Yesterday afternoon I was driving home down I-55 after an enjoyable weekend. Although I can't blog and drive (Dexter McCluster wouldn't be happy), I started making myself some notes on preparing for what was sure to be a busy week. After all, State was close to hiring either Kenny Payne or one of the other billion aforementioned names, and I wanted to be sure that the blog was able to immediately give you guys the info that you needed on the hire.
Then I open up my twitter while driving (don't tell Dexter) and see this:
Mississippi State has hired Clemson assistant Rick Ray, sources told CBSSports.com.— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanCBS) April 1, 2012
My initial reaction was probably much like all of yours was: WHO? WHAT? I'VE NEVER HEARD OF THIS NAME!!!
Like many did, I too made the initial "This is an April Fools Joke" tweets and so forth, but as my long drive to Louisiana continued and I further considered the hire we had just made, I thought to myself: why am I so surprised?
Scott Stricklin, in his short time as Athletics Director at Mississippi State, has proven that he likes to do things "outside-the-box." From #HailState in the endzone to Sugarland at the Spring Game, why wouldn't Stricklin apply the same thought process to his first major coaching hire in his tenure? Yes I understand that a coaching hire is a much bigger decision than some paint in an endzone, but my point is that Scott knew his situation dictated that he, as he had previously, think outside of the box.
The reality of this coaching search will, in many parts, remain a mystery to all of us as fans. Who and how many turned down the job, how many were offered, what all took place will stay a mystery to the majority of us forever more. But when the dust settled last night and we had finally named our 19th head basketball coach, Scott Stricklin's style had shown through in the hire. Some will say that his "style" in the hire was dictated by the fact that other candidates had come and gone. Whether that's true or not is part of the past, and it's time to move forward from that. It will remain that Scott hired an off the radar, outside the box type candidate in Rick Ray, and some national pundits don't think that's a bad thing:
Mississippi State fans may not know Rick Ray, but I do -- and that's exactly the kind of outside-the-box hire I like from Scott Stricklin.— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanCBS) April 1, 2012
And I don't either. I mean, how do we know Rick Ray won't be the next Thad Matta, Coach K, Calipari? We don't. I admit I was, like many of you, disappointed with the lack of "brand name" to this hire, but brand name doesn't always mean 100% success. And sure we may look back in several years and say this was an awful hire, but right now it's time to give Rick Ray his due chance.
Scott Stricklin went out and filled our coaching vacancy with a candidate we had never heard of, and after sleeping on it, I love the decision more and more. No name, no baggage, no previous laurels to rest on, just a fresh start. Kind of like Scott when he was hired, no?