Earlier today, Justin Sutton wrote about how Rick Stansbury is an overachiever. I don't know about that one.
First off, what should the goals for the Mississippi State basketball program be? I would say it should be the same as any other SEC school outside Kentucky. Your view is probably different, but I say (1) to field a competitive team year in and year out and (2) build a team so that every 3-4 years you are contending for a SEC Championship (regular season) and position yourself for a lengthy run in the NCAA Tournament. If you're not accomplishing those goals then it's time to move on.
Stansbury was doing a fine job of the above paragraph from 1999-2005 (gave him three years to build it). And I will give him a reprieve for the 2006 season to rebuild after the top 6 guys left. But from there on out it has been transfers and underachieving teams.
2007 was disappointing, 2008 was a little too, and even 2009. But the biggest thorn in the eye was the 2010 team. Stans returned 9 of his top 11 players from the 2009 team which won the SEC Tournament. Here's the list of guys (in order) in case you forgot:
1. Jarvis Varnardo
2. Barry Stewart
3. Dee Bost
4. Ravern Johnson
5. Phil Turner
6. Romero Osby
7. Kodi Augustus
8. Elgin Bailey
9. Twany Beckham
10. Brian Johnson
11. Riley Benock
All of those guys got playing time in 2009, it was probably Stansbury's deepest team. And only Beckham and Brian Johnson weren't around in 2010. Yet somehow the team was beyond erratic and went 8-8 in the SEC. They almost pulled a rabbit out of their hat to win the SEC Tournament but it didn't happen, so no NCAA Tourney.
Does Stansbury have the ability to recruit great talent? Yes. And he has been rewarded with 14 years as the coach of a SEC school where he has made millions of dollars. If you don't recruit good players it's hard to win and you don't get 14 years. Bob Boyd got 5 years at State, Jim Hatfield got 3, Kermit Davis 7, Joe Dan Gold 5. If you don't recruit, you don't win, and you don't stay around long. Stansbury has been at MSU for 14 years. He has done well, he has been a success at times.
But does his success mean we have to watch the 2012 version of the Bulldogs be like the 2010 version and underachieve? If this wasn't the year for State to be good, then what year is it? It's not going to be next year with Bost, Moultrie and probably Sidney leaving.
Stansbury gets paid what, $1.2 million? If he's good enough that we should keep him, then why isn't he making more? With that kind of low salary, why aren't other programs coming after him and forcing State to give him a raise? So, we should hold onto a coach that no one else wants? Sure, everyone knows he's a good coach, but has he hit his ceiling, he's not a really good or great coach? Does Stans define success solely in SEC West (no more) Championships and are we okay with that?
Stans seems like a good guy, and him and his family seem beyond loyal to MSU. But I am a Mississippi State fan, not a Rick Stansbury fan. I want to know we are headed toward a goal of being the best. There is probably someone out there who can recruit well and coach 'em up well. Maybe just bring in a different kind of player, I don't know...something, change for the sake of change.
All that said, I'll be rooting as hard as possible for the Bulldogs tonight. I hope Stans makes me look like a fool.