By LARRY VAUGHT
It would be foolish to act like I am not happy that Rick Stansbury is going to officially be named the new basketball coach at Western Kentucky University in a few hours.
I’ve known Stansbury, a Mead County native, for a long time. I actually watched him play when he was at Campbellsville University and got to know him well during his time as a Mississippi State assistant coach and then head coach.
He had a 293-165 record as a head coach from 1998-2012 and got Mississippi State in the NCAA Tournament six times as head coach.
The last two years he has been an assistant coach at Texas A&M, which made the NCAA Sweet Sixteen this year.
I’m not quite sure what Stansbury is getting into since Ray Harper resigned suddenly in mid-March as Western’s coach after three players were suspended following a hearing by the school’s disciplinary committee. Harper was 89-64 in five seasons at Western and got the Hilltoppers in the NCAA in 2012 and 2013.
I talked to Stansbury several times at the recent SEC Tournament in Nashville. He always offered great insights into the UK program. He grew up a Kentucky fan and not only did his State teams battle UK often, but he always kept an eye on the Wildcats.
But he seemed happy at Texas A&M.
“We spent 24 great years at Starkville,” Stansbury said. “This is not a knock on Starkville, but this is easy compared to what we did in Starkville. We have so much more to work with. We have unbelievable facilities. We have 63,000 students, we have players around us everywhere. No question joining the league has separated us from the rest of those Texas schools.”
He said being out of coaching recharged him.
“Those couple of years I was away gave me longevity. It’s not easy in Starkville. Two years away I got to wrap my arms around my boys and travel the world and country. That was special. But now to get back in it and compete at this level and have a chance to win a championship is very special,” Stansbury said.
He has three sons — Isaac, 16; Noah, 13; and Luke, 11.
“When you have kids, what little free time you have, they dictate that free time,” Stansbury said.
That’s why he has always found a way to keep his sons involved with his team. They often travel with the team and also often attend practice.
I’m proud to have both Stansbury and his wife, Meo, as friends and without knowing what issues he might be inheriting at Western, I think Western is getting a proven recruit and successful coach that is eager again to show he can lead a winning program.