By MICHAEL WARDLAW
They say all good things must come to an end, and a remarkable 14-year run as a head coach came to an end for Mississippi State‚Äôs Rick Stansbury Thursday.
Stansbury has given his life to the Bulldog family for the past 22 years as an assistant coach as well as his decorated tenure as head coach, and he said couldn‚Äôt be more pleased with that fact.
‚ÄúI have been very blessed to be a part of this university for the last 22 years, 14 as the head coach,‚ÄĚ said an emotional Stansbury. ‚ÄúI‚Äôve just been blessed.‚ÄĚ
Under Stansbury, the Bulldogs have witnessed more success than any other period of time in Mississippi State basketball history. He‚Äôll depart as the most winning coach at MSU with a 293-166 record, 10 20-win seasons, two Southeastern Conference Tournament Championships, an overall SEC Championship, six NCAA appearances and five NIT selections. He ranks ninth on the all-time coaching record in the SEC.
While his team‚Äôs performance in recent years drew harsh criticism from some, those doubts drew praise from Stansbury. He acknowledged some things didn‚Äôt go the way he, the administration or fans wanted them to go. Stansbury said he was proud that fans were disappointed because it simply told him they expected championship, just as he did.
‚Äú(MSU Athletic Director) Scott (Stricklin) and I met yesterday, and we both agreed there are some things that we both didn‚Äôt like about the season,‚ÄĚ Stansbury said. ‚ÄúThat‚Äôs apparent to both of us. How many times have I said our goal every year is to compete for a championship? That‚Äôs what it‚Äôs about with us in every way.‚ÄĚ
At the end of the day, Stansbury said he felt it was time to spend time with his family, something he has hasn‚Äôt been afforded the luxury of doing over the last 14 years.
‚ÄúIt‚Äôs time for a new chapter in my life,‚ÄĚ Stansbury said with a smile. ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs time for me to be a better father. It‚Äôs time for me to be a better husband. I know as coaches ... we are judged by wins and losses. But for me, it‚Äôs the relationships.‚ÄĚ
Stansbury didn‚Äôt speak of personal accomplishments, records or success. He simply said he was ready to experience the things he and his family had missed out on over the past two decades.
‚ÄúFor the last three years ‚ÄĒ and all of y‚Äôall that have got these young kids, you can relate to this ‚ÄĒ every time I walk out door Luke would say, ‚ÄėDaddy, when do you get a day off?‚Äô I‚Äôve given him the same answer: ‚ÄėSoon.‚Äô He‚Äôll keep asking that question,‚ÄĚ Stansbury said as his emotions showed. ‚ÄúIn his last three years of playing soccer, you know how many games I‚Äôve seen? (holds up one finger) That‚Äôs tough.
‚ÄúIsaac, Noah play hoops, every time they go out that door: ‚ÄėDaddy, can you come watch us?‚Äô ‚Ä¶ I tell them the same thing. ‚ÄėI can‚Äôt tonight, boys,‚Äô‚ÄĚ Stansbury added. ‚ÄúI‚Äôm at a point now I‚Äôm ready to become a better father, a better husband.‚ÄĚ
During his 50-minute farewell press conference, Stansbury took the time to call attention to his MSU family of co-workers and support staff. One by one, he called their name and made known his understanding of how much they meant to the Mississippi State program.
‚ÄúA lot of coaches get judged on (wins and losses). That‚Äôs part of the profession; I‚Äôm good with that,‚ÄĚ Stansbury said. ‚ÄúBut my wife and myself ... we know our relationships and friendships are a whole lot deeper than (wins and losses). A lot of coaches can‚Äôt say that. We can.‚ÄĚ
The relationships Stansbury forged include the friendship with Stricklin. The two entered into a conversation on Wednesday morning that never reached the topic of his return.
‚Äú(Wednesday‚Äôs) meeting was talking a lot about where Rick‚Äôs heart and mind was,‚ÄĚ Stricklin said. ‚ÄúI‚Äôll be honest, I did a lot of listening and let Rick really talk through what was going on in his heart and his head. When you‚Äôre faced with a situation where you have options, it‚Äôs a good thing. And Rick was in a situation where he had options.‚ÄĚ
Stricklin continued by expressing his gratitude for the things the Stansbury family did for the university.
‚ÄúRick has given much to Mississippi State University over the past 22 years, including the last 14 as our head coach,‚ÄĚ Stricklin said. ‚ÄúThe achievements of men‚Äôs basketball under his direction are many. He and his wife Meo have been totally invested in our basketball program, and we thank them both for what they have brought to Mississippi State University.‚ÄĚ
While the details of his retirement package haven‚Äôt been made public, it was clear Stansbury will remain a part of Mississippi State University.
‚ÄúAs we transition him away from the role of head basketball coach, (we will) find a way that he can continue to serve the university,‚ÄĚ said Stricklin. ‚ÄúA lot of that is still to be determined, but as far as exactly what the role is going to be, there‚Äôs no one better at developing individual relationships than Rick is. Nobody. It‚Äôs one of his true gifts.
‚ÄúThat Mize Pavilion over there is a testament to his ability to develop relationships with individuals. I‚Äôm not real smart, but I‚Äôm smart enough to know that when someone‚Äôs got a unique trait like that, ... you better find ways to maximize that for our organization, our institution.‚ÄĚ