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A new day with Ray: MSU supporters like message from coach

April 2, 2012

MSU head men's basketball coach Rick Ray rings a cowbell upon being introduced at Humphrey Coliseum Monday morning. (Photo by Michael Wardlaw, SDN)

The Mississippi State men's basketball program entered a new era in its history with the hiring of Rick Ray as coach.

Ray was introduced during a press conference on Monday morning inside the building where he hopes success will come for the Bulldogs – Humphrey Coliseum.

After being presented a Mississippi State cap by athletic director Scott Stricklin and ringing a cowbell, Ray talked about the things it takes to be successful and emphasized putting a team on the court that will make fans proud.

Individuals connected with Bulldog basketball liked what they heard initially from Ray.

"I'm looking forward to getting to know him and will do everything we can to support him," former MSU player Bailey Howell said. "We don't have any unrealistic expectations right away. We know it will be long process, but hope everything will be done and handled in the right way."

Starkville High School boys basketball player Greg Carter, a former assistant coach and player for the Bulldogs, believes Ray used all of the right words.

"He's a guy who seems to know what he wants and it was a good first impression," Carter said.

Ray becomes MSU's 19th head men's basketball coach and takes over for Rick Stansbury, who announced his retirement on March 15.

The search conducted by Stricklin and President Dr. Mark Keenum took a little over two weeks to complete.

Keenum believes the right man has been found to take Mississippi State basketball to the next level.

"Mississippi State University has a top-flight men's basketball coach that's going to build on the tremendous successes we've seen in recent years under coach (Rick) Stansbury and move us to an even higher level of success," Keenum said. "I was very impressed with him from the moment I met him. He has the 'it' factor because he has a commanding presence, a keen knowledge of basketball and will bring a great wealth of personal skills of being able to relate to young players and parents and being able to relation and communicate effectively with our fans. I think he's ready to step up and take the responsibility of something like this."

It may take some time for Bulldog supporters to get to know Ray, but the people who know him best are confident about the situation.

"It's been a whirlwind the last 24 hours, but we are excited about Mississippi State basketball, excited to be here and everyone has been so nice," said Ray's wife Breyana. "We already feel like family."

Howell says Mississippi State has a proud past in basketball, but is ready to see what the future holds.

"We're glad to be getting busy for next year," Howell said. "We've had great tradition here and outstanding players and coaches. Hopefully all of this will continue."

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