What are your thoughts about Rick Ray?
"(Rick) is a rising star in this business. He is extremely intelligent and a relentless recruiter. He is a really bright guy who has a great feel for coaching. He is a basketball coach. He has been involved with everything in our program that you can imagine. He knows Xs and Os extremely well, offense, defense. He knows how to motivate players. He knows when to be demanding and when to love them up a little bit. He has a unique personality where he can get the most out of kids. The players in our program absolutely love him.
"Combine all of those things together and he is going to be very successful. He is a little bit like Cuonzo Martin of Tennessee. Rick and Cuonzo worked together at Purdue. If you think Cuonzo is doing good things at Tennessee then that is the kind of product that you are going to see at Mississippi State. You are going to see hard man-to-man, physical basketball. You are going to see guys who are going to defend, rebound, take care of the ball, and be unselfish.
How long have you known Rick?
"I've known Rick for a while. He worked for my college coach at Indiana State. When they were together they won two Missouri Valley Conference championships at Indiana State. And it is hard to win there. They won a game in the (NCAA) tournament. I know that Rick was very instrumental on that staff.
"Rick has quietly risen in the ranks. And I was thrilled I could steal him away from Purdue and get him to come here with me at Clemson. And he has been a tremendous help for me the last two years getting our program started here at Clemson. He has recruited some good players for us. And he knows basketball, too. He is a very good Xs and Os coach. And he's a terrific role model for young people.
"When the fans at Mississippi State first hear him speak they are going to realize very quickly that they got a very bright guy who will do very well there."
From what I have heard about him he has that IT factor that you looked for in a coach. Would you say that is a good way to describe him?
"Yes, I do. Some guys have a very unique way to reach kids in different ways. The kids respect him. They know when he talks about basketball they know he is going to make them a better player. When he first starts doing individual skill work with the players at Mississippi State they are going to realize in a matter of one workout that this guy knows basketball. They will realize that he will help them become better players. So right away you gain credibility with your players.
"You talk about the it factor. He has a very unique way of being very demanding but also understands how to relate to kids. He is up on all the latest things such as pop culture because he is well-read. He uses that to help him relate to the players. He can talk and communicate with anyone.
"He's a guy who has come from some tough situations while growing up in Kansas City. Through hard work, education and studying this profession he has made himself into one of the top assistant coaches in the country. I think (MSU AD) Scott (Stricklin) is going to be really happy with the hire.
"He is a big loss to us."
But aren't those the kind of coaches you want, coaches that other programs want as a head coach?
"That is exactly right. I always say that I want guys on my staff who want to be head coaches. I told Rick that when he came here I hoped that I could hold onto him for two years. Then, if I had him for longer than that, that would be the icing on the cake.
"But really in two years he should have been at a really good school as a head coach. And I told him I thought that would happen if he came to Clemson. And he's had a bunch of people calling. He's talked to a several people but he's been waiting for a job where he can do something special. He wasn't just going to take a job to be taking one."
Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the GenesPage.com website, the source for Mississippi State sports on Scout.com sports network. You can contact him by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.