Rick Ray met Mississippi State and the media this morning at Humphrey Coliseum. A big part of his message was about making this program about the players and for the players.
"As a basketball coach, this is something here that I want to go out and connect with our players," he said. "We talked with those guys, had a meeting with them (Sunday night), got on the phone with parents and some of the players that are coming, coaches, AAU coaches. I want to assure those guys that we're going to do everything possible to make this a positive experience for them. I told them the most important thing in this program is the basketball players."
Ray mentioned the name of Rodney Hood several times. Hood started as a freshman and will be the most important player returning in 2012-13. The Bulldogs lost three players from this past season – two to the NBA Draft (Arnett Moultrie and Renardo Sidney) and another who's transferring (DeVille Smith).
So a big task ahead of Ray is keeping the current guys on board as well as retaining the five-man signing class. Along that line of thought, he said, "Sometimes you don't have a banner year recruiting … and you better have a system that makes sure when you don't get that McDonald's All-American, you still win."
Ray said he spoke with signee Josh Gray, a point guard, about 12:30 last night and will have a face-to-face meeting with him soon. He said Gray, who told me last night he still intends to ask for a release from his scholarship, is open to remaining a Bulldog.
Here's the line that won the press conference for Ray: "We will be successful. I don't know how to lose. That's the only thing I've ever done is win ballgames."
His four-year contract will pay him $1 million a year, plus incentives. After initial contact from Parker Executive Search, the firm utilized by MSU during its 17-day search, Ray first met with athletics director Scott Stricklin on Friday. Stricklin said Ray was the first guy they offered the job to.
Ray said he will reach out to his predecessor, Rick Stansbury, saying, "He's a guy I can learn from." Ray also said he hopes to retain at least one assistant from the current staff, but he also has a few guys in mind from outside the program.
Ray was accompanied by his wife, Breyana, young son Deacon, and his mother-in-law. Upon taking to the lectern, he donned an MSU cap and rang a silver cowbell.
Ray then said, "I don't know if i did that right. We worked on that for about 30 minutes yesterday."
Click here for more at Brad Locke's Inside Mississippi State blog.
Read more in Tuesday's NEMS Daily Journal newspaper.