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On Rick Ray, Marshall Henderson, Rivalries and Reactions

Nothing ignites #SECBasketballFever quite as well as Marshall Henderson.

Spruce Derden-USA TODAY Sports

As you've all surely seen by now, Mississippi State head basketball coach Rick Ray and our favorite somewhat sociopathic shooting guard, Marshall Henderson, exchanged some words as Henderson checked out of the game with Ole Miss up by  about 20 points. The game was never really in question, with the Rebs holding a double-digit lead for the entirety of the second half en route to an 82-63 victory. This win was due largely to the performances of Jarvis Summers and Marshall Henderson, who each scored 19 points on the afternoon. Henderson also added four steals, two assists, and a block to the box score, putting together one of his most complete and consistent performances in a Rebel uniform.

Expectedly, Henderson wasn't exactly quiet or humble as the game went on, exciting the Rebel crowd with his usual repertoire flailing his arms, screaming, death stares, and wildly protruding his tongue.

That led to this:

From that, I can't discern what exactly Coach Ray said to Marshall Henderson, nor is it clear at all what Henderson's reply was. You can certainly tell that Ray said something, and that whatever he said was strong enough to elicit a reply from Henderson. But as for the specifics floating around Ole Miss forums - namely that Ray said "fuck you," to which Marshall replied "fuck you back" - I don't know if any of us can be sure.

Still, it was harsh enough for Rick Ray himself to issue an apology where he admits that "there is no reason for a coach to ever have interaction with an opposing player, ever, regardless of the circumstances," and that he "was totally at fault."

There are a few ways for folks to react to this. For Ole Miss fans, there are the racially-tinged accusations of a lack of "class"* and overreactions to otherwise innocuous behavior:

Rick Ray demonstrated his immaturity when he did his little 'hip hop' victory dance in the locker room when they won in Starkville. Now, he uses the F-Bomb on a player from an opposing team. What's next? This man is out of control and I hope that SEC Commissioner Slive looks into Rick Ray's actions over the past few games.

Eesh... Clarion Ledger comments threads are the worst.

On the other extreme end of the Rebel reaction spectrum, are comments like this...

Even though I am an Ole Miss grad and a big Rebel fan, I can say that Rick Ray is a good man and a class act! He is also one heckuva basketball coach! He is doing a phenomenal job at Mississippi State! With what he was left with, and only seven scholarship players this year, he is doing a remarkable job.

...whereby Ole Miss fans seem almost apologetic for giving Ray a forum in which to overreact to Marshall Henderson's immodest basketball prowess.

Mississippi State fans have, predictably, taken a few novel approaches to this outburst. On the one hand, there's humor to be found in the outrage spurred by a lip-reading of a coach's reaction. For example, consider that we might have all gotten it wrong. What if Coach Ray had actually asked "Fondue?" as if to invite Marshall over for Swiss hors d'oeuvres?

While it's unclear when the two plan to sit down and break bread together, or what type of Fondue they plan to dine on, it is clear from the clip and Ray's comments that they have grown closer over the two seasons that they've competed against each other.

Then there's this squirrelly nonsense about how the Rick Ray/Marshall Henderson spout is a smaller incident in the larger morality play that is the Magnolia State rivalry (via Makeitrainsports).

Ole Miss' Senior guard Marshall Henderson may be the antithesis of a Rick Ray type player.  A flashy guy who is quick to shoot and take credit for any success his team has.

He's also the reigning SEC Player of the Year, a quality also antithetical to a "Rick Ray type player."

Even though the schools are only 100 miles apart and many families in the state are split on their allegiance, some things are quite different as the two schools met for the 249th time in Oxford, MS.

MSU head coach Rick Ray is a strict, hard-nosed coach in the second year of a rebuild from the ground up.  Several players have been dismissed from the squad he inherited in 2012 that did not have any players to spare.

Coach Ray, by all accounts is making strides and is getting the most out of his players...

This is something that we see far too much from the Bulldog faithful. "Well, it's okay that Rick Ray did this, because Coach Ray is a 'strict, hard-nosed coach' who #grinds for his #state and isn't a TSUN Bear." By making that argument, you're suggesting that his counterparts (Andy Kennedy and Marshall Henderson) aren't whatever positive qualities you want to bestow on Coach Ray. They aren't hard-workers who "get the most out of" their efforts, in fact, they're morally deficient when compared to Rick Ray the Infallible. Hell, if anything, Marshall Henderson deserved to be cursed at by an opposing coach.

This is more of the "Ole Miss recruits pre-Madonnas and State recruits salt of the earth types who wanna work hard and achieve modest success for #their #State" line of thinking, which is lazy, self-serving, and wholly ignorant of the overall business that his NCAA varsity athletics.

And, perhaps most predictably, there's the "well your coach did something wrong five years ago" argument:

you didn't say a word when your coach was drunk an in a fight with a cab driver over a woman that was not his wife.Real fine man you have they at oxfart

#oxfart, y'all.

Aside from getting the details of the international altercation wrong, this argument is nothing better than "two totally unrelated wrongs make a right," because somehow what Andy Kennedy did in 2009 is totally relevant to something that Rick Ray did to Marshall Henderson in 2014.

So what's appropriate here? Is Marshall Henderson that bad that he deserves the verbal abuse of an opposing coach, or did Rick Ray cross a line so egregiously as to question is very career as a basketball coach? Of course that's a false dichotomy, and the answer lies somewhere in-between.

Marshall Henderson is a polarizing figure. He's a talented, boisterous troll, who thrives off of the negative reactions hurled his way by opposing fans. He likes this kind of attention, something which many fans and pundits see as a big no-no (the alternative is, I guess, him being really apologetic and embarrassed by this attention, which would be the most un-Marshall thing ever). He gets under people's skin, and likes it.

But Rick Ray, or any coach, should be better than to react to Marshall Henderson. Coach Ray himself knows this, hence his swift and sincere apology. He made a mistake and has asked to be forgiven for it, something that I think is completely fair. He's an emotional coach who has invested a lot into his career, so if he does something that is a product of that emotional investment then we shouldn't be too quick to judge him for it, especially if we're going to give Marshall Henderson a thousand passes for doing the same.

*Which, as we've explored before, is a bullshit argument utilized primarily by folks with poor imaginations and low self esteems.

EDIT: So apparently one of the people I quote as a State fan is actually an Ole Miss fan. This upset some people on Twitter. I don't think it makes the argument any less ridiculous, for whatever it's worth, but I'm sharing this bit of information with you for the sake of clarity.