Nov 8, 2014; Starkville, MS, USA; Mississippi State Bulldogs head coach Dan Mullen during pre game warmups before their game against the UT Martin Skyhawks at Davis Wade Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports
The other day while sitting in my fortress of maroon solitude, I realized something – Dan Mullen and Rick Stansbury have had similar careers through their first six years in Starkville. Don’t get me wrong, they have different approaches, styles, keys to success and many other differences. I’m talking strictly about on-the-field results.
Rick Stansbury was hired as the head men’s basketball coach 10 years prior to Mullen being hired as head football coach at Mississippi State. In their first year, both had moderate success as they sought to rebound from less than mediocre seasons prior to their arrival. Stans went 20-13 winning a couple of SEC Tournament games and making the NIT while Mullen was 5-7, staying competitive in nearly all the games and punctuating the season with an upset victory over #20 Ole Miss.
Undoubtedly, Mullen’s second season was much better than Stansbury’s. They both had decent third years, and above average seasons in year four. Stans has the edge in year five, but year six was the crème de la crème for both coaches.
Through the first five years of each coach’s tenure there were some really promising times and the hope for great things in the future. Dan Mullen made two New Year’s Day bowl games and Rick Stansbury made two NCAA Tournament appearances.
Year six is when it all came together for both programs.
Stansbury’s legendary 2004 team featured 1st team All-American Lawrence Roberts and a solid starting five that won the SEC and earned a 2 seed in the big dance.
Mullen’s 2014 team featured Heisman candidate Dak Prescott and a veteran team that reached #1 in the country for five straight weeks, won 10 regular season games for the first time ever and played in the Orange Bowl.
If football had a 64-team tournament (like we tested out), MSU would have been a 2 seed this past season. That’s the same seeding the ’04 basketball team had. Both legendary teams fizzled out towards the end of the year and lost unexpectedly in the postseason.
Looking past year six, Rick Stansbury became MSU’s all-time winningest basketball coach. Dan Mullen is well on his way to having that title for football, needing just 29 wins to surpass Jackie Sherrill.
Both coaches have been a thorn in the side of Ole Miss. Both have had big time success and will go down in the history books as one of the greatest at MSU. Dan Mullen’s ultimate outcome is still to be determined, but here’s to hoping it ends a little better, and a little smoother than Stans.