MSU's Ray builds up his staff

By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal

STARKVILLE – Rick Ray is working on his building up his recruiting connections, and it’s starting with the coaching staff.
Mississippi State’s new men’s basketball coach retained assistant George Brooks on Thursday, plus he added former Auburn standout Wes Flanigan, who once coached at Northwest Mississippi Community College.
Brooks was hired by Rick Stansbury two years ago after 12 years as head coach at Meridian Community College. He played for MSU from 1991-94.
“I always had the intention of keeping somebody from the former staff for continuity, and George was a guy who did a great job of recruiting me to Mississippi State,” Ray said in a release. “That showed me how good of a recruiter he is.
“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.”
Said Brooks, “I’m just thankful I get to stay at the university I love, one that is home for me.”
Flanigan comes to Starkville after two years at Nebraska, which recently underwent a coaching change. Prior to that, he coached at UAB and UALR. He was an assistant at Northwest for five years, working with both men’s and women’s teams.
Flanigan and Ray got to know each other when the latter was at Indiana State and recruited one of Flanigan’s AAU players.
“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,” Ray said.
Three not retained
Ray still has two more spots to fill on the staff. He won’t be retaining Phil Cunningham, Marcus Grant or the director of operations, Talvis Franklin.
Grant interviewed on Tuesday and said he thought he would be retained. A former teammate of Brooks’ at State, he’d been on the staff since 2004.
“Of course I’m disappointed that I’m not staying,” Grant told the Journal, “but I’m thrilled to death for (Brooks), because he’s a good coach, he’s a good guy, and he’ll do a good job.”
As for Cunningham, who’d been on staff since 2000, he told the Journal he did not want to remain as an assistant. He said he’d hoped for an interview for the head post, but athletics director Scott Stricklin never granted it.
“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.”
brad.locke@journalinc.com