What to Make of Stansbury’s Flirtation?

Some were relieved, some frustrated that Rick Stansbury ultimately decided to stay at MSU and coach the men’s basketball team – until he retires, if he has his way. He said yesterday that he and his family are quite comfortable in Starkville, and that his brief flirtation with Clemson reminded him of that.

So why did he consider leaving in the first place? When I asked him that, Stansbury replied, “You know, that’s a good question. I’ve been here 20 years and 12 years (as head coach), and probably all coaches sometimes probably like this. I haven’t ever been a coach that’s tried to get my name involved somewhere and tried to go after other jobs. I’ve been very comfortable here. But when another team called, I owed it to my family to listen.”

It’s the first time – as far as anyone knows – that Stansbury has been so hotly pursued by another school. Most likely, he was flattered and couldn’t help but listen. Hey, he’s a coach, and coaches have egos. And if some reports are to be believed, Clemson was offering him a good deal more money than he makes at MSU (currently about $1.3 million a year). Several reports said his buyout might have been an obstacle in negotiations, but I’ve been unable to confirm that, and for what it’s worth, Stansbury said money was never a factor during this whole process.

Depending on how cynical you are will determine how sincere you believe Stansbury was when he answered a question about how MSU showed its commitment to him.

“They didn’t have to show me anything. Let me tell you how it was shown to me: Every time I talked to somebody, I couldn’t talk to them. Because what Mississippi State has shown me for 12 years, it’s embedded in my heart so much, the emotion I had, not in any way could you put any type of monetary value on that.”

Stansbury said more than once that he just couldn’t see himself leaving MSU. When you’re in a place for 20 years, and you’ve raised your three kids there, and you and your wife are deeply ingrained in the community, even for a notoriously transient breed like coaches, leaving has to be hard to do.

It’s actually quite refreshing to see an established coach decide he’s happy just where he is. Brad Stevens did the same thing at Butler. It can only be good for the program when a good coach chooses to stick around. Some would probably say that Stansbury should’ve rebuffed Clemson from the get-go, but that would have been professionally irresponsible.

Stansbury looked over the other side of the fence, decided the grass wasn’t all that greener – and it certainly would’ve been a parallel move at best – and did what was ultimately the smart thing. He stayed because he feels this is where he belongs.