By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Rick Stansbury keeps trying to close ranks, but the ugly truth keeps seeping to the surface: Mississippi State has serious issues.
That was illustrated in two ways Wednesday night. First, the Bulldogs were mauled by Alabama, 75-61, falling to 11-10 overall, 3-4 in SEC play.
Then, after the team loaded on the bus for the trip back to Starkville, senior guard Ravern Johnson dropped a Twitter bomb that gave us a glimpse at the mounting frustration within this program.
To review, here’s what he wrote, and I’ll translate the Twitter messages – Twenglish, shall we say – into a more readable version: “Starting to see why people transfer. You can play the minutes but not getting your talents shown because you’re watching someone else with the ball the whole game. Shooters need to move, not watch. Why other coaches get that does not make sense to me.”
As you probably know, Twany Beckham and Elgin Bailey transferred in January. And it’s obvious Johnson is taking a shot at his coach, Stansbury. As a senior, he should know better, but more on that later.
What he wrote is indicative of a larger problem, and that problem is a total lack of chemistry. You can see it on the court, when the Bulldogs look lost on offense. And we’ve seen the off-the-court stuff, most notably Renardo Sidney’s brawl with Bailey in Hawaii in December.
Stansbury has chosen not to address that incident in great detail and has been eager to leave December in the past, understandably so. As he’s said, nothing good came out of that stretch. But whatever was wrong with the Bulldogs then hasn’t gone away.
MSU has suffered seven double-digit losses this season, and three of its four SEC setbacks have been by such totals. Twice in the last four games State’s been out-rebounded by double figures.
Turnovers continue to be an issue, too. But this is what Stansbury had to say about his team’s shortcomings after a second loss to Alabama: “It wasn’t as bad as it was last time, so it must be better.”
I don’t know if that was tongue-in-cheek, but it sure didn’t go over well with fans.
Speaking of fans, they seem to have given up on this year’s team.
Johnson didn’t help the situation and should not have written what he did. Stansbury made that clear Thursday when he banned his players from posting messages on Twitter from here on out.
Johnson deleted the tweet not long after sending it, then deleted his account altogether. But it was already out there.
And Sidney retweeted it. That’s not necessarily a tacit endorsement of Johnson’s attitude, but it can sure be read that way. Sidney also deleted his account shortly thereafter.
This raises an important question: Should these college athletes even be on Twitter?
Most of MSU’s basketball players are (or were). Ninety-nine percent of what athletes tweet is typically vapid college student chatter, but occasionally emotions will take over, and bad things happen. After Sidney got in his fight with Bailey, he took to Twitter to defend himself to fans.
I was talking with MSU athletics director Scott Stricklin last week about the school’s policy regarding athletes having Twitter accounts.
“Our policy has been, we’re going to monitor it, and (tell them) don’t do anything to embarrass us,” Stricklin said. “In some cases that’s worked really well, in others it hasn’t worked as well, and it’s something we’re constantly evaluating.”
What Twitter does is give players a forum they didn’t previously have, and it usurps the control the coaches and media relations people have had over the players. Reporters contacting players without prior permission from a coach or team spokesman is generally frowned upon by the school, so it’s odd that players are allowed to comment on whatever topics they wish.
Sometimes a lot of what athletes tweet is better left unsaid. Cursing and other offensive comments are not uncommon, and those can damage a program’s and a school’s image.
I’m constantly amazed at how a generation of tech-savvy people can’t seem to grasp the fact that what they say is broadcast to the world – must be an underdeveloped impulse control thing – and that few of them seem to know about privacy settings.
Stansbury’s decision to ban Twitter was a good one, although I’m afraid it’s come much too late.
Brad Locke (firstname.lastname@example.org) covers Mississippi State for the Daily Journal and blogs daily at NEMS360.com.