You knew it was not if but when. Fourteen years in the making as the head man of Mississippi State's Basketball program, so many accolades and memories for the maroon family and the Stansbury's. Yet - after the last few seasons that saw a team crumbling from within, you knew, the time was coming for Rick Stansbury to turn the reigns over and let someone else take over a program he has guided for over a decade.
That time was yesterday as an emotional Rick Stansbury stepped to the podium and announced his decision to step down as head basketball coach at Mississippi State.
I like many expressed displeasure with Stansbury over the last few weeks but that's not what this is about now. It is about paying homage and respect to a man that put Mississippi State basketball on the map, made the program relevant and achieved great success.
Stansbury guided the bulldogs to five NIT births and six NCAA Tournament appearances during his stretch at Miss. State. His 2001-02 MSU team compiled the most wins in a single season in school history (27), winning the SEC tournament championship. His teams won the SEC West crown in the 2002-03, 2003–04, 2006–07, 2007–08, and 2009-2010 seasons, with the 2003-04 squad winning the overall SEC regular season championship outright. Stansbury also owns MSU's record for consecutive 20-win seasons with four from2001–05 and again from 2006-2010.
During his time at Mississippi State as an assistant and head coach Stansbury was a part of over 400 MSU victories and more than 15 postseason tournament appearances. As head coach, he was 21-7 vs conference in-state rival the University of Mississippi.
Yet at the end of the day Stansbury said it was just time. Time to do something different, time to pay more attention to family which is the most important thing to the accomplished head coach.
"Every time I walk out the door, Luke would say, Daddy, when do you get a day off?' I've given him the same answer: soon," an emotional Stansbury said, " I want to become a better father, a better husband."
When asked was this his decision or the athletic departments of his resignation Stansbury said, "We (Stansbury and Athletic Director Scott Stricklin) both agreed to this. We've had a couple of disappointing years. Our standards, which we created, there's no one to blame but me for that. I'll take responsibility for that." Stansbury continued, I want to make the decision to step away from this when it's my decision, and not stay to the point where it becomes someone else's decision,"
Stansbury will remain apart of the athletic department but that role has yet to be determined. With almost twenty years vested in the state retirement system, this will be a plus for Stansbury - by staying on at Mississippi State in some form or fashion, Stansbury will be able to get his time in towards his state retirement.
So now the focus shifts towards Scott Stricklin and which way he will turn for a new head man. Stricklin says he may contact a national search firm but ultimately he will be the one making the decision on who will guide Mississippi State Basketball into the 2012-13 season. Early water cooler talk has Florida State assistant Stan Jones, Virginia Commonwealth head coach Shaka Smart and Kentucky assistant Kenny Payne as favorites to replace Stansbury.
But for now we remember Stansbury and all he did for Mississippi State. All the accomplishments and good times. Today is about lifting up a man that gave most of his career to a place he loved.
What's next for Stansbury? That's to far in the future to tell but for now he will focus on his wife and kids.
Stansbury wants to go fishing with his sons, and spend quality time with his wife. He said he's taken his boys fishing just once in the last three years.
"I'd always be rushing out and telling them the same thing, 'I can't tonight boys,'" Stansbury said.
Now he can go fishing, enjoy his family and in time reflect on all the great things he accomplished in Starkville. Rick Stansbury leaves Mississippi State Basketball better than when he got here, carried a great image for the entire university and showed character and poise and for that - The Mississippi State family says thank you Rick and Meo. Thank you for your service, time and commitment to Mississippi State University. You will always be uplifted and remembered for all that you did for Dear Ole State.