1-on-1 With Scott Stricklin About Ray Firing

Mississippi State athletic director Scott Stricklin talked one-on-one with Gene's Page's Gene Swindoll about letting Mississippi State head men's basketball coach Rick Ray go.

Rick Ray just completed his third year at Mississippi State. What caused you to believe a change was needed after just three years?
"That is a lot of basketball games, about a 1,000 days to look at where things were going. Trust me, nobody wanted to see Rick Ray be successful more than I did. I have so much respect for him, the kind of person he is and how hard he worked at it. Nobody could ever question his work ethic or his commitment.

"I spent a lot of time trying to convince myself that long-term this was going to be what we wanted. After the season I contemplated on it and looked at it objectively and made my decision."

What made you believe that other than the record of his teams?
"It was just a feeling in my gut. You have to make decisions based on the people that you have in place. You have to make a decision based on what you feel is best for Mississippi State. You want to be as fair as possible but the most important thing is to make the decision that is best for Mississippi State."

He had two years left on his contract. How will you handle that financially?
"A portion of his contract is guaranteed whether he is working here or not. And we will honor that."

When did you tell him he would be let go?
"I met with him this morning."

How did it go?
"Rick handled it with the kind of class and dignity that we have come to expect from him. And the fact that he is that kind of guy made it even harder to do."

You have been through this hiring process before. And it appears in your opinion the coach you hired couldn't be successful. Why do you believe it will be different the next time? What have you learned this time that will help you the next time?
"One thing is I think our program is in better shape due to Rick. Our roster is certainly more complete than when Rick Ray got here. Academically and some of the other things that you look at are in much better shape than they were three years ago. And I think our university has made strides. I think we have seven programs that are competing this semester who are all ranked nationally. Our baseball team played for a national championship two years ago and our football program spent five weeks at number 1 in the country this past fall. I think that people now understand that Mississippi State is a place that you can go and succeed and compete at a high level. And our basketball program has done that in the past. I think it is a more attractive situation than it was a few years ago."

Did you base this decision solely on what was happening at Mississippi State or was part of it due to what else was going on in the rest of the college basketball world where maybe some great candidates had become available?
"This is a decision based on Mississippi State. Now, I will have to look around the college basketball world and see what is out there and what is available. This is what I think we need to do going forward based on where we are."

Will you be looking for another assistant coach who you believe can be successful or maybe a mid-major head coach who has been successful?
"I don't worry about labels. What I want is someone who is smart, who works hard, who is competitive and someone who is going to be able to lead our players and our fans and will make our program a consistent success."

Now that you have three more years under your belt as an athletic director and know more about the college basketball world, do you have some names of coaches that you are interested in?
"Yes, I think any athletic director would have an idea with any sport what the market place looks like and who would interest them."

Who are some of those names?
"Obviously, I am not going to share that. This process requires a lot of discretion. It would not be a very good process if we don't keep things discrete until we are ready to name a new coach."

Have coaches reached out to you about the position?
"I am not going to share that, Gene, but I appreciate you asking."

When will the hiring process start?
"It has already started."

When you say it started, what do you mean has happened?
"I am not going to share the steps in the process."

What have you done?
"I am working on hiring a new coach."

Do you have a timeframe on when you want to hire a new coach?
"We are going to take the time we need to find the best person for Mississippi State."

Do you have any kind of timeframe, maybe 1 month, 2 months?
"I want to go as quickly as I can but I also want to make sure we get the right person, however long that takes."

Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the GenesPage.com website, the source for Mississippi State sports on the Scout.com sports network. You can contact him by emailing swindoll@genespage.com.

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