MSU's Stansbury retires after 14 seasons as coach

DAVID BRANDT AP Sports Writer Published:

STARKVILLE, Miss. (AP) -- An emotional Rick Stansbury said it was time to step down.

The Mississippi State men's basketball coach said after 14 seasons he wants to be a better father and husband at this stage in his life.

A red-eyed Stansbury took the podium on Thursday afternoon, thanking family and friends during a nearly hour-long news conference to announce his retirement.

"My emotions are about happiness," he said. "I promise you."

But there was little doubt that recent failures on the hardwood contributed to his decision.

Stansbury has led the Bulldogs to a 293-166 record, including 11 postseason appearances -- but last went to the NCAA tournament in 2009. He averaged more than 20 wins per season and ranks ninth in wins in Southeastern Conference history

The Bulldogs, however, collapsed at the end of this season, losing seven of their last nine games. The season ended on Tuesday with a 101-96 loss to Massachusetts in the first round of the National Invitation Tournament.

"We've had a couple of disappointing years by our standards which we created," Stansbury said. "There's no one to blame for me for that. I'll take responsibility for that. And you've heard me say it -- I want those expectations. We don't run for them."

Stansbury, 52, said he and MSU athletic director Scott Stricklin met for more than two hours on Wednesday morning, and both of them agreed the veteran coach would likely retire. Stansbury said he slept on the decision Wednesday night, and felt comfortable on Thursday morning.

"A lot of coaches can stay at one spot too long," Stansbury said. "I don't want to be one of those coaches."

Stricklin would not speculate if Stansbury would have been retained had he wanted to continue coaching. He said a search for a replacement would begin immediately.

"We'll look for the right guy -- right fit," Stricklin said. "There's no timetable."

Stansbury has two years remaining on a contract that pays about $1.5 million per year with incentives, but Stricklin would not disclose details about a buyout.

Stansbury said he plans to keep his family in Starkville and work in some capacity for Mississippi State, where he's been for 22 years, counting time as an assistant coach. He was an assistant under head coach Richard Williams in 1996 when the Bulldogs went to their only Final Four.

Stricklin said Stansbury's role in the athletic department hasn't yet been defined, but he was pleased the coach "will keep his talents at Mississippi State."

"This place owes Rick and (his wife) Meo (Stansbury) a huge thank you," Stricklin said.

As the head coach, Stansbury won one SEC regular-season championship, two SEC tournament championships and five SEC Western Division titles. He has a 122-102 record in SEC play. His teams played in six NCAA tournaments, but never advanced past the second round.

The program struggled over the past few seasons on and off the court. The Bulldogs finished with a 17-14 record in 2011 in a season best known for a nationally-televised fistfight between Renardo Sidney and Elgin Bailey in the stands during a tournament in Hawaii.

There were also multiple suspensions when players posted negative remarks about the coaching staff on Twitter, and Stansbury banned the players from using the social networking service for the remainder of the season.

Stansbury said he didn't know if he would have retired had the Bulldogs rallied and made the NCAA tournament this season. But he was adamant about his peace with the decision.

"That's a good question, but I can tell you this, it's not about being tired even though I've done it for 28 years," Stansbury said. "It's really about this stage of my life."

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Follow David Brandt on Twitter: (at)davidbrandtAP