Sitting around yesterday my phone started to beep, churp, ding and blow up as word that Mississippi State Athletic Director Scott Stricklin had chosen Clemson assistant coach Rick Ray as the man to lead the Bulldogs into the 2012-13 basketball campaign.
As I started doing my own research on Rick Ray as I had never heard of the man I also read many many comments from State fans on message boards, twitter and other places showing their disdain for the higher and their complete ignorance. I love Mississippi State like many of you love your beloved Universities but it’s times like this that many of my own make me sick to my stomach.
“Strictkin your fired you #$%@#%@#^&$” one fan says. ”I’m never coming back to another game as this is just B.S” – says another. I could fill up this column with comments that resemble those but you would just get stupider by the minute.
In the weeks leading up to the naming of Ray every Tom, Dick and Harry sporting a maroon visor and decal on their vehicle had a source. Everyone knew someone in the know. This always happens. Everyone during a coaching search has that “guy” that assures them this is the move. Frankly, to be honest not one of you knew a damn thing about what was going on and you also have no place to throw Mississippi State and Scott Stricklin under the bus.
Now I am not here to be all pie in the sky and wear my maroon glasses throughout this thing but some of you that are comparing this to a Sylvester Croom hire, I hope you never come back to Starkville. If you do not know the difference in Croom or any other coach I cannot help you.
See – everyone always wants to be right and be the man that said, I told you so. Everyone said it was Brice Drew and they had a source; everyone knew it was Kenny Payne because their drunken buddy at the bar said so. Even Mstate basketball alums David Rula and Erick Dampier met privately with Payne a week ago to gauge his interest which is intriguing. Two alums and ex basketball players meeting with a prospective coach without talking to the Athletic Department as far as anyone knows.
I am not saying that move right there made Stricklin sway away from Payne but it sure couldn’t help. Many State fans are now calling Stricklin the next Larry Templeton (Ex Mstate Athletic Director). See Stricklin is just the opposite of Templeton. Templeton was a YES man and would have probably went along with the Alums meeting with the prospective coach. Stricklin will not be a yes man much like Greg Byrne – Stricklin’s former boss would not be. It’s all pure speculation at this point but I would guess that move did not set well with Stricklin.
But – like most athletic directors Stricklin had a plan and he said he wanted a recruiter, someone with energy, passion and a will to win. He also wanted someone who could instill discipline in a battered down program.
I have no idea if Rick Ray will win at Mississippi State. You have no idea as all we can do is speculate at this juncture. I will tell you this – his job begins today and his next few weeks are crucial if he wants to even think about success in Humphrey Coliseum. He must first convince sophomore to be Rodney Hood to stay and not transfer. Hood has hinted to a possible transfer and this would be a huge blow as he was expected to lead this team for the next three years.
Ray must also convince a very good recruiting class that Rick Stansbury had in place to stay on board. With the departures of Arnett Moultrie, Dee Bost, Rinardo Sidney and a few more this team is depleted. There is a serious depth issue and if Ray cannot convince Hood and those recruits he is the right guy for the job – it may be over for Ray before he starts.
But – if he can convince these guys to come on down to Starkville then Ray has a fighting chance and that’s all one can ask for.
What many do not understand is it really did not matter who took this job. This team is in shambles. From discipline to chemistry to depth; odds are whomever took this job they were going to have a rough stretch come next year – even if your “source” told you otherwise.
My advice? Wait, watch and lets hope Rick Ray is the man. To throw him under the bus before he ever blows a whistle in a practice is just dumb and stupid and for those that do I hope you never come back to Starkville.
The Rick Ray Profile:
Rick Ray is in his second season as associate head coach for the men’s basketball program. Ray came to Tigertown in 2010 after a successful four-year stint as an assistant coach at Purdue University.
“Rick’s a tremendous hire for us here at Clemson,” Brownell said. “I’ve known Rick for years. He worked with my college head coach, Royce Waltman, at Indiana State several years ago. He’s an outstanding basketball coach. He’s a tremendous recruiter. He knows motion offense and man-to-man defense. We have very similar philosophies with how the game should be played. He’s well-respected in the business.
“He has ties to the Midwest, which will allow us to spread our recruiting base a little bit further. He’s got experience in one of the top conferences, having coached at Purdue. He’s going to help our team win.”
He certainly did that in 2010-11, as the Tigers finished the season with a 22-12 overall record, 9-7 in the ACC. Clemson advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the fourth straight season and was the No. 4 seed for the ACC Tournament. The Tigers won an ACC and NCAA Tournament game in the same season for the first time since 1989-90.
Clemson’s guard play was a major reason in the team’s success in 2010-11, and Ray worked extensively with the Tiger backcourt. Demontez Stitt earned third-team All-ACC honors, as well as first-team All-ACC Tournament recognition, after leading the team in scoring and assists. Andre Young led the ACC in assist-to-turnover ratio as well.
Ray played a key role in Clemson’s five-man signing class for 2011-12. He personally recruited both T.J. Sapp and Bernard Sullivan, Clemson’s fall signees. Sullivan was rated a four-star prospect by most national recruiting services.
Ray was an assistant coach from 2006-10 under Matt Painter at Purdue, where the Boilermakers won 103 games during his four years on staff. Included in the team’s 103 wins were 15 victories over top-25 competition. During his tenure, Purdue advanced in the NCAA Tournament each season – including to the Sweet 16 each of the past two seasons.
In 2009, the Boilermakers won the Big Ten Tournament and were a No. 5 seed in the NCAA Tournament. In 2010, Ray helped the Boilermakers to 29 wins, tied for the most in Purdue history for a single season. Purdue was a No. 4 seed this past March and lost in the round of 16 to eventual NCAA champion Duke.
Ray was a part of the 2006-07 Purdue staff that signed arguably the top class in school history, a group that was rated No. 5 nationally by Scout.com and No. 6 by Rivals.com.
During his time at Purdue, Ray coached five first-team All-Big Ten players, including Robbie Hummel and E’Twaun Moore this past season. He also coached multiple Big Ten All-Defensive Team selections, led by three-time honoree and 2010 Big Ten Defensive Player-of-the-Year Chris Kramer.
“First and foremost, I’ve got a great deal of respect for Coach Brownell,” Ray said. “I’ve never worked under him, but I’ve always been around him through different associations. He seems like a guy that’s always on the right path, in terms of trying to do things the right way. He’s a great coach and teacher. He will install discipline in a program. Coach Brownell has always won every place he’s been. That’s what I was most interested in when considering working under Coach Brownell.”
Ray coached with Clemson’s director of basketball operations, Dick Bender, at Indiana State for seven seasons from 1997-2004. He helped ISU to consecutive 20-win seasons and NCAA Tournament appearances in 1999-2000 and 2000-01. In 1999-2000, the Sycamores compiled a 14-4 record in the Missouri Valley Conference and won the regular season title. Indiana State then won the MVC Tournament the following season. The Sycamores went on to upset No. 4 seed Oklahoma by a score of 70-68 in the first round of the 2001 NCAA Tournament.
Ray was also part of the ISU staff that defeated perennial power Indiana in back-to-back seasons. The Sycamores defeated the Hoosiers in Bloomington by a score of 63-60 on Dec. 11, 1999, Bob Knight’s final season at Indiana. Then, the following season, ISU won 59-58 with a buzzer-beater at home over Mike Davis’ squad.
Following his time at Indiana State, he spent two seasons (2004-06) as an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at Northern Illinois. In 2005-06, the Huskies were regular season Western division champions in the Mid-American Conference with a 17-11 overall record, 12-6 in the MAC.
Ray’s first coaching job was as a graduate assistant with the University of Nebraska-Omaha, a Division II program. He helped orchestrate a seven-win turnaround in his second season, 1996-97. He was a standout player for Grand View College, where he was an All-American Scholar-Athlete and honorable mention all-conference performer in 1993.
Ray earned his undergraduate degree in applied mathematics and secondary education from Grand View in 1994. He earned his master’s degree in athletic administration from Nebraska-Omaha in 1997. He is married to the former Breyana Cardwell. The couple has a son, Deacon, born January 20, 2011. Ray also has a daughter, Katriece (18)