An Exclusive Interview With Rick Stansbury

Gene's Page sat down with Mississippi State head basketball coach Rick Stansbury for an exclusive one-on-one interview. In part-1, Coach Stansbury talks about the schedule, Robert Kirby leaving, who will replace him on the staff, the new indoor practice facility, where his program currently is, getting to the Sweet 16 and Final Four, and why kids seem to be transferring from colleges more often.

Is this year's schedule finalized?
"No, we are four or five games away from it being finalized."

Who are some teams you have scheduled?
"We are still trying to fill in the guaranteed part of it but we know that we are going to the Bahamas and play Virginia Tech on December 18th. We also know that we go to Hawaii and play three games. Butler and Florida State are playing there as well as some other good teams. We are still trying to lock down a USC game in California this year and then have them return here the following year."

Who are some other teams that you are talking to?
"I'm not going to get into speculation about that."

What type teams are you trying to get for those last four or five games?
"We have to be smart with our scheduling. The first nine games we don't have Sidney."

Are you trying to get home games due to that?
"We are trying to get as many home games, guaranteed games the first part of the schedule. Naturally, we will have to go on the road some, but we are going to try and limit that the best that we can. We are going to try and play as many road games after Sidney becomes eligible."

Normally, you play your exhibition games prior to the regular season games. Due to Sidney not being eligible early in the season, are you going to schedule an exhibition game during the season?
"Yes, we will probably only play one exhibition game early in the year, then we will probably play an exhibition game in Jackson before we go to the Bahamas. That will count against us but that will allow him to get a game under his belt before we go to the Bahamas. As long as our scheduling works out the right way, he'll be able to play in the Bahamas."

With the Bahamas and Hawaii games will you have somewhere around 30 games this season?
"Yes, I think it's 30. It counts 3 for 1 in Hawaii."

Who does the scheduling for basketball?
"We do the scheduling here in the basketball office. Phil Cunningham does the scheduling."

You just lost one of your primary recruiters in Robert Kirby. Will that affect your recruiting in Mississippi?
"First off, we will miss Robert Kirby as a dear friend. We have worked together for 16 years. Anytime you work together for 16 years as close we have every day, you are going to miss him. But he felt like it was time for a change and I gave him my blessing, too.

"In our recruiting, we cross over. Phil Cunningham is involved with all the kids. And we are all involved with all the kids. Marcus Grant will have to step up and do some more things, which he is capable of doing. We'll mend the fences and find ways to keep going."

As far as a new assistant coach, will everybody on the staff simply move up?
"It won't be moving Phil up because it was 1A and 1B with Phil and Robert. Marcus Grant will take on a new role in recruiting."

So, you are moving Marcus up?
"He'll move up. That's absolutely right. He recruited in the position he was already in but he'll now take even a greater role in recruiting. Whoever I hire will also be in the situation where he will have to recruit. But I haven't made a decision as to who I will hire and when I will hire him."

What are you looking for in an assistant coach?
"I am looking for someone who is a good person. That is where it starts with us. We have great people on our staff. I also want someone who understands Mississippi State. It would be great if he has been around our program and understands Mississippi. If you can find someone who has all those pieces, then you have the best of all worlds."

Is it possible that you might hire someone who has been in the program before?
"That's a possibility. Like I said earlier, it would be good to get someone who understands us and our program because there would be very little adjustment."

What ramifications will the indoor practice facility have on the program?
"It is very obvious from looking at it it is going to be for everybody, even our fans. That is very special. One of the things we looked at was where could it be put it so that everybody could utilize it. If we had built it off from here, then the fans couldn't utilize it. But we are putting it where everybody can reach out and touch it. It's kind of a new front door for the Hump. Our fans will walk through the lobby of it as they come into the Hump.

"It's going to be something that is really nice and something that we didn't just want but needed desperately."

Is your program currently where you want it to be?
"I don't think you ever get comfortable with where you are. My gut burns every day to get better and better. I never get satisfied no matter how many championships that we have won. Our goal every year is to compete for championships. We understand the things you have to battle through here at Mississippi State. But one thing we also understand is to not allow those things to become reasons why we can't be successful. We just have to continue to find ways to utilize what we do have."

What do you think it will take to get back to going to the Sweet 16 and the Final Four like Mississippi State teams did when you were an assistant coach?
"Two years ago all we had to do was make one more shot against Memphis and we were there, but we lost to Memphis. Last year, when you look back on it, it was very obvious that we had things in place. If Sidney had been cleared to play, what could we have been? And we were still battling. That is what I am most proud of about last year's team. They overcame three injuries and played without Sidney and still found a way to win a championship, still found a way to go to the SEC Tournament Championship game. They overcame a lot."

Would you say it will take having an NBA caliber player or two to reach the Sweet 16 and and Final Four? You had that with the 1996 team, the MSU team that went to the Final Four.
"I think that is something that is constant with it."

You may have that with Renardo Sidney.
"He is my first McDonald's All-American. We had one who played for us. But we lost our three best players, Monta Ellis, Travis Outlaw and Jonathan Bender."

You've been unlucky when you reflect back on it.
"I don't consider us unlucky. When you look at what we have been able to accomplish, I don't consider us unlucky at all."

But don't you think if you had been able to keep those three guys, you could have accomplished even more?
"Yeah, but you can always look at things and say if, if and if, but I don't consider those things that I can't control. What happened, happened. I have enough things to worry about that I am in control of. The things I don't have control of, I don't waste energy worrying about them."

You say what happened, happened. But you are human. You must reflect back on things even those things that you don't have control of.
"You reflect to a point but you have to move on. If there is ever a season I could reflect back on this season is it. This season probably had my most difficult loss ever as a head coach. There may have never been a game where one lack of a call determined a championship and an NCAA bid. We overcame all the injuries that we had. We dealt with the Sidney situation all year long. We lost a game here to Kentucky. Then we went to the (SEC Tournament) championship game and lost it the way we lost it. There are a lot of things I could reflect back on, but those things can cut your heart out and then you can't move forward. But I can't do that because I have to continue moving forward. What happened is over. You take what you can, learn from it and move on."

There are so many kids transferring from program to program in college basketball. Why do you think that is the case?
"There are more mistakes made in recruiting because we have less time to watch kids play. That is number 1. Number 2, kids are less patient than they used to be. Kids, when they come to this level, aren't the best player anymore. That is a hard adjustment for a lot of those kids. There are different levels for eveybody. The only thing you should ask a player to be is the best that they can be, don't try to be something that you aren't. Be the best you can be whatever that may be and live with it. But again, there is very little patient from that standpoint. With these guys who go to college and after one year go to the NBA, everybody wants to do that now. Everybody wants to be an NBA player, and I wish everybody was. Everybody wants to play 30 minutes a game. But there are only so many minutes in a game.

"You also have to have guys who are not just willing to play roles but accept those roles. That is the key. You can take a player and put him in a role where he is only going to play 13 or 14 minutes a game. But the key is can you get that player to accept and embrace that role. Those are really difficult roles for kids now-a-days to want to play."

Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the website, the source for Mississippi State sports on sports network. You can contact him by emailing

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