"Honesty, man, I saw myself as not being able to do a lot of things. But I also saw some things, not being negative about myself because I will never be negative about myself, where I wasn't as skilled when I was putting the ball on the floor. As I got deeper into my career, I could do that. When I set my mind to score, I could score. In the Texas game, the coach said, 'Mike, we need for you to score and quit being so passive,'. I came down the floor and hit two or three threes in a row. I knew I could but I just didn't like to force a bad shot just to get a shot off. I knew I could score, but I was playing the other role."
What I'm really getting to is all four years you played at State, coach Stansbury always had faith in you and your ability. How important was it to have someone like that as your coach and how will you think of him the rest of your life?
"Man, this is the honest truth, coach Stansbury and some of the assistant coaches that have coached me - coach Carter and coach Kirby and coach Cunningham - when it comes to being a friend, somebody you can talk to, those were the best group of coaches that I have ever been around.
"Coach Stans, like you said, has always believed in me. When I wasn't hitting my shots (in games), in practice I would come in and hit 15 to 20 shots in a row. In one individual workout, I hit 44 three-pointers out of 50. He told them at the (basketball) banquet that I had done that but that I wasn't doing it in a game. It was because at one point I was missing so much that it got to me. I was scared to shoot even when the crowd was telling me to shoot when I was open. I was looking to pass instead of shoot. That took away from my offense. But he kept believing in me and kept telling me to shoot. I remember one game in Florida, when I was a sophomore, he told me that if I didn't shoot the ball 10 times, he was going to put me on the bench. That game, I shot it 10 times exactly. I came into the second half having to shoot 7 shots. It seemed like I was loading it up (laugh). I'm just happy that Coach Stans had that confidence in me. He still has confidence in me that I will do something in football. I will always remember the relationship that we have."
He always had confidence in you even when you were taking heat from others, but in a way he also took some heat during his first few years as a head coach. I guess you are not only proud of him but proud for him.
"I've very proud. I heard a lot of people say that he wasn't going to do this or do that. That shows you that coming into this league as a coach is just like coming into this league as a freshman. When you come in as a freshman you have to learn thing. He came in as a head coach and had never been a head coach before. You could see that he got better each year. I think he will be one of the greatest coaches in this league before it is over with."
What difference have you see in him from the time he was an assistant coach when he could be your buddy to becoming a head coach and in charge of the entire program?
"At first, he wasn't really hard on us and would let some things slide, but at times you have to be hard on your players or they will run over you. Each year he would get harder. Lincoln (Smith) told me this year, 'Coach Stans has gotten hard on us. He isn't taking anything.' It is the expectations of this year that is doing that. He knows that if you fall, there will be that talk again."
Gene Swindoll is the publisher and owner of Gene's Page, the unofficial site for Mississippi State sports since October, 1996. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org