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VIProfile: Rick Stansbury




Story by Emily Robertson

Rick Stansbury knows success in basketball.

He saw it first as a player in high school and college and then as a collegiate coach for nearly 40 years. Now, as he prepares to lead the WKU Men’s Basketball team into the highly anticipated 2022-2023 season, he looks forward to pursuing even more greatness in the game he loves, all while firmly believing his greatest success is the life he has built off the hardwood.

Originally from the tiny town of Wolf Creek in Meade County, Kentucky, Stansbury says his early years were simple and he and his friends focused on just a few things. “We worked on the farm growing up and we fished, hunted and played basketball,” Stansbury says. “That’s how we spent our time seven days a week.”

Stansbury played basketball at Meade County High School. He would go on to receive a basketball scholarship to Campbellsville College, now Campbellsville University, where he led the team to the NAIA tournament his senior year.

After graduation, he pursued his master’s degree from Cumberland College, where he served as a graduate assistant coach with the basketball team. Then in 1984, he moved to Austin Peay State University for his first full time job as an assistant coach, working there for the next six years. His next stop was Starkville, Mississippi, to serve as associate head coach, and ultimately as head coach at Mississippi State University.

He saw a lot of success during his 22 years with the Bulldogs. The team went to the Sweet 16 and Final 4, played in the post-season 11 out of the 14 years while he served as head coach and won an SEC championship. He still holds the title of all-time winningest basketball coach at the school.

While in Mississippi, he met and married his wife, Meo. “I am blessed. Meo is a big part of the success I’ve had,” Stansbury says. “She’s a very genuine person. She’s great with the team, family and recruits. She kept the faith in our family. She is still who she was the day we got married.”

The Stansburys have three sons: Isaac, Noah and Luke and all three love the game of basketball. Isaac currently attends and plays at Mississippi State, Noah plays for his father at WKU and Luke is a senior at Greenwood High School and plays as well. Even though basketball is very much the center of the family, back in 2012, Coach Stansbury made the decision to walk away from the game for a time.

 “I took two years away from basketball,” Stansbury says. “I spent all of that time with my family. My boys were 12, 10 and 8 years old and we did a lot of things that we never had the chance to do because of basketball. I went to games for them, we fished and hunted and we traveled. Those were just things we couldn’t do with my schedule coaching.”

But, he couldn’t stay away from basketball forever. In 2014, he went to Texas A&M as an assistant before he made the move in to Western Kentucky University in 2016, where he has remained since. The move to WKU was a special one for Stansbury. “There’s some ties to WKU through my family,” Stansbury says. “My grandfather’s brother, Edgar Stansbury, played football, basketball and baseball at WKU and later coached football and basketball here. The concourse in E.A. Diddle Arena is named in honor of him. So there were always ties to WKU for my family and it is an honor to have the opportunity to coach here.”

Now, as Stansbury looks towards the 2022-2023 season that kicks off this month, he’s confident about the team, which is stacked with talent and determination. “We have a really good team,” Stansbury says. “My goal when I came here was to compete with anyone in the country, to compete with Kentucky and Louisville and we are building towards that. We haven’t won them all, but we are competitive. And this year, this team has the opportunity to compete for championships. There’s no question about it.”

Stansbury credits his hard work ethic and determination to the example he saw in his parents, who showed him from an early age what dedication and commitment looked like. “I was blessed with the best mother and father there was,” Stansbury says. “My parents never missed a high school or college game.

Sometimes my dad would get home from a game in the early morning hours, drop my mom off, go to work and then farm when he got home.” It was that dedication from his parents that he carried into his own family. Even with all of the basketball accolades Stansbury has seen in his career, he sees family as his greatest accomplishment to date.

“I’m a pretty steady guy,” Stansbury says. “I don’t get too overly excited. And it’s really simple. I don’t care about the wins and the championships, because in the end, I’d trade any of it for my wife and three boys. When I walk away from this game, that’s what I’m most proud of, that’s what makes me the happiest.”

For more information on the upcoming basketball season or to purchase tickets, go to www.wkusports.com.

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