In 24 hours time, Mississippi State's men's basketball program went from having no direction and no coach to having plenty of both.
"We may not have to most talent ... on the court, but I tell you what, we are going to fight you"- Rick Ray (quote via Marcello)
That, in itself, is more than enough direction for this program going forward than I needed, but there was much, much more taken out of yesterday's press conference with new head coach Rick Ray. Here are the notes, thoughts, and quotes from new head man Rick Ray's first day on the job.
I tweeted this out last night, but this quote from Ray really stood out to me. I think it stood out because it is a perfectly timed quote. With the state the program was in in all reality before (new) Rick is coming in, a fresh start was needed. And to say that we should "throw away our doubts and fears and just dive in feet first" is EXACTLY what this entire fan base needs to do. Forget the coaching search and whether or not it was a success or failure, forget Sidney, forget everything and just start over and give Ray your full support, because he will give you his full effort. Basically, this is the "ALL IN" quote, MSU version.
Everyone I talk to seems to reiterate the fact that no one will outwork Rick Ray. I spoke with my uncle last night, who had a friend who is good friends with Coach Ray. He said that as long as he's known him, Rick has always had a tireless work ethic, and a drive that you need (and want) to see in a college basketball coach these days. It is not a trait that all coaches possess, and honestly some make it by without it. But for a program needing a change in direction and a fresh start, getting a guy who works hard and "never stops going" is great to see.
Coach Ray started the day off right by ringing a cowbell. I'm sure he was "encouraged" by Stricklin to do so, but it's good to know that he practiced, at least.
During the press conference, Coach Ray singled out Rodney Hood by name, saying that he wanted him to become a player that "commands double teams." I think, in a subtle way, this was very important because a) you show a young guy like Rodney that you're already planning the future around him and b) you start defining him in a leadership role early on, which is a good fit as most of us expect Rodney to be a leader in this program for however long he chooses to stay at MSU.
Coach Ray said yesterday that he will retain at least one assistant coach from Stansbury's staff. At first I had grief with this, due to wanting to make a complete separation from the old "MSU basketball," but now that I think about it, it makes sense. Keeping an assistant around helps gel the team around the new coach faster by retaining a familiar face. Some think it will be coach Marcus Grant, some think Brooks, some think Cunningham. No matter who Rick Ray decides to keep, I think it will go a long way in winning over not only his current players on scholarship but also those recruits and signees who wait in the wings.
Coach Ray talks about wanting to run a motion offense. Although that may have a stigma with some State fans due to Stansbury "running" that same style, I feel that this motion won't be your Stansbury type motion. This one may actually have some motion to it. But kidding aside, I think you'll see Coach Ray use variations of the motion offense next year and in years to come obviously depending on the talent he has to work with on the floor. Here's a brief glimpse at what Matt Painter's offense at Purdue, a man that Ray coached under.
A lot of people will talk about how this was just a press conference, that Ray has yet to prove anything. Those people aren't necessarily wrong, but I did think it was important for Ray to come out and display a confidence and energy to the bulldog nation today. Sure winning the press conference is only a very small part of the overall war, but so far, put coach Ray down for one victory.
In conclusion, I think Rick Ray will be a great fit at State. He isn't who was most wanted, but in the end none of the candidates, wanted or unknown, were guaranteed to come in and be successful. Justin Sutton said it best yesterday that so many people are talking about what Rick Ray won't do or can't do, but why not just talk about what he can do? The sky is the limit, he's sitting at 0-0 right now. Sure we can revisit this issue a year from now and the outcome may not be so rosy, but hindsight is always 20/20, and what is important right now is to support our coach fully going forward as he is our coach, whether you necessarily wanted him to be or not.
- First things first ==> Contract details: Stricklin told the media gentlemen yesterday that Coach Ray will start with a contract of 4 years, $1 Million a year, plus incentives.
- If you missed the press conference, really thought Justin Sutton did an outstanding job covering it and giving updates as the conference progressed. If you missed it, here's his post with timeline updates (Rick Ray Press Conference Open Thread)