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MSU men's basketball coach search begins

March 16, 2012

Mississippi State athletic director Scott Stricklin, right, has begun a search to replace Rick Stansbury, the all-time winningest coach in men's basketball history. (Photo by Kim Murrell, SDN)

Mississippi State athletic director Scott Stricklin is no stranger to hiring coaches.

He walked side-by-side with former athletic director Greg Byrne as MSU hired football coach Dan Mullen.

Under Stricklin’s watch, the Bulldogs hired Van Stuedeman to lead softball and as recently as this week, Vic Schaefer, as head coach for women’s basketball.

Now, Stricklin is facing arguably his biggest challenge to date, hiring someone to follow in the footsteps of Rick Stansbury, the winningest coach in men's basketball history.

While the task is daunting, Stricklin feels he has the right formula to find State’s next head coach.

“I still think smart, competitive, intelligent, hard-working people who understand how to attract and sell what we have here at Mississippi State University, attract people to it," Stricklin said. "I think they’re going to be successful regardless of the sport. There are things unsaid in that, we want people of character who work well with others. To me, that goes back to the intelligence piece. I think it is the same mold.

“The other thing I’ve seen us do that I think has worked for us, we kind of like developing our own talent so to speak. Not necessarily take someone who has already developed a brand somewhere else, but let us help develop their brand while they’re here. I’m not saying we wouldn’t do the other but I kind of like that concept."

While according to Stricklin, the Bulldogs don’t have a hard timeline in place, it appears as if they will fast-track the process.

"There’s no timetable how long it takes until we identify whoever that is,” Stricklin said as he addressed the media from his office. “I’m just speculating. There usually are people who are still playing that you have to wait until they can finish up before you can to them, but that’s a head coach or an assistant coach.

“I don’t care if it is a head coach, assistant coach, big school, small school, young, or old. I don’t care. For whatever reason, we’ve hired a lot of assistant coaches, first-time head coaches, or in Vic Schaefer’s case a head coach a long time ago, but I don’t think that’s anything but coincidence.”

Mississippi State has employed the Atlanta based Parker Search Firm, which is a common practice. The firm will help with the gathering of information on potential candidates as well as potentially determine an interest level of candidates who haven’t been officially contacted.

Much like the coaches Stricklin hires, he will hold the responsibility of selling Mississippi State, not just finding the right candidate.

“I think coach Schaefer did a great job of spelling out how impressive the facilities are relative to other schools that have really good facilities," Stricklin said. "Obviously, we’ve got a facility piece that we didn't have before and Rick is a big part of that.”

Thursday Stricklin spoke of renovated locker rooms, arena improvements, the academic center, and the practice facility while he visited with the media. He also mentioned what could be the deciding factor for a candidate, a competitive compensation package.

“You know, right now Rick is making a top 30 salary," Stricklin said of Stansbury's $1.4-1.3 million salary. "That’s top 10 percent in the country. I think we’re pretty committed to the sport of men’s basketball, and I think we’ve got a really unique situation.

“I know when we talked to coach Schaefer and other coaches in other sports that there is a sense that there is an energy at Mississippi State that is different right now. I think that attracts people, and people see that this whole university is united, we’re on the same page from (MSU president) Dr. (Mark) Keenum all the way to the student body and everybody in between.”

Stricklin hasn’t committed to a dollar figure on the next head coach but was quick to point out he will do what it takes.

“I’m going to pay whatever we need to get to whatever works for them,” said Stricklin.

In the coming days, the names will surface as potential candidates, but State fans can expect this search to work much like the MSU searches in the past. There will be a lot of secrecy and silence from the Bulldog camp as they don’t believe in conducting their coaching search in the media.

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