Bullies Land A Whale. Ben Howland hired at Mississippi State (Updated)

Howland's Howlin Hound DawgsWelcome Readers from SixPackSpeak.com

#HailState has become #HowlState as Ben Howland is set to become the new head coach of the men’s basketball program.

Howland is returning to coaching after a two year stint as a TV  analyst, following his very successful run at perenial basketball pwerhouse, UCLA.

The Blog interviewed legendary MSU alumnus Nuke Gingrich to get his reaction:

Epic.  Awesome.  The wool is thick.  Who would of thought AD Scott Stricklin had such a giant nutsack, to let go of his men’s basketball coach, with 2 years left on his contract, and go after a whale like Ben Howland.  And then, to bring him in —  I’m just beside myself with excitement.  I believe I speak for the entire Bulldog Nation when I say, “Welcome to Stark Vegas, Coach Howland.  We’re glad you’re here!”

Things happened quickly this weekend in Vegas, as the Saturday announcement of the non-renewal of Rick Ray’s contract was within a few hours followed by informed rumors that Howland had emerged as the leading contender for the position.  Howland had reportedly wanted to continue his coaching career at a football oriented school.  No doubt, Howland will get his wish at MSU and the SEC.

Consider this quote in an article from Bill Plaschke, LA Times.

“In my mind, my next job is where I’m going to finish my career,” he says. “I want to make sure it’s the right situation where we have great success.”

In typical Howland fashion, he then tightens his jaw and makes a promise.

“I’m really fired up about getting back into it, and I hope to do it next year,” he says. “And this time around, I will do the best job I’ve ever done.”

Yes, sir!  It’s a great day to be a Bulldog.

See alsoFor whom the cowbell tolls

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Update:  It is Official!  HailState Beat,

Statement from Athletic Director SS (Grasshopper):  “Ben is someone who is ready to invest in the people of Mississippi and Bulldogs everywhere, while bringing championship basketball back to the Hump. Mississippi State basketball can compete at the highest level, just as several of our other teams have done in recent years, and I’m excited to have coach Howland lead us back to that level.”

The school will officially announce the hire on Tuesday at 2:30 p.m. at Humphrey Coliseum. Fans are invited to attend.

It’s Official: Kentucky gets Calipari

John Calipari is leaving Memphis to take the reins of the University of Kentucky.

Quick.  Everyone look surprised!

john-calipariCalipari agreed to an eight-year, $35 million deal. He gets a $2.5 million signing bonus and $3 million per year for the first four years. In years five through eight, Calipari will receive $4.5 million annually. Incentives increase the deal to $35 million.

Todd said he was unaware of any effort to raise private funds to supplement Calipari’s pay.

In terms of players as well as coach, Calipari’s move may prove Kentucky’s gain and Memphis’ setback.

Several players or recruits spoke of leaving Memphis and joining him at Kentucky.

In Miami for Wednesday’s McDonald’s All-American Game, heralded prospect DeMarcus Cousins (who had committed to Memphis) told The Miami Herald on Tuesday that he spoke with Calipari before the decision was made.

“I’m trying to stay focused right now and have fun,” Cousins said. “When I get back home, it’s time to get back down to business. I did get a chance to talk to Coach Cal, and he said he was considering the job. Now I’m basically waiting like everybody else to see what he does.”

Another McDonald’s All-American committed to Memphis, Xavier Henry, said he would reopen the process.

“I could get out of my letter of intent if he wasn’t there for any reason,” Henry told reporters in Miami. “It reopens my whole recruitment to everybody and anybody.”

Meanwhile, point guard Tyreke Evans, who won several national Freshman of the Year honors this past season, told FoxSports.com that he was leaving Memphis for a shot at the NBA.

“If he’s leaving, I’m not staying,” Evans told FoxSports.com. “Coach leaving did it for me. …

“I’m shocked he left, especially with the class he had coming in. I know it was tough for him, but it was his dream job. You can’t get mad at him for that.”

Calipari fits the criteria Kentucky desired after firing Billy Gillispie on Friday: a well-rounded coach who can perform the UK job’s varied duties on and off the court.

In terms of coaching, Calipari is one of only 13 coaches to take two schools to a Final Four. He guided Massachusetts in 1996 and Memphis in 2008 to college basketball’s grandest stage.

Only Rick Pitino has taken three schools to a Final Four: Providence (1987), Kentucky (1993, 1996 and 1997) and Louisville (2005).

Calipari has compiled a record of 445-140 in 17 seasons as a college head coach. That includes a nine-season record of 252-69 at Memphis.

More at KentuckySports.com

Billy Clyde Gillispie shown the UK door

It has been the grist of rumor mills all over SEC chat rooms, and it is now official. Billy Gillispie is no longer the head basketball coach at the University of Kentucky. After a two year run, the PTB@UK decided that finishing in the middle of the pack in a mediocre basketball league was, in a word, unacceptable.

Make no mistake about it SEC fans, the league has been down for the last couple of years, and until the level of talent catches up with the other power conferences, the league will remain mired in mediocrity. Getting the talent is every bit the responsibility of the head coach, just as much as gametime X’s and O’s. Gillispie, it seemed, was unable to excel in either area.

Kentucky must excel in college basketball. Gillespie couldn’t get it done. Simple as that.

Reminds me of Richard Williams during MSU’s FF run in ’96 when he sarcastically said to an interviewer, “yeah, I guess we’re a crummy league: Kentucky and the 11 Dwarves.” Even though he was joking, there was a lot of truth in that statement as to how the league is perceived in the national sports media. Arkansas has had some nice runs, so has Florida. MSU, LSU, and others have made some noise in the big dance. But Kentucky is the blue blooded royalty of the conference.

Speaking of Arkansas, it must have really irked long time Hawg Fans to see Mike Anderson’s Mizzou team use “40 minutes of hell” to put Memphis to bed last night. I know the Arkansas faithful were tired of Nolan Richardson’s mouth, and Anderson was part of his regime, but his system was always a tough out. And, the rest of the conference probably looked kind of longingly at Mike’s team last night too. Any one of them could have gotten him from UAB. Oh well, spilled milk and all.

BTW Kentucky fans, the rumor is that Billy Donovan will take over the helm in Lexington (didn’t we just go through that?). Now, I’ve got a question for you. If Billy D.’s last two years at Florida would have occurred at Kentucky, would you now be showing him the door?

/just sayin!

P.S.
the rumors that MSU’s Kodi Augustus was planning on transferring were put to bed today. “I love Mississippi State,” said Augustus, as reported by CL’s Kyle Veazey. That means the top 7 starters and reserves return for next season. Time to hit the weight room and bulk up. If anything, this year’s Big Dance shows that the Big East is as good as advertised, and the one thing they can all do well is grind it out in the half-court. That requires muscle in the front court.

Read more:
Billy G out at Kentucky

Gillespie the latest victim of Kentucky pride

Kentucky pulls trigger; Arkansas shows patience

From Channel 11:

UK News conference – Part 1 | Part 2

Gillispie runs from WHAS11’s Mark Hebert

LIVE CHAT: Cats and Cards

Gillispie Out: As it broke on WHAS11 News

Continuing WHAS11 Gillispie coverage

WHAS11 Gillispie announcement

P.P.S.: Want to know why Memphis’ Calipari won’t be offered the gig at UK? Calps’ last two teams were good enough to win it all, but they fell short. Free Throws. They couldn’t hit their free throws, and it cost them two National Championships. Can you imagine a Kentucky team hittingless than 60% of their free throws? I can’t either. Calipari can get the talent, true, but it’s the little things that separate great teams from championships.

P.P.P.S.: Alabama hires Anthony Grant (Donovan protege)

A Miami, Fla., native, Grant is no stranger to the Southeastern Conference having served 10 years on the staff at Florida, five years (1996-2001) as an assistant coach and five years as associate head coach under Billy Donovan (2002-06). Grant helped lead the Gators to their first national title in 2006 and laid the groundwork for UF’s 2007 national championship before departing for VCU. While on the Florida staff, the Gators won the SEC Tournament in 2005 and 2006, captured three SEC Eastern Division titles (2000, 2001 and 2002) and earned back-to-back SEC Championships in 2000 and 2001. In 1999 and 2000, the program made its first back-to-back ‘Sweet 16’ appearances in school history and appeared in the national championship game in 2000. During Grant’s time in Gainesville, the Gators advanced to the NCAA Tournament in eight straight seasons and compiled a 226-98 (.698) record.

Noted as a strong recruiter, Grant recruited and coached nine McDonald’s All-Americans and seven NBA first-round draft picks at Florida. Four of his last seven recruiting classes at UF were ranked in the top five nationally. At VCU his 2007 recruiting class was ranked as the fifth best in the mid-major ranks.

SEC Champs! Dogs take Vols 64-61

After four victories in four days, Mississippi State earned their way to the NCAA field of 65 with a hard-fought 64-61 victory over eastern division champs Tennessee in Tampa, Florida.

kodi-augustusState started quickly, jumping out to a 9-2 lead, as Jarvis Varnado had two quick inside baskets before Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl decided to put big body Brian Williams in the game to provide a physical presence. It was only the first of several coaching moves by Pearl and MSU coach Rick Stansbury in a defensive chess match that saw numerous ties and lead changes.

A turnover by Barry Stewart, and a three pointer at the buzzer by UT’s Tyler Smith tied the game at 36 at the end of the first half.

The second half devolved into a tight defensive struggle, marked by runouts and jump shots, as neither team was able to solve the opposing defense. A three-point bucket by Phil Turner with 1:40 left gave the Dogs the lead for good, as the game ended on a series of bizarre inbounds plays and turnovers by both squads.  Two more free throws by Turner with 8 seconds left provided the final margin, as a final  3-point shot by Tennessee missed as time expired.

This is the second year in a row that the SEC Tournament has been won by a lower seed playing 4 games in 4 days, as last year’s champion, Georgia, mad an improbable run in the tornado-wracked tournament in Atlanta.

Phil Turner led 4 Bulldogs in double figures with 12 points, the final two coming at the line with 8 seconds left. Barry Stewart and Ravern Johnson each had 12, and big Jarvis Varnado added 10, to go along with 7 boards, 6 blocks, and numerous altered shots. Tennessee was led by Wayne Chism with 15 points, JP Prince with 14, and Tyler Smith with 12. Neither team shot the ball particularly well, but that had as much to do with the tight defense played by both clubs.

With the victory, State earns their second consecutive trip to the NCAA’s.

read more about State’s first round opponent from The Seattle Times

It’s a great day to be a Bulldog!

Boxscore
More at Veasyville, ESPN, and SEC Sports

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State hammers LSU

barry-stewartSEC semi-final action in Tampa saw Mississippi State defeat regular season champion LSU 67-57 to advance to tommorow’s final against the winner of this afternoon’s Tennessee-Auburn matchup.

State jumped out to an early lead over a Tiger team that appeared a half-step slower throughout much of the day.  After taking a two point halftime lead, the Bullies made a key defensive change midway through the 2nd half, when Jarvis “Swat” Varnardo and Phil Turner switched defensive responsibilities on forward Tasmin Mitchell.  Mitchell went for 41 points in LSU’s mid-season double overtime victory over the Dogs. Swat absolutely smothered Mitchell who managed 15 points on the day.

POY Marcus Thornton was held to 14 points, 0-6 from the 3 point line.  State was led by Varnardo’s 19 point, 7 block, 7 rebound effort, and Barry Stewart’s 17 points, including 10 of 12 from the line.  The State bench contributed 13 points, 7 from super-sub Kodi Augustus, whose late season heroics have provided the x-factor sparkle that has changed State from a good team to an excellent one.

The victory was MSU’s fifth straight.  No doubt, the Bulldogs are playing their best ball of the year.

Box score

Read more from SEC Sports

more from ESPN, and more (including comments) from VZville

Bullies smash Gamecocks 82-68

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Barry Stewart scored 21 points, most of them from 3-point range, and Mississippi State beat South Carolina 82-68 Friday in the quarterfinals of the Southeastern Conference tournament.

Dee Bost added 14 points and 10 rebounds for the Bulldogs (21-12), who won their fourth straight and might have eliminated the Gamecocks from consideration for the NCAA tournament.

South Carolina (21-9) has lost three of four down the stretch, a skid that could offset the team’s strong RPI (No. 49) during the NCAA’s selection process.

The Gamecocks felt like they let this one get away. They had a double-digit lead early and a four-point advantage at halftime.

But they were outplayed in the second half. Stewart did a big chunk of the damage, hitting consecutive 3s that put Mississippi State ahead for good.

Zam Fredrick led the Gamecocks with 20 points.

Boxscore

State is playing their best basketball of the year.  Coach Stansbury said the same in the post-game interview after yesterday’s 19-point victory over Georgia.

Today’s key performance was turned in by Barry Stewart, whose clutch 3-pointers tied the game at 55, and then put the Dogs ahead for keeps with just over 7 minutes to play.  Late season X-factor Kodi Augustus, who reminds me of Donte Jones on the ’96 Final Four Squad, had another solid performance, as the State bench provided the difference in these two otherwise evenly matched teams.

Tomorrow’s semi-final is against LSU, a 67-58 winner over Kentucky in today’s early game.  Here’s hoping the third time’s the charm for State.

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