University of Kentucky assistant Kenny Payne has been targeted by MSU boosters and former players for the head coaching opening.
March 31, 2012 10:49:30 PM
STARKVILLE -- Two former Mississippi State University players are the primary reason behind the positive moment behind Kenny Payne's candidacy for the Bulldogs open men's basketball head coach position.
Multiple sources have confirmed to The Dispatch MSU Sports Blog that former Bulldogs players David Rula and Erick Dampier are the pair that began conversations with Payne. Rula and Dampier are two of many MSU donors pushing the top assistant at the University of Kentucky get the job replacing Rick Stansbury after he retired following 14 years as the head coach of the Bulldogs program.
The Dispatch MSU Sports Blog learned Rula, Dampier, Payne and William Wesley, a consultant for Creative Artists Agency met in Atlanta last week to discuss Payne's interest in the MSU position.
According to unnamed sources, Yahoo! Sports reported Friday Mississippi State athletic director Scott Stricklin met at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in New Orleans with Payne.
Wesley, a major power broker in basketball, helped get Payne into coaching as an assistant at the University of Oregon. Two years ago, Payne moved to Kentucky's staff to coach under John Calipari, who is a close friend of Wesley's. Wesley's employer Creative Arts Alliance is an agency that represents coaches and professional players, and allows him to have ties to players on levels from high school to the NBA.
Stricklin did not immediately return a message asking for a comment left by The Dispatch Saturday evening.
Kentucky, with Payne on the bench beside Calipari, will play for the national championship Monday evening against Kansas University after UK defeated the University of Louisville in the national semifinal game 69-61 Saturday.
Rula and Dampier, who played on MSU's Final Four team in 1996, were major donors to the $11 million Mize Pavilion practice facility and have the practice floors named after them.
Dampier is 16-year veteran of the National Basketball Association currently playing this season with the Atlanta Hawks and this season was acknowledged at center court before the contest on Jan. 14 as a part of MSU's 100 years of basketball season-long promotion.
Rula, who was a guard on the Bulldogs team under coach Richard Williams that went to the Final Four, is a businessman who spent 11 years as a Suncoast Infrastructure in Jackson, which is the premier provider of no-dig sewer rehabilitation services in the southeast part of the United States.
The MSU coaching search process has reached 16 days after several names have reportedly turned down or taking their name out of the running for the job.
Murray State University coach Steve Prohm and Valparaiso coach Bryce Drew received contract extensions to stay at their respective schools after speaking with MSU officials about the position.
All of the Dispatch MSU Sports Blog readers: feel free to follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/matthewcstevens for up-to-date Mississippi State coverage.
2. A Southern favorite: Rick Bragg to speak in Fayette ENTERTAINMENT