New men's basketball coach Rick Ray is quickly building his coaching staff.
MSU announced today that Ray has retained assistant George Brooks, and he's also added Wes Flanigan, a former Auburn standout who was most recently at Nebraska.
Brooks, a former MSU player, has been with the program the past two years. Prior to that he was head coach at Meridian Community College for 12 years. He was a student assistant for MSU during the 1995-96 season, when the Bulldogs reached the Final Four.
"I really needed someone that can point me in the right direction of recruiting in our state, and I know George is very well connected in Mississippi because of his long time as a head coach at Meridian Community College," Ray said in a release.
In the same press release, Brooks said, "I’m just thankful I get to stay at the university I love, and one that is home for me. I’m really excited about the opportunity to work with one of the top up-and-coming coaches in the country and continue to build on the tradition at Mississippi State."
Brooks did not immediately return a call seeking further comment.
Flanigan joined Nebraska in 2010 and leaves during a coaching change there (CLICK HERE for profile). He has previous coaching stops at UAB (2008-09) and UALR (2004-08), and he was an assistant at Northwest Mississippi Community College for five seasons, working with both the men's and women's teams.
"He has impeccable character," Ray said in a release. "He’s tough and he knows how to grind. He’s really going to help us in the border states of Arkansas and Alabama in recruiting, and that was a huge criteria for me. Wes is a well-known name in this area and will resonate with our fanbase."
Said Flanigan, "I’m excited about being back in the South, in Mississippi and the SEC. I’m ready to get to Starkville and get to work."
So, assistants Phil Cunningham, Marcus Grant and coordinator of basketball operations Talvis Franklin must move on. Ray's intent all along was to keep one assistant off Stansbury's staff.
He will be adding one more assistant, and it could be Adam Gordon, the director of basketball operations at Northern Colorado. Ray still must hire a replacement for Franklin, too. A team spokesman said that there will be no more hires announced this week.
Northern Colorado coach B.J. Hill apparently tweeted earlier that Gordon was headed to MSU (CLICK HERE), but that tweet has since been deleted.
Grant told me that he expected to be retained and interviewed with Ray on Tuesday.
"Not only was I a coach here, I played here, was a standout player here," Grant said. "I thought I could bring a lot to the new staff just like I did the old staff. He thought coach Brooks would fit in better with his staff and with his approach, so that's the way he went. I support that."
Cunningham said he declined the opportunity to talk about remaining as an assistant. He also said he was not interviewed by athletics director Scott Stricklin for the head coaching job. Cunningham has been an assistant at MSU since 2000, and prior to that was a graduate assistant for one season (1991-92).
"I would have loved to have had an opportunity to visit with him, and I thought I probably deserved that opportunity, but Scott chose not to, and that's his decision," said Cunningham. "Hey, no hard feelings. In this business, that's the way it is."
Cunningham said he'd like to be a head coach – he was considered for the Gardner-Webb job two years ago before withdrawing his name – but will probably have to find another assistant's job for now.
Brooks and Grant were teammates at State in the 1990s and are good friends. Grant was brought on Rick Stansbury's staff in 2004 as coordinator of operations, then promoted to assistant in 2006.
"He just said it was a tough decision, of course," Grant said. "He said he didn't know a whole lot about Mississippi, and George, his recruiting experience, whatever that meant, is what swayed the scale in his balance."
Grant doesn't know what's next for him. Cunningham said he'll miss the people of MSU, and he's proud of what the program became during his tenure.
"What I'm really proud of is in my time at Mississippi State, we became a nationally relevant program," he said.
I'll have more on this topic as Ray continues to assemble his staff.