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Mizzou Moves To The SEC: Bulldog Basketball Worthy Of The Big Screen


Mississippi State Week moves from Davis Wade Stadium down the road to the Humphrey Coliseum. You could write a screenplay about what happened in Starkville in early 1963.

Monday: Mississippi State Football Caught In The Undertow

The Mississippi State Bulldogs basketball program lacks an overall historical identity, but that’s mainly due to the vacancy of quality in the program from its inception in 1909 through the hiring of Mississippi State alum Babe McCarthy in 1955. Of its first 10 coaches, only one managed a record that really catches your eye and that was E.C. Hayes who won 124 games in 12 years, losing just 54. But from 1955 to now, Mississippi State not only has a program on the rise, they also have a history to be very proud of.

A Short History

With an overall record of 1272-1056 in their 97-year history, the Bulldogs have won 908 of them since the hiring of the aforementioned James Harrison “Babe” McCarthy in 1955. McCarthy, from Baldwyn, MS, was sometimes called “Magnolia Mouth” and is often remembered best for MSU’s appearance in the 1963 NCAA Tournament when...well, we’ll get to that in a moment. McCarthy’s 169 wins, earned over 10 seasons, stood as the all-time high for the Bulldogs until he was passed by the two most recent coaches in Starkville. And while MSU had won regular season conference championships early in their history (1912-1914 and 1916 as members of the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association), as members of the SEC they’d been a complete non-factor. Under McCarthy, the Bulldogs sported an impressive 88-54 record in the SEC including conference regular season championships in 1959, 1961, 1962 and 1963. Mississippi State would see its first NCAA Tournament appearance in 1963, in which they advanced to the Sweet Sixteen by virtue of their SEC Championship. McCarthy was named SEC Coach of the Year 3 times, all in years when he coached against Adolph Rupp.

The Bulldogs had won the SEC title four times in 5 seasons, but did not appear in the NCAA Tournament until after the 4th title. The reason for this is mired in the murky history of our country’s south, but the result stands as a point of pride for Babe McCarthy, Mississippi State University and its fans. During this time of the segregated south of the 1950s and 1960s, Mississippi state law barred college teams at state schools from playing games against racially integrated teams. The Bulldogs had been forced to turn down three previous NCAA Tournament bids for this reason.

On March 2, 1963, MSU President Dean W. Colvard decided to accept the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament as SEC Champions regardless of the prospect of playing an integrated team in Loyola University Chicago. On March 7, 1963, the Jackson Daily News printed a picture of Loyola’s starters to show that four of them were African Americans. As a caption to the picture, Daily News editor Jimmy Ward wrote that “readers may desire to clip the photo of the Loyola team and mail it today to the board of trustees of the institution of higher learning” to prevent the game from taking place. On March 9, 1963, the College Board of Mississippi met and upheld Colvard’s decision. But on March 13, just a day before the team was scheduled to travel to East Lansing, state senator Billy Mitts and former state senator B.W. Lawson sought and obtained a temporary injunction against the team leaving the state.

While sheriffs were on their way to Starkville, MS, to serve the injunction, the team was participating in a pep rally the night before their departure, where effigies of racist state senators Mitts and Lawson were hung. The team’s original plan was to leave Starkville at 8:30am on Thursday morning. But learning that sheriffs would be expected to arrive at 11:30pm Wednesday night, MSU put their sophisticated contingency plan into effect.

McCarthy, along with the athletic director and the assistant athletic director, drove to Memphis and then flew to Nashville. The team itself sent the freshman squad to the airport as scheduled, posing as the varsity team. The real varsity team hid in a dorm on campus. The next morning, they boarded a private plane at the airport and flew to Nashville to meet up with the coach and team officials. From Nashville, the whole group took a commercial flight to the game at East Lansing, MI. Loyola U. won the game 61-51 and would go on to win the National Championship over Cincinnati while MSU won their Regional Third Place game over Bowling Green 65-60.

McCarthy departed MSU to coach George Washington University for a season and then coached in the ABA from 1967-1974. Babe McCarthy died in 1975 after losing a battle with colon cancer.

Dark days returned to the Bulldogs basketball program following McCarthy’s departure. From 1965-1986, MSU put together a record of 255-303 over the career of 5 coaches. But everything changed for the better, and seemingly forever, with the hiring of Richard Williams, another MSU alum, for the ’86-’87 season.

Williams had to revive a program that had basically been left for dead. With only 8 winning seasons in a 21-year span, Mississippi State hadn’t won a conference championship or appeared in the NCAA Tournament since 1963. Their only post-season appearance in that time came in the 1979 NIT which resulted in a first round loss. Williams’ first three seasons continued that trend, but in the 1989-90 season his team finished 16-14 and was selected to the NIT where they lost in the Second Round. The following year, MSU went 20-9, winning the SEC and returning to the NCAA Tournament. They would again return to the NIT in ’93-’94, and then win the SEC West in consecutive years in ’94-’95 and ’95-’96 going 22-8 and 26-8, respectively. The Bulldogs reached the NCAA Sweet Sixteen in 1995, and then reached their first and only Final Four in 1996 before losing to National Runner-Up Syracuse (who would lose to SEC powerhouse Kentucky). When Richard Williams left MSU following the 1998 season, he left as the Bulldogs’ winningest coach in history with 191 wins and, 3 of the school’s 4 NCAA Tournament appearances, the school’s only SEC Tournament Championship and the school’s only Elite Eight and Final Four appearance. The best, mostly, was still to come.

Rick Stansbury was Richard Williams’ top assistant starting in 1990 and served as head coach at Mississippi State from 1998-2012, amassing a record of 293-165 and is the only MSU coach to record more than 100 SEC wins. In fact, he’s the only coach with a winning record for his career in the SEC besides Babe McCarthy. His teams would win the SEC Regular Season Championship in 2004 and 2009, the SEC Tournament in 2002, and the SEC Western Division in 2003, 2004, 2007, 2008 and 2010. He was also the 2004 SEC Coach of the Year. His teams reached the post-season 9 times in 11 seasons, including 5 consecutive post-season appearances which makes him the only MSU coach to accomplish that feat. Stansbury also own’s MSU’s record for consecutive 20-win seasons with four from 2001-05 and again from 2006-10. Only his 1999-2000 squad finished below .500 at 14-16.

Rick Stansbury retired following the end of the 2012 season at the age of 52. In his place, Mississippi State hired Rick Ray, formerly a Clemson assistant coach, making him the first black head coach in MSU history. This is his first collegiate head coaching job.


The Bulldogs return two of their top three returning scorers in Arnett Moultrie, a 6’11” forward who averaged 16.4ppg and 10.5rpg as a Junior. Former 5-star player Rodney Hood stood out as a star Freshman guard averaging 10.3ppg along with 4.8rpg and 2.0apg. Five talented players are set to join MSU this season, headlined by 4-star SG Craig Sword from Montgomery, AL, and 4-star C Gavin Ware from Starkville, MS. Rounding out the class are 3-star players SF Andre Applewhite from Memphis, TN, PF Colin Borchert from Scooba, MS, and SG Fred Thomas from Jackson, MS. Already committed for 2013 is 3-star PG Imara Ready from Little Rock, AR.

Best Of The Best

The greatest name in MSU basketball history belongs to Bailey Howell, who was enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1997. Howell played at Mississippi State from 1956-1959 and was a two-time All-American and three-time 1st-Team All-SEC. He ranked in the nation’s Top 10 in both scoring and rebounding during all three varsity seasons at MSU, averaging 27.8ppg and 27.5ppg in his final 2 seasons. He owns MSU’s career records for scoring average (27.1), rebounds (1,277), rebounding average (17.0), FT made (682), and FT attempted (892). He ranks 2nd at MSU with 2,030 points. He starred for 12 years in the NBA, having ranked among the all-time Top 10 leaders in nine statistical categories upon his retirement in 1971. He was a six-time NBA All-Star and named to the All-NBA Second Team in 1963. He won two titles with the Boston Celtics in 1968 and 1969 after having been the 2nd overall pick in the 1959 draft by the Detroit Pistons.

Other MSU players who’ve played in the NBA include Raymond Brown, Rickey Brown, Joe Courtney, Erick Dampier, Tang Hamilton, Dontae Jones, Jeff Malone, Leland Mitchell, Wiley Peck, Lawrence Roberts, Red Stroud and Derrick Zimmerman. 23 total players have been drafted to the NBA out of MSU (6 in the first round).

Mississippi State boasts 18 All-Americans in its history, along with 9 SEC Coaches of the Year, 6 SEC Players of the Year, 2 SEC Newcomers of the Year and 4 SEC Defensive Players of the Year (three of which are Jarvis Varnado from 2007-2010).

Jeff Malone holds the single-season and career marks for points with 777 from 1982-83 and 2,142 from 1980-83. Bailey Howell holds the records for rebounds in a single-season with 492 in 1956-57 and in a career with 1,277 from 1956-59. Chuck Evans holds the single-season record for assists with 235 in 1992-93, while Derrick Zimmerman holds the career record at 514 from 2000-03. Jarvis Varnado holds the record for blocked shots in a game (10), season (170 in 2008-09 & 2009-10) and career (564 from 2007-10).

The Arena

The Bulldogs player their home games in the Humphrey Coliseum, a 10,575-seat arena that is nicknamed “The Hump”. The building is the equivalent of seven stories high and is in the shape of an oval 318’ long by 268’ wide. Built in 1975, it is named for George Duke Humphrey, former President of Mississippi State. The Hump is generally regarded as one of the loudest arenas in all of the SEC. Corey Brewer, former University of Florida player, was quoted as saying about The Hump: “It gets loud. I don’t know why. It’s a different kind of loud. So loud that you can’t think.”

Missouri's All-Time Series Versus Mississippi State

Mizzou leads the series, 2-1.

  • December 7, 1974: Missouri 102, Mississippi State 78 at the Show-Me Classic in Columbia
  • January 2, 2007: Missouri 83, Mississippi State 75 in Columbia

    If Howie Mandel had stumbled upon Missouri basketball Coach Mike Anderson before the season with a "Deal or No Deal" proposal of an 11-2 nonconference record, there would have been no discussion, debate or deliberation.

    "Write the check, man. I’ll take that," Anderson said last night after his Tigers beat Mississippi State 83-75 at Mizzou Arena to move within one victory of last year’s season total. […]

    [Stefhon] Hannah, who leads the nation in steals, added five to the pile last night to go along with 27 points, five assists and five rebounds. Mississippi State spent a fair portion of the game with forward Jamont Gordon bringing the ball upcourt, and he committed seven turnovers. The Bulldogs had 24 turnovers overall.

    "It’s not unusual for anybody to come in here and turn it over 24 times," MSU Coach Rick Stansbury said.

    Stansbury said his team’s defensive focus was to prevent Hannah from creating easy baskets for his teammates. But the Bulldogs couldn’t stop Hannah from creating scoring chances for himself. In the final 2½ minutes, with Mississippi State trying to make one last run in a game that had several scoring binges, Hannah twice worked the shot clock down to the nub, drove to the basket and hit runners.

    "It’s choose your poison with him," Stansbury said. "He’s an exceptional guard."

    It’s pretty handy to have the best player on the floor be a point guard who is wearing your uniform. That’s one reason this team looks like it’s built to last into March. That part isn’t necessarily a surprise, although the postseason tournament in question is. An NIT bid seemed a reasonable goal two months ago. Now, the NCAA Tournament is a realistic target.

    That’s a deal any of us would have taken in November.

  • December 30, 2007: Mississippi State 87, Missouri 75 in Starkville

    Missouri’s basketball players left the visitor’s locker room staring blankly ahead as they trudged down the hallway, heading for a bus and then an airplane that would take them back to Columbia after a fruitless road trip.

    It all looked familiar.

    They had made the same unpleasant trek out of Bud Walton Arena, Haas Pavilion and the Scottrade Center, and yesterday they took it from Humphrey Coliseum after an 87-75 loss to Mississippi State.

    As in those other games at Arkansas, California and on a neutral floor against Illinois, the Tigers were in position to win heading into the final five minutes only to unravel down the stretch. They missed too many shots and made too many defensive mistakes to keep up with the Bulldogs, who finished the game on a 19-9 run.

    "The other team seems to step up, and our guys just haven’t stepped up and made plays," said junior guard Matt Lawrence, who scored a career-high 28 points. "We kind of need to check ourselves. … If we don’t, it’s going to be the same result the rest of the year." […]

    Missouri, which hasn’t won a nonconference road game since a 63-58 victory at Indiana on Dec. 6, 2003, dropped to 1-5 away from Mizzou Arena this season. The Tigers’ only win away from home came against Maryland in front of a pro-Missouri crowd in the consolation game of the CBE Classic in Kansas City.

    "We’re not giving up," Carroll said. "We lost. We’re going into a new year, and I guess we’ve got to have a new mind frame, set goals and have everybody look themselves in the mirror and be like, ‘Am I giving my all when I get out there?’ ’

    "I think Marshall Brown and Jason Horton are doing a good job of leading, but I think they’re going to have to put their foot down even more to get players to respond."