The Mississippi State Bulldogs announced Saturday that they have fired men’s basketball head coach Rick Ray.
Ray had spent three seasons as Bulldogs head coach, compiling a career record of 37-60 while never qualifying Mississippi State for postseason play. In 2014-15, the Bulldogs finished 13-19 while struggling in SEC play. These were simply not the results athletic director Scott Stricklin was hoping for when he brought Ray aboard three years ago, and Stricklin made the decision to move forward final today.
“This has been a difficult decision, as I have the utmost respect for Rick, and am highly appreciative of the effort he put forth in leading our basketball program,” Stricklin said. “To Rick’s credit, we have seen great strides from our student-athletes in several areas, including academics.
Ray reacted to the news by posting a long statement on Instagram saying he was “saddened” by the firing. This was Ray’s first coaching gig after being an assistant at Clemson, Purdue, Northern Illinois and Indiana State. Still, he was unable to resurrect a proud program during his three year stint, showing little signs of success or potential to achieve it.
Ray had two years remaining on his contract and will likely be paid a portion of his $1 million salary.
“Men’s basketball is important to Mississippi State University, and history illustrates that we can compete for championships on a consistent basis,” Stricklin said. “MSU has won six SEC championships, in four different decades, under three different coaches. We have seen the Bulldogs play in the sport’s final weekend, and I firmly believe there are more achievements like those in our future.”
Reports have surfaced that a potential replacement for Ray is Ben Howland. Howland has spent 20 years as a head coach and is primarily remembered for his tenure with the UCLA Bruins, where he led the program to three consecutive final fours. The pairing could be a match made in heaven for a Mississippi State team looking to drastically alter its image.
*Section Photo credit to Andy Lyons, Getty Images; Featured Photo (above) credit to Spruce Derden, USA Today Sports