, I agree. But it was Stansbury who put Sidney on the team. He was never going to take this team any further than he already had. We were never getting past the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament with Rick Stansbury leading the way. How do I know? I have 14 years of evidence that says it wasn’t happening.
Yes, the current state of the basketball team is bad. It’s not fun to watch, but I don’t know how asking for Stansbury to come back or saying I sure miss those 20 win seasons helps the situation. I’m assuming they want people like me to say that it was wrong to send him packing. But it wasn’t. To leave Stansbury as our coach meant we believed we could never be anything more than a slightly above average team. And that was when we were at our best under Rick Stansbury. The majority of the seasons the Bulldogs were completely average. Sure we could beat the LSUs and Ole Misses of the college basketball world, but we were never going to seriously challenge the North Carolinas, Dukes, or Kentuckys (at least not the Kentucky coached by Calipari). We had plateaued, and if we are really being honest with ourselves, we plateaued in 2004 when the best season in the school’s history ended with a, wait for it…, second round loss in the NCAA Tournament.
If you’ve stuck your fingers in your ear and said I’m not listening, look at what the Memphis Tigers are going through right now. They’re coached by a guy in Josh Pastner many fans love and want to succeed. He has a reputation for being able to bring in players, but not being a very good X’s and O’s coach. He has spent six seasons coaching the Tigers and has nothing but two second round (technically third round in today’s tournament setup) appearances to show for it. For every two steps forward (beating a great team or two) there is always at least one step back (losing to a team they have no business losing to). There is turmoil on the team, and the players have lost respect for their coach. Memphis fans are miserable with the state of their program, but they are afraid to cut ties with Pastner because they don’t know who they will get to replace him. In other words, they are exactly where we were in 2012 with Rick Stansbury. And you know what, if they make a bad hire like we did with Rick Ray, they’ll fire that guy just like we will once this dreadful season has come to a close.
The last thing I will leave you with is this: did winning an SEC West title or getting 21 wins in a season offset the frustration you felt at the end of the season that we still ended the year with a disappointing loss in the NCAA Tournament? Or maybe worse yet, that really great 20 win season people love to tout so much wasn’t even good enough for a bid in the NCAA Tournament, and instead we got stuck in the NIT? Maybe it is for you, but I want a little more than that from our basketball team.
Rick Stansbury doesn’t need anyone to defend him. He’s a big boy and he knew that winning in March, not January and February, was far more important if you wanted to keep your job. Rick Stansbury has moved on from Mississippi State and it is time all of our fans move on from Rick Stansbury.