STARKVILLE — Rick Stansbury said he hasn’t thought about his job security as Mississippi State University men’s basketball coach.
Judging by the comments of the Bulldogs’ 14-year men’s basketball coach following MSU’s season-ending loss to the University of Massachusetts in the first round of the National Invitational Tournament on Tuesday, he’s leaving those thoughts and questions for fans, members of the media and school administrators.
“I think you know this: What we’ve done through 14 years speaks for itself,” Stansbury said. “That’s all I can say about it.”
MSU has reached the postseason in 11 of Stansbury’s 14 years (six NCAA tournaments, five NITs), but it has never reached the Sweet 16. Despite that record, the past two seasons have included teammates fighting each other in the stands, discipline issues, and a second- and a first-round exit from the NIT.
“Naturally there’s some things that didn’t go well for us the way we wanted them to have gone,” Stansbury said. “One thing we weren’t able to do — and it’s my responsibility — I never could consistently get this team to defend the way you’ve got to defend. That’s where you’ve got to do it every night, and that never was as consistent as it has to be for us.”
Sources inside the program told The Dispatch if Stansbury is retained for the 2012-13 season, his contract, which has two years remaining, would be automatically rolled over to go through the 2014-15 season for recruiting purposes.
On Tuesday, several players left Humphrey Coliseum, where a season-low crowd of 2,507 watched MSU lose to UMass, before reporters had a chance to talk to them.
The announced attendance was the third-lowest for a MSU home game since the 2006-07 season.
The NIT, which is run by the NCAA, has an open locker room policy, but by the time reporters reached the area not many players were left in the arena.
MSU junior center Renardo Sidney, who sat out the final 23 minutes, 51 seconds against UMass, left the scene before Stansbury finished his postgame media conference.
“I’m out!!” Sidney tweeted.
Sidney also was involved in a fight with then-teammate Elgin Bailey in the stands during the team’s three-game trip in December 2010 to Hawaii. Bailey left the team after the incident.
MSU Director of Athletics Scott Stricklin politely declined comment after MSU’s 101-96 loss to UMass. He also didn’t give Stansbury a vote of confidence after introducing Vic Schaefer as MSU’s new women’s basketball coach earlier in the day.
Messages left with Stricklin on Wednesday requesting comment weren’t returned.
MSU freshman guard Rodney Hood pointed to individuals on the team and the lack of discipline on the team as major issues to the collapse of the 2011-12 season.
“It was a piece,” the freshman from Meridian said. “It didn’t start in November, it started during the summer. We have to go back and correct it.”
When asked to evaluate the disappointment of the season, Stansbury bristled at the question, saying he was happy with the five players who remained on the floor for the Bulldogs in the final loss of the season.
“I was awful proud of our guys not laying down and not quitting,” Stansbury said. “They kept fighting, they kept fighting, and they kept fighting.”