A quick survey of the interwebs lets me know that many Mississippi State fans, at least the vocal ones, want to see some sort of shake up with the men's basketball program. I'm here to tell them why they are wrong. I'm here as the voice of what I think is the silent majority. No, it is not time to replace Rick Stansbury. It may be time to change expectations or goals, but it is not time to change the coach.
Reason Number One: Rick Stansbury has overachieved at Mississippi State.
The common phrase everyone likes to use about Rick Stansbury and his basketball program are disappointing or underachieving. I have a question for readers to consider. Why do you say that Stansbury has been an underachiever? By pretty much any measurable statistic, Stansbury has overachieved.
Overachievement Number 1: Rick Stansbury has won without hauling in his best recruits.
If I had a dollar for every time I heard "Rick Stansbury is a great recruiter, but he is a terrible coach," I'd be typing this from my private villa on the Tuscan shore. Yes, he is a good recruiter, but he is also a pretty good coach. In fact, he may be too good of a recruiter.
Some of the best players to ever come out of Mississippi said they were going to come play for Rick Stansbury, but the NBA called, and players such as Jonathan Bender and Travis Outlaw never stepped foot on the court of the Humphrey Coliseum.
Had Bender made it on campus, he would have been added to a team that went 27-8, reaching the second round of the NCAA tournament, in what would have been his junior season. In what would have been his senior season, Bender would have played on another NCAA tournament team, one that went 21-10.
Do you not think Rick Stansbury would have gotten out of the first weekend with the talents of someone picked 5th in the NBA draft out of high school? Imagine him in the system with Robert Jackson and Mario Austin his sophomore year.
The prospects get juicy for his junior season. This squad won 27 games, and finished second in the SEC West. Just imagine what the lottery pick talents of Bender would have added. Additionally, he would have been a veteran leader and defensive presence on that front court.
I'll save Travis Outlaw for another time, but imagine a front court of Outlaw, Roberts, and Power on that 2004 squad--Legit chance at a national title.
Stansbury may be a great recruiter, but you can't out-recruit the lure of being a first round draft pick.
Reason Number Two: He manages to avoid losing seasons, something even the best programs suffer.
Rick Stansbury has had one losing season at Mississippi State, 1999-2000, his second year at the helm, a team that could have had Bender. Since that time, here is a list of a few power programs that have had losing seasons: North Carolina 2001-2002 (8-20), Indiana 2003-2004 (14-15), Louisville 2000-2001 (12-19). From that list, only Denny Crum at Louisville was not retained, and that was in large part due to the fact that the Cardinals could land Rick Pitinio. If you fire Rick Stansbury, Rick Pitino isn't walking through that door.
Complain all you want about "mediocrity," but this program has been anything but. Could there have been more achieved? I think the 2004 squad should have done more, but other than that, Rick Stansbury has overachieved in Starkville.
Till next time.