Stansbury’s Departure Long Overdue

By now, the whole Bulldog nation knows about Rick Stansbury’s retirement or forced retirement – depending on the individual’s level of skepticism. At the 1 p.m. press conference, yesterday, Stansbury cited his desire to spend more time with his family as the primary reason for his retirement.

However, if the press conference video was played on ESPN’s Sportsnation, during the B.S. Meter segment, the meter would have been on 100. I have no problem with a coach caring about his family, but any rat with one eye can tell that’s not the reason Stansbury called it quits.

I would cite, in response, the widespread criticism of Stansbury after his once top-15 team imploded down the stretch. The Bulldogs failed to reach the NCAA tournament, for the 3rd straight year, and got bounced in the first round of the N.I.T. I think everyone knew something was coming, after reserve power forward Wendell Lewis tweeted: ” Laying here trying see if I want to practice today” The apathy by one of Stansbury’s players once again struck a chord with detractors of the 14-year head coach, who always criticized “the recruiter” (as some affectionately) for his inability to control a team. So, Stansbury made the decision to hang up the whistle – giving the fan base what they’ve wanted for years.

And I commend him for it; but, Stansbury’s departure was long overdue.

I wrote a column a few weeks back, asking the question: “Is just enough, good enough anymore?” Obviously, Rick Stansbury, himself, didn’t think his best was good enough anymore – and it hasn’t been for years.

I don’t think anyone can deny that Stansbury got off to strong start in his Bulldog coaching career. He led the Bulldogs to four straight tournaments, from 2001-2005, but the program has been marred by inconsistent play, chemistry problems, and off-the-court drama ever since those days.

Stansbury has always held on to his job by blaming the problems of the program on supposed cancers: Jamont Gordon, The Delk Twins, Phil Turner, Renardo Sidney, Kodi Augustus, and Ravern Johnson. I’ve long had problems with Stansbury, for this exact reason. A coach is always supposed to stay loyal to his players, and Stansbury never did. I think this was his “Red Herring”; as if he were saying “we lost not because of my inability to call good offensive sets or manage personalities, but because these bad apples ruined my teams.” In some cases, there may have been some validity to the claims, but the constant excuse just seemed like the sheep crying “wolf”.

Stansbury was always able to somehow hold it together, mainly because of the presence of former lead assistant, Robert Kirby, who kept things from falling completely apart. Some have even gone so far as to refer to Kirby as the real coach of the Bulldogs, with Stansbury being more of a figure-head.

It’s not hard to fathom, as Kirby personally recruited most of the talent on the roster – with little or no help from Stansbury. Kirby was truly, for the past 12 years, the now-former Bulldog head coach’s right-hand man.

Kirby eventually left the program after the 2009-2010 season, and it was only a matter of time before everyone realized Kirby’s true value. It didn’t take long; two players got caught on ESPN’s camera, fighting in the stands. Ravern Johnson, the team’s starting small forward, was critical of teammate Dee Bost on Twitter.Sidneyretweeted the criticism. The season turned out to be a nightmare, with several suspensions handed down during the year.

Many thought Stansbury should have been relieved after the 2010-2011 season, but he was given one more shot – this time sporting an impressive recruiting class, headlined by 5-star player Rodney Hood. Stansbury’s teams had always operated within the margins, talent-wise, but this team was talented enough to compete with anyone.

But, what is a Rick Stansbury team, without drama? Enigmatic center Renardo Sidney didn’t attend a five-game overseas exhibition trip; then Parade All-American D.J. Gardner was dismissed, after some profane tweets from the highly- touted true freshman. I think everyone was thinking, “Here we go again!”, but, surprisingly, the Bulldogs came out the gate charging – going 13-2 in their non-conference schedule. The Bulldogs earned a top-15 national ranking, in that time period.

Then, SEC-portion of the schedule began, and the problems started. The SEC slate culminated with the team nose-diving – losing five of its last seven games of the season. The Bulldogs proceeded to lose the first game of the SEC tournament to Georgia – subsequently playing themselves out of a NCAA tournament berth. And the Bulldogs (to add insult to injury) lost in the first round of the N.I.T. to UMass.

All of this was, finally, too much, and Stansbury retired. I give the administration kudos for allowing him to hang it up gracefully – considering they would have been justified in firing him, years ago.

After the fan base is done celebrating in the streets, the subject at hand must be addressed.

Who will lead the Bulldog program into the future?

Will it be someone like former Stansbury lead assistant Robert Kirby or a young up-and-comer, like Shaka Smart, or some off-the-grid coach, like Bob Marlin?

Jeremiah Short covers Mississippi State University football and basketball.  Follow him on Twitter, @JeremiahShort26; join his Facebook blog, Real Story Sports: J.Short’s Blog, or e-mail him, JShort@realstorypublishing.com.

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3 Comments on “Stansbury’s Departure Long Overdue”

  1. zwan Says:

    I agree with a few of your points on here, but following the MSU program over the years I think the bottom line was that Stansbury was partially the victim of his own success early, made some costly missteps when you look at the experience of his bench coaches outside of Kirby, and missed 3 recruits during the early 2000′s that were the only program difference makers MSU ever had in TRAVIS OUTLAW, JONATHAN BENDER, and MONTAE ELLIS. Outside of that, we have always been a little bit better or little bit worse than our talent. It may have been time for Rick to go and we will find a better coach, but I tend to believe that we will never be a top notch program until our fan base is not so quick to cast judgement and get caught up in the hype. Remember the Hood injury, the Smith injury, the Smith injury also played a major role in our nose dive. So please by fair and balanced in your overview.

    Reply

  2. matt alexander Says:

    as soon as i heard that he resigned. i thought of you, because you have long criticized stansbury

    Reply

  3. Raider Says:

    It was definitely way past time for Stansbury to go. He should have been gone about 3 years ago. He lost control and the respect of his players a long time ago. I never thought he was a good coach. His teams always found a way to come up short. I believe it was more a lack of leadership on his part rather than a lack of player talent.

    It’s time for a new chapter now. I hope the new coach will set high standards and goals. The expectations for the program has to be raised. MSU should be playing to make the Final 4 every year rather than just trying to make a post season tourney.

    Reply

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