Jan 7, 2015; Starkville, MS, USA; Mississippi State Bulldogs head coach Rick Ray during the game against the Tennessee Volunteers at Humphrey Coliseum. Tennessee Volunteers defeated the Mississippi State Bulldogs 61-47. Mandatory Credit: Spruce Derden-USA TODAY Sports
The Rick Ray era of MSU basketball hasn’t been a smooth ride. Regardless of how the team has played the last week or two, the results speak for themselves. The program has been in disarray for three years. Some of it has been Ray’s fault, but most of it hasn’t been.
I don’t know if Rick Ray is head coach material or not. Ultimately that is yet to be determined even if he is fired from his current position. He’s a relatively young coach with plenty of areas for improvement. He could turn this whole thing around. I really don’t know. He knows the game, he has a plan – I just don’t know if he’ll be able to execute it in the short or long term in Starkville.
Many fans didn’t like Coach Ray from day one. The reason: he isn’t Rick Stansbury, or he isn’t _______ coach that ______ fan thought MSU could have hired. Despite the immediate “who did we hire?” reaction to Coach Ray in 2012, most fans were on board by the time year one was underway just because Mississippi State is bigger than one man, even if that man was the winningest coach in school history.
But while fans were on board, it didn’t necessarily mean they were willing to show up to the Hump. Especially when the team was falling apart with defections, injuries and all sorts of bad news. The losses piled up, and while no one blamed Coach Ray, they certainly weren’t willing to attend a game either.
Year two was more of the same. Injuries, lack of depth and losing. But it was expected. And most of the Hump was empty the entire season.
Now here we are in year three of the Rick Ray era. Most thought this would be the year when he finally puts a competitive team on the floor. Even he said as much in the offseason. So far things haven’t come to fruition.
But have State fans given Coach Ray a fair chance?
The Hump hasn’t been packed – and I mean packed – in three years. It hasn’t been packed and rowdy in even longer than that.
Coach Mullen told MSU fans that we had to build a program with the fans buying in first….before the winning started. That is exactly what happened. For Rick Ray, that hasn’t happened at all. Not in the least.
Home court advantage is more important in basketball than any other sport. It’s that way from high school to the pros. The crowd feeds the players energy. They help stop runs defensively, and help extend them offensively. It’s hard to win on the road because of the crowd. But when there is no crowd, and no noise, it doesn’t put opposing teams at much of a disadvantage when they come to the Hump.
What if State fans packed the Hump? Just to see what would happen if they gave the Rick Ray era a true chance. To fully get behind the man who is leading our basketball program, and see what he can do. One last shot.
When the Hump is packed and rocking, it can be the toughest place to play in the SEC. We haven’t seen or heard that kind of atmosphere in a while. Rick Ray has never seen it. Should we really send him packing without ever giving him our best effort as fans, for at least a few games?
I’m not sure what the next six weeks will bring. I’m not sure if Rick Ray will be the head coach next year. I’m not sure if he deserves to be whether we packed the Hump or not. But something doesn’t sit right when he could potentially coach three full years at our school and never see the Hump more than 60-70% full….and never have the full support of the fans.
Apathy is really no way to voice your opinion to Scott Stricklin that you want a coach fired. A better signal that it’s time would be continued losing despite a packed house. What’s more, if Mississippi State basketball really wants a good coach to come here, it would be a big feather in our cap for him to know Bulldog nation will be there to support the program through thick and thin, and willing to give you every opportunity to win because the fans will do their part.
Georgia is coming to the Hump today, at 2:00.