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SMITH COLUMN: Stricklin has become one busy Bulldog

March 18, 2012


It wasn't much of a spring break for Mississippi State athletic director Scott Stricklin.

In fact, Stricklin has become one very busy Bulldog over the past few weeks.

He was given the task of trying to replace coaches that were the winningest in the history of the men's and women's basketball at MSU.

That's a huge responsibility, but so far the young athletic director seems to have handled things well.

After the retirement of Sharon Fanning-Otis who served as head women's basketball coach with the Lady Bulldogs for 17 years, it only took a couple of weeks for Stricklin to find the next leader in Vic Schaefer, the associate head coach to Gary Blair at Texas A&M.

The hire of Schaefer appears to be a good fit for MSU. He has a nice list of credentials and continues to add to it even before arriving in Starkville because the Aggies are still playing in the Women's NCAA Tournament. They defeated Albany 69-47 in the first round Saturday.

Stricklin is confident he has the right person on board to lead the Lady Bulldogs into the future.

Schaefer was on staff when Texas A&M won the national title in 2011 and he was at Arkansas with Blair from 1997-2003.

"Vic has got all of the qualities we look for and on top of that, he's had the unique experience of being in our league and obviously a part of a national championship program at A&M," Stricklin said. "I think the time is right and we were fortunate that he was out there and available."

Only two days after introducing Schaefer as the seventh coach in women's basketball, Stricklin watched and mostly listened on Thursday as Rick Stansbury announced his retirement as men's basketball coach after 14 years.

Stricklin understands the impact Stansbury made at Mississippi State and was going to make sure that his efforts were honored.

"We owe Rick and Meo a great deal of thanks," Stricklin said.

It won't be easy for Stricklin to bring in a replacement for Stansbury and this will be a critical hire for him, but he doesn't appear to be intimidated by the process.

While looking for signs Thursday that the recent series of events might be taking a toll on Stricklin mentally, it didn't show. There may be a little bit of fatigue involved, but Stricklin wasn't overwhelmed by the situation.

He's putting the experience he's gotten over the years to use now.
Stricklin assisted former MSU athletic director Greg Byrne in the search to get football coach Dan Mullen.

When he was working within the athletic department at Kentucky, Stricklin saw a similar situation facing the Bulldogs now. After Billy Gillispie was hired as the men's basketball coach of the Wildcats, Mickie DeMoss resigned as the women's hoops coach shortly thereafter. Matthew Mitchell replaced DeMoss in Lexington, Ky.

Last year, Stricklin brought in Vann Stuedeman to lead the Bulldog softball program and she has MSU off to a 17-11 start this season.

It will be interesting to see who emerges to take the position of men's basketball coach.

Stricklin knows what he wants and has the best interest of the Bulldogs at heart.
Danny P. Smith is sports editor and columnist for the Starkville Daily News. The opinions in this column are his and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Daily News or its staff.

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