Stricklin, who's been Mississippi State's athletics director for two years, presented basketball coach Rick Ray to Bulldog fans on Monday. The hire had been made Sunday, ending a 17-day search that Stricklin described as "exhaustive and diligent."
He said he spoke with "several" candidates, some more than once. That group included Valparaiso head coach Bryce Drew, Kentucky assistant Kenny Payne and Murray State head coach Steve Prohm.
Stricklin said Ray was the only coach offered the job.
"Every search takes on its own characteristics," Stricklin said. "But there's something really good and healthy about talking to a lot of people, because whenever you do find the right person, you're more sure of it."
Two weeks into the search, Stricklin issued a statement asking fans for patience as the search went on. He said that was not a reactionary message.
"I thought it was good for everybody to know, hey, we're still working through our process, we're going to find a coach that can lead our program in this way," he said. "Appreciate your patience looking forward to when we can name a head coach. There was no panic in that, it was just, I think communicating with the constituency is important."
Ray was initially contacted by MSU last week via the Parker Executive Search firm. He and Stricklin had the first of three sit-down meetings Friday in New Orleans, site of the Final Four as well as a coaches' convention.
Stricklin said he liked that Ray, who has never been a head coach before, had been at different kinds of places. Ray's first full-time job was at Indiana State in 1997, and after seven years there he went to Northern Illinois, then Purdue. He was associate head coach at Clemson the past two seasons.
"I think that's helpful, because it gives you a perspective," Stricklin said. "And the other thing is you're not afraid to roll up your sleeves and get after it. I love that part of him. I love the fact that he's got a plenty clear vision of what he wants the program to look like, the kind of people he wants to be in his program."
Clemson coach Brad Brownell said Sunday that he knew, upon hiring Ray, he would have him for just a short time. Brownell saw Ray's career arc headed toward a head coaching job.
Ray has been a candidate before at places like Winthrop and Florida Gulf Coast, but said those opportunities "weren't quite right for me and my family."
But when MSU offered, "it was really a no-brainer," Ray said. "It wasn't something I even had to ponder or think about. Coach Brownell said, 'Hey, I would hate to lose you. I knew this time would come.'
"He said, 'But you would be a fool to turn down this opportunity to be the head coach at Mississippi State So see if you can figure out how to win in the SEC.'"